Early Lessons Learned from ODDER

By Jan McGuire

I’ve spent the past four months talking about On Demand Digital Endowment Reports (ODDER) – demo calls, implementation calls, you name it - and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been great to “meet” new people via Zoom and help them transition to delivering their reports digitally. It's been interesting to hear the struggles that come with reporting and the common themes that emerge no matter the size or type of organization.

I view reporting responsibilities as job security. No other unit will ever lobby or vie to take on reporting - as in, never ever. Yet it is one of the most important things any organization can and must do for its donors.

Viewing reporting from that lens, here are a few observations and points for you to ponder:

Managing data from multiple sources is challenging and a widespread problem.

You likely receive endowment performance information from one office, beneficiary information from another, query your donor information from your CRM, and then bring it all together. If your CRM is limited from housing your fund performance information alongside the stewardship requirements, talk you to your IT department. Perhaps they can help you assimilate the data or write a report that will streamline what you need to extract from your CRM.

“Some reports are sent to multiple people; some people receive multiple reports.” “Most of our scholarships have one or two recipients, but a few have as many as ten, and one or two may have dozens.” Sound familiar? You are not alone. I recommend handling the exceptions separately. Set them aside, put them on a different tab in the excel file, tweak the format of your report template, whatever you need to do. Just don’t let the exceptions slow down the production of the majority of your reports.

There’s never a perfect time to send reports. You’re waiting on audited financial information or worse - the financials are ready but not yet approved by your board. And then there’s your fund beneficiary information. It’s on its own schedule, which doesn’t sync up with anything. Are you cringing yet? Most of these things are beyond our control, yet they affect our work. Perhaps it’s time to revisit your reporting cycle or consider separating financial reporting from impact reporting.

And then there’s tiering your reports. Most of us aren't doing this, and we should be. We need to invest more time and energy into more significant funds, our VIP donors, etc. For example, while there should be a standard reporting experience for all endowments, the report for a million-dollar endowment should receive more time and attention – and contain more information – than one for a 50K endowment.

“But that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Ah, Lynne Wester’s personal favorite rationale. Just kidding! Here’s one for you: Jane Doe has an endowment, so we take the time to add “endowment report prepared especially for Jane Doe” to the document that’s titled the Jane Doe Endowed Scholarship. Even if Jane didn’t name the scholarship for herself, she likely knows the name of her endowment and ergo, knows you prepared the report for her. Am I right? So, if you’ve always done it that way, it might be time for a change. Redesign your template. Eliminate merge fields and headers that are essentially redundant. There’s likely better content or use for that space on your page.

Crafting impactful messaging is our Achilles heel. Why? See the above. All the above! Our time is spent managing data, formatting documents, merging, proofing. We want the reports done and out the door yesterday - so who has time to craft messaging? Make the time. Enlist help from your Communications team if you can. Visit our library of free resources for examples of great messaging. We’re spending all this time preparing reports – don’t miss the opportunity to make a statement! And remember that impactful messaging doesn’t have to be lengthy to be powerful.

Surveys are underutilized. Fortunately, ODDER allows you to survey your donors with a simple click. Find out what your donors like and don’t like about your reports, the things they think are missing, and the things they wouldn't miss if you removed them. Survey results give you reasons and rationale to change things up.

If you enjoyed word problems in math class, have I got one for you. Ask a DR professional how many reports they send, then sit back and wait for the questions. Do you mean how many funds do we report on? Or how many donors receive reports? Or both? And would that be unique donors, or if a donor has 5 funds, should we count them 5 times? The answer? Keep a tally of how many funds you report on, how many donors receive a report (or 5), and the total dollar value of the funds you report on. And if you can, the sum of the cumulative giving of donors who receive your reports (just the aggregate sum). While this will change each year, it's always a good idea to have these metrics on hand. And be sure you share this information with your boss – they need to know that you prepared reports for XXX funds, valued at XXX amount, sent to XXX donors, whose cumulative giving totals XXX amount. Donor Relations' math at its finest!

So use 2020 as your reason, excuse, or rationale to revisit the things “you’ve always done” and potentially make reporting changes. Trust me when I say everyone has some or all of the issues listed above, so reach out and connect with one another to share ideas. And by the way, we’ve got a Facebook group for ODDER clients for this very reason.

We'd LOVE to hear how you have overcome these challenges – so please chime in with your helpful tips and tricks! We’re all in this together! Cheers!