10 Ways to Show Impact in Grant Reports—And Why It's Important

This is a guest post by Josh Kligman, co-founder and CEO at Yearly, a platform for nonprofits that want a different way to create digital reports.

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If you work in the nonprofit sector you probably know a thing or two about grants and grant proposals. And, you have a sense of what a grant report is. Unlike a grant proposal, a grant report is a document that reflects exactly how your organization used a funded grant. Grant reports are a great opportunity to show off your impact and progress.

In this blog, we’ll answer tons of questions, including:

· What are grant reports?

· Why are grant reports important?

· Why is showcasing impact in grant reports so important?

· What format should a grant report be in?

· What are the 10 best ways to show impact in grant reports?

· What are the best practices for showing impact in grant reports?

What Are Grant Reports?

Nonprofits create grant reports after they receive a grant. Once nonprofits receive funding (hooray!), they must provide details about their outcomes. Namely, what they did with the funds and why. In essence, a grant report lets the funder know exactly how your organization used its money. And, what kind of impact it made. 

Though every funder is different, grant reports are usually a required piece of grant funding. In the grant report, the nonprofit provides a detailed report of the objectives of the grant. And of course, the outcomes. This way, the funder can ensure that their money was used well and was spent for the intended purposes.

Why Are Grant Reports Important?

Grant reports are essential for relationship building between the nonprofit and the funder. A detailed, thorough grant report—which entails all the requirements—signals to your funder that your organization is transparent and trustworthy. In turn, the funder will feel more confident supporting your mission again in the future.

Aside from the most obvious reasons, grant reports are important in other ways. The data from grant reports help inform future decisions. They help staff assess the grant goals, the outcomes, and the plans for the future. In doing so, your team will be better equipped for future grant proposals. And even for other future initiatives, and programs. 

A grant report, full of valuable information, is also a great tool for future marketing and fundraising. Though nonprofits write their grant report for one stakeholder—the funder—it can be recycled for tons of other purposes. Include statistics from your grant report in your annual report. Or, even for your next board report or quarterly update for donors.

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Why is Showcasing Impact so Important to Grant Reports?

Grant reports usually have a set of required sections. Each funder’s requirements can vary, too. But, most grant reports need evidence of impact. That impact is essential for relationship-building.

Showing funders the impact of their money, and your work is one of the most essential pieces of any grant report. Funders, like donors, want to feel in control of how their contributions are being spent. In this section, nonprofits must convince funders that their investment was well worth it. Evidence of impact gives funders the “control” they want over their contributions.

Unlike other sections, the impact section of the report is a chance to connect with the funder on a deeper level. Successful grant reports use the impact/outcome section of the report to help tell a story about the mission. That story helps to create an emotional connection and build trust.  

And a professional grant report helps your organization stand out from the competition. If your report resonates with funders over other organizations’ reports yours will have a higher chance of being funded again. 

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, let’s dive into how to showcase impact in your grant report. But first, let’s discuss what format your report should be in.

What Format Should a Grant Report be in?

Grant reports can be in a variety of formats. Usually, though, a grant report is one of two different formats.

Word documents

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Many nonprofits create their grant reports using Microsoft Word or similar software. These documents tend to be text-heavy with bulleted lists, paragraphs, and more. While standard, and more of a straightforward route, they often lack a design element.

Pros of using Word:

  • Most people already have this application installed on their computer
  • It only requires text editing

PDFs

A step up from Word, PDFs are great for integrating visual elements. With the ability to design text and add photos, this kind of report is just a bit more engaging. However, this kind of report doesn’t allow for social media integration, videos, and is a bit harder to share.

Pros of using PDFs:

  • PDFs allow for some visual storytelling
  • Most available software allows for easy editing

Interactive, digital report

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Software like Yearly is a great alternative to Word. Unlike an un-designed document, an interactive digital report is a better solution to showcasing impact and provides a more engaging experience than a Word or PDF document. Nonprofits that use digital report software can take facts and stats and create a story. And, it allows funders to be a part of that story.

Pros of interactive, digital reporting:

  • Enhances user (funder) experience through interactive elements 
  • Appears more professional and trustworthy than an un-designed Word document
  • Builds better connections with funders through visual storytelling
  • Helps your organization stand out from the competition
  • Allows you to better showcase qualitative impact
  • Keeps funders engaged and interested
  • Reminds readers of your unique brand

While there’s no right format for your grant report, we recommend this interactive web-based report. This kind of report is a much better tool for building a relationship with funders. It allows funders to feel connected to the larger story. And it creates an emotional tie and makes readers want to contribute to your mission. 

Interactive elements and clear, visual demonstration of impact are crucial to impress funders. So, in this blog, we’ll be focusing on showcasing impact in digital reports.

10 Ways to Show Impact in a Nonprofit Grant Report

There are many ways to showcase impact in web-based grant reports. In this section, we’ll show you 10 ways to showcase both qualitative and quantitative impact.

Infographics

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 No one wants to read a long string of statistics and measurements—even if they’re impressive. 

Funders are much the same. Data visualization ensures that funders understand your outcomes. Create pie charts, line graphs, or bar graphs to simplify your findings. This way, you’ll end any confusion about your work, and keep funders engaged in the material.

Videos

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It’s no surprise to anyone that video marketing has taken the industry by storm. And there’s a good reason for it. One of the best ways that nonprofits can show off their work and impact is through video storytelling. Successful videos often involve beneficiaries or volunteers hard at work. Or they include insightful statistics and explanations. Either way, video is a great way to show off qualitative and quantitative impact in an engaging way.

Timelines

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Usually, a grant funds a nonprofit over a specific amount of time. Whether the period is over a few years or a few months, it’s important to show funders exactly when your nonprofit was spending its money. A designed timeline is a great way to bring readers into that process. All without overburdening them with too many details.

Clickable buttons and links

Want to provide funders with a bit more context or extra information? A well-designed report allows organizations to embed clickable buttons. A Word processor only allows hyperlinks. These links and buttons direct readers to more information in a more professional way. 

Remember, grant reports should be succinct and clear. if you'd like to give your funder a bit more context, provide a link. Don't include too much detail right in the report.

Testimonials

Quotes from relevant beneficiaries, staff, or volunteers are crucial. They're a great way to show funders the impact of their contribution. Like any good marketing tactic, a testimonial pulls on the heartstrings of readers. It makes them feel emotionally connected to the story.

Impact stories

Like testimonials, impact stories are perfect for showing qualitative impact. Select and include the best stories that resulted from the grant. In doing so, funders will be able to feel tied to your work and their contributions. Plus, showing real people helps humanize your mission.

Photos

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Like videos, photos are a great way to show funders what their money looks like in action. A great way to show not tell, photos allow funders to visualize their role in your impact. Whether you use stock photos or real photos, the inclusion of images is key.

Social media

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A lot of nonprofits are going digital these days. That means a lot of their work happens on social media. If your nonprofit has a digital presence, be sure to embed relevant past posts. Select posts that represent some of your best work and impact.

Illustrations or diagrams

Sometimes the best way to deliver a message of impact is to draw it out. A simple illustration or diagram can drive a message home better than a list of statistics. This type of visual storytelling is bold, clear, and powerful.

Partner support

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Testimonials from volunteers of beneficiaries create an emotional connection. Quotes from partners provide a nonprofit organization with social proof. It shows funders that other leaders in the space are aware of your progress and impact. And they’re impressed by it.

Wrapping Up: Best Practices for Showing Impact in Grant Reports

Now that you have a handle on all the elements to include, it’s time to put it all together. While you’re designing your report, keep these few best practices in mind.

Ensure that your content is unique to your brand

Lots of nonprofits don’t take the time to establish a brand identity. While it’s not necessary, it does help your nonprofit stand out from competitors. And stand out to funders who are sifting through dozens of reports.

By using your organization’s fonts, colors, and voice throughout your report, you’ll remind funders of your unique mission and values. Unlike other grant reports that are not memorable, you'll still stand out.

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Make it scannable

We like to think that funders will read every word we write. In truth, funders usually don’t have the time to read every word. That’s why it’s important that you make your grant report clear and succinct visually. Funders should be able to understand your impact and outcomes easily. All without having to read long, dense paragraphs.

Self-edit

Once you’re finished with your grant report, take time to comb through it a few times more. This will help you avoid spelling errors, including incorrect statistics, and more. And you’ll avoid addressing the wrong funder. 

When editing your report, don’t just focus on the grammar and errors. Consider what your grant report says about your mission and values. Ask yourself whether the impact of the grant represents your overall story. If not, how can you design the report to reflect your organization as a whole?

So the next time your organization creates a grant report, keep these tools and tips in mind. Remember, your grant report is a great opportunity to build a lasting connection with your funder. Make it count by showing your impact in creative, interactive ways.

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This article is a guest post by Josh Kligman. John is a co-founder and CEO at Yearly, a platform for nonprofits that want a different way to create digital reports. Yearly makes it fun and easy to design your own annual and impact reports with engaging features.

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