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Awesome Outcomes – Creating Reports that get Funders’ Attention

Pie chart pointing to dollar sign

The truth is that anyone can create a report using all the tools we now have available via the computer. But there are several key areas to focus on if you want to create a report that not only gets a funder’s attention but also results in increased funding opportunities.

Here are some tips to think about as you set up your reports to produce awesome outcomes:

  • The report is visually appealing and professional looking — before sending your report out to a funder, have someone who has not seen the report take a look at it and see what their first impression is. Is it a report format that catches someone’s attention? Ask the person reviewing the report to describe their first impression and what words they would use to describe the report format. If the words are not what you would expect (i.e. “wow, this looks really professional and really caught my eye”), spend more time polishing the format. You want your report to be the one that stands out from a stack of many others.

  • Data is displayed in a way that is easy to read and understand — assume your reader does not know your field of expertise so your data has to be presented in a way that makes sense, is easy to follow and does not rely on someone’s knowledge of the field to understand what the data represents. Avoid using acronyms or terminology that someone outside of your field may not understand.

  • Interpret the data for your reader — data alone is powerful but data that includes narrative which explains what the data means, particularly how it relates to what your funder is wanting to know, is more compelling. Data can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the perspective of who is looking at the data. Be the one to offer the perspective of how the data should be interpreted by telling the story with a narrative. Answer the questions that someone may have in looking at the data so as little as possible is left open to interpretation.

  • Use the tools available to you — Microsoft Word and Excel are your best friends when it comes to report formatting and data display. Use the tools built in with both of these products (or other similar products) to create a report format that gets that “wow” factor. As examples, you can create spreadsheets and charts in Microsoft Excel that are easy to export into Word. A product like Excel is a better tool to use for data display and data accuracy. You can create formulas in Excel to ensure all your totals are accurate. Microsoft Word, on the other hand, is a better product to create your report in as the intent of Word is to allow the user to visually create a document that allows for both data display and narrative formatting.

  • Your report answers the questions your funder is asking — to do this, you need to know your funder and what your funder is wanting to spend money on. Only include the pertinent data and information that will help the funder make their decision. It’s easy to include data and information that we think is important but the intent of your report should be to answer the questions that are important to your funder.

As you create and write your reports, always remember that you want your report to be the one that gets a funder’s attention from among many others who may be vying for the same funding that you are. Data tells a story and your report can be the mechanism that explains that story and ultimately leads to increased funding for your agency.

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Gail Selander

Gail Selander, M.B.A., M.A. is the Director of Operations of Behavioral Health at Volunteers of America Western Washington. She serves as the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors for CONTACT USA

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