Written by Jan McGuire
Endowment Reporting. These two words alone can cause you to sit up a little straighter or cringe with angst.
Regardless of how we feel about it, endowment reporting is a critical component of donor relations. We must steward our funds and report to our donors.
But because we “must” do it doesn’t mean that endowment reporting should be viewed as just another item on our annual to-do list. As my colleague Sarah Sims has said, we must be leaders in this space. Are we keeping the purpose of endowment reports in mind as we create and prepare report content? And are we approaching our report preparations with a donor-centered focus?
We have a fiduciary responsibility to share key information like market value, book value, and such with our endowment donors. But do we understand the terminology and policies that build the framework for endowment investment and spending at our organization?
Donors have established endowments with the future in mind. They have invested in our organization's long-term financial well-being; beyond the dollars and cents, are we expressing gratitude and showing the impact of their investment in our reports?
And how about our process for gathering and organizing the data we need? Are we doing what we’ve always done because we’ve always done it that way? Have we modernized our approach to collecting necessary data and narratives for our reports? And even before we begin to gather information, do we have a plan in place? A start-to-finish comprehensive timeline from gathering information until the finished reports are delivered to donors.
I'm 99% sure you can't get all the information you need for reporting by merely pressing a button (if you can, let me know! We want to celebrate you!). You likely must partner with multiple offices and staff to gather everything you need. Have you taken the time to get to know these partners? Do you understand their timeframes for providing the information you need? And perhaps even more importantly, do they understand what you need and WHY you need it? Share some metrics with them, such as how many reports you are preparing, the dollar value of the funds you report on, and the impact endowment donors are making at your organization.
And let's pause for a moment and reflect on what endowment reports should NOT be. They should not be a collection bin for every brochure, pamphlet, report, and message you ever want to send a donor. Endowment reports should stand alone and be strategic in delivering the needed financial information along with conveying meaningful impact and gratitude for endowment donors. All that other "stuff" can be distributed at a different time.
The bottom line is this: I’ve never heard of a department outside of donor relations vying to take over endowment reporting responsibilities. So, it’s ours. Let’s own it and embrace it and try to be more than taskmasters. Let’s take a hard look at our processes and messaging to refresh them, and above all, let’s always keep the donor in mind.
We know this process is a beast to tackle. That's why we've created a comprehensive course to walk you and your team through the entire process—beginning to end. Launching March 1, The Keys to Powerful Endowment Reporting will be your go-to training program for current and future staff—and it'll help you get your ducks in a row to make the entire process go as smoothly as possible. If you're not already on our email list, now is the time! Subscribe here, and check your inbox March 1 for more information. We can't wait to share this course with you!