How to Build a Better Stewardship Report

<a href="">AlKok</a> via <a href="">Compfight</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Keep your report sharp!

I won’t mince words here. I lie awake at night wondering whether our corporate donors ever read a word of those boring, million-page reports we send on the impact of their gifts.

And yet there is a huge reluctance in our sector to modernize. Why can’t we do something short, sexy, and visual? Do we think it dumbs down the philanthropic intent? Are we matching the size of the report to the size of the gift?

Here’s how we could do it better.

1.  Start with a sassy executive summary. It’s a report right? And don’t use this space to re-state your mission for god’s sake! Do like this: “Thank you again for the $20,000 donation you made in May 2012. This report will illustrate how you improved the lives of 350 homeless people in Vancouver – an even bigger impact than we had originally expected.” Or something like this: “Thank you again… This report will ultimately show that the pilot project you funded did not get the results we were looking for. However, it has highlighted the need for improved research on shark cage strength and we look forward to sharing our new plan with you.”

2.  Put in some images. No iStock photos! There’s no excuse not to get your own as nearly every phone now takes decent snaps. Save the good ones in your database on the company’s account so you don’t have to search for them later. Use highlighted sidebars instead of long paragraphs. Go with colourful charts and graphs to represent numbers and statistics.

3.  Chop it. Remove your mission statement and history – they already got that info in the original proposal. Be concise and resist repeating the information in different ways throughout the report – that’s padding my friend, and it only belongs in your bike shorts.

4.  Don’t be so prosy. You’re not translating Atlas Shrugged. Use bullet points wherever you can – I heard that one straight from CSR people at both TELUS and Great-West Life. You’re welcome.

5.  Take it online. Stop printing those reports! Right away you’ve cut yourself off from being able to link to other information, from being able to embed a video, and from using sexy tools like Storify to tell your story.

Even though they’ll never have the time to tell you, your corporate funders will love this approach. This blog post is guaranteed.

–          Siobhan : )

PS. If you scroll back up to the top you can enter your email and follow the blog. Please go ahead – it’s not like I’m going to start selling Viagra on the site. And a big thank you to Karen, Nils, Henry and Jem for joining in!


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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5 Responses to How to Build a Better Stewardship Report

  1. Great points Siobhan! thank you for always providing useful and short tips!

  2. Theresa says:

    I’m happy to see we are doing some things right.! I was a little nervous when I started reading!!! Also, I wanted to say thanks for your “Blogs I Follow” section – I am loving the “Is direct mail finally dead” post from 101 Fundraising.

  3. how says:

    I absolutely love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme.
    Did you develop this web site yourself? Please reply
    back as I’m planning to create my very own site and would like to know where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Cheers!

    • My pleasure – and thanks! The theme is a free one from WordPress called Twenty Ten. Weird, I know. I replaced the photo with a creative commons image from by Minette Layne. Compfight is an amazing place to find free images!
      : )

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