Why is it important to report back to your funders, and what is the best way to do it?

Photo: Donwilson Odhiambo/ Arete. A local health official takes the temperature of a lady at a handwashing station in Kenya.

The Coronavirus pandemic caught everybody off guard. A tremendous amount of work has been done; almost everything and everyone has been forced to focus on COVID-19. Donor funding has been re-distributed, projects have been put on hold, and organisations across the globe have had to focus their energy on coming up with, and maintaining a response. In the not too distant future, everyone will start to look back, measure, evaluate and report on their response.

Due to the nature of COVID-19 and the speed at which it appeared, it has not been possible to follow the normal procedure for formulating a response. Regardless, it is still important to report back to your community of funders, stakeholders, communities and governments of practices used to both evaluate the impact and to learn from this. In this blog, we will explore why it is important to report back and also, using some illustrative examples, show interesting and creative ways in which to do it.

What can the data tell us, and why is it important to report back?

It is crucial for organisations to understand what worked and what did not in order to build a framework that can be used to react to future emergencies. Understanding your objectives and whether these were achieved, coupled with evaluation and reporting on how your response progressed, will begin to give you a good insight into what worked and what didn’t.

Merge this data with reports from the voices on the ground, such as community leaders, beneficiaries, and partners. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, “what worked, what didn’t and why? Did we achieve our objectives? And what could we have done differently?” People’s views and needs will change over the course of the emergency, so this information should be sought at various points throughout the crisis; it is essential to track this change to understand how best you can meet the needs of the communities and beneficiaries you serve.

Photo: Brian Ongoro/UN/Arete. Representatives from the UN agencies meet with a local community in South Sudan.

A summary of all this data will be illustrative of the success, or failure, of your response. It should also provide some insight into the transition of donor behaviour during what was an unprecedented time.

This data, and the analysis you can draw from it, will be invaluable, not only, for planning future campaigns, but also, for the broader NGO community allowing for the construction of new emergency fundraising frameworks. We can see how communities have learned from, and integrated new behaviours from more geographically contained public health crises such as outbreaks of Polio or Ebola. We should be looking to use this data, in the same way, to inform NGOs, governments and local communities about how to deal with similar health crises to COVID-19 in the future.

A page from a graphical report we created to track the results of the UNICEF Papua New Guinea polio tetanus immunisation programme.

Your evaluation and analysis, creatively presented, can also be beneficial in securing future funding and support for your organisation. Whereas it is obvious to emphasise areas of success, particular partners may also be looking for constructive and balanced conclusions where things didn’t go to plan. The data, and your enquiries, can help to provide these answers.

Could your COVID-19 response have been more targeted at behavioural changes? Dispelling rumours? Or providing better support options for mental health? Could the information be interpreted through images and video, did it reach everyone in every language? Were people in vulnerable populations, such as refugees, disproportionately affected? These are all useful questions to ask.

Presenting the data in an engaging and interesting way

Although, as already mentioned, this data will be able to help in the planning of future fundraising campaigns, how you present the data to stakeholders, partners, and communities is also very important.

Data Visualisation

For many audiences, how you choose to present your data can have a significant impact on how it is received or interpreted. Presenting your data in a creative, yet easy to understand way, can be very helpful in translating your perspective to specific audiences. Data represented visually, whether via an image, video or animation, is also hugely versatile and can be an excellent way to distribute a large amount of data in a digestible way at events, in meetings, on social media and more.

(In this video we use a combination of animations and video to report back on the ongoing results of the UNICEF supported schools programme in South Sudan)

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling

Including individual stories to collaborate with the data can be very helpful in creating a visualisation of who has benefitted from the campaign — allowing the audience to emotionally connect with the beneficiaries the facts and figures are referring to. Some might say that a case study is not impact, but rather, impact is data.

Photo: Kate Holt/Action Aid/Arete. A portrat of a woman we met in Burundi, displaced by political violence.

This is true, to a point; impressive figures can be useful in making an impact on your audience. However, when coupled with first-person narratives delivered via portrait photographs or video this data is quite literally brought to life, and the audience can develop a new level of perspective.

Photo: Kate Holt/ UNICEF/ Arete. A photo of a child to promote UNICEF World Children’s Day.

How do you bring together all the written and visual data in an effective way?

Reports are essential and don’t have to be 60 pages of text; in fact, reports don’t even necessarily need to be drafted. There are creative ways in which you can bring together the different facts and figures, images, videos, and stories to accurately represent and report on the outcome of your response, although it is important not to overload your audience with too much information. Drip-feed the content in snippets, allowing each piece to be properly appreciated.

(This video we created was shown by the UN to various audiences to report back, securing a budget to expand their programme to a further two provinces and promises of £30m from different donors)

There are many visually appealing and creative ways to report back to your funders. You could use a slideshow with animations or a short film that incorporates the data with storytelling. Perhaps even a landing page or microsite that acts as a jumping-off point for a gallery of images bringing the work of your fundraising campaign to life.

A microsite created for the charity Wharf Kids

To conclude, reporting back is imperative to share learnings, highlight key messages and communicate with stakeholders. Delivering your report in a visual and creative way can be very helpful in helping your different audiences interpret the data; and although there is no one right way to do it, it is right to do it…

At Arete, working with many NGOs and UN agencies, our team have acquired years of experience in how to creatively present the outcomes of fundraising campaigns, design data collation frameworks, and more.

To talk to us about ideas for your next campaign, to explore our global team of content acquirers and creators, or anything else — you can get in touch with us here.