How Reports Can Help You Harness the Power of Data

October 26, 2021

You’ve heard about the importance of data when it comes to fundraising. You know you want to start making data informed decisions when it comes to your donors. But you may be wondering: how do I get started?

In a word: Reports.

Reports from your donor management system should be the primary source of information about your fundraising program. When used effectively, reports can inform what type of fundraising initiatives you should focus on, what to avoid, and provide important insights on how your donors are interacting with your organization.  

How Should I Be Using Reports?

If you’re serious about using data to inform your fundraising practices, reports should become a regular part of your organization’s fundraising operations. In order to do this, a systemized reporting schedule should become a cornerstone of your operational systems. Whether weekly, monthly or quarterly, consistency is key when developing a reporting schedule that works for your potentially limited time and resources.  

Fundraising is a busy profession. And when things get especially busy – like in the final quarter of the year or when you’re launching a new campaign or event – data can be the last thing on your mind. This is exactly why reporting should become a key part of your campaign planning.

As you design your campaign, figure out what you will need to know about it to deem it a success. Or what you may need to know in order to adjust course. And once the campaign has come to a close, make time to analyze your results. The best time to plan your next campaign is as soon as the last one ends. By using reports to analyze your results immediately, you will be in a better position to compare your progress over time.  

Reports also help identify gaps in your data. While reports are the bread and butter of any donor management system, they’re only as good as the data that is being entered into the system. If you have missing or incomplete data, your reports will not paint an accurate picture. Good data management practices are necessary for being able to successfully run reports that enable you to establish important metrics about your fundraising program.

Which Reports Should I Run?  

When it comes to reports you should be running, there is no one-size fits all reporting for every organization. This is largely due to the many dedicated individuals working behind the scenes to keep the department running smoothly.

From your bookkeeper to your board chair to your executive director to your annual giving officer, each team member has a unique role to play. And each team member will use data differently.  

So what exactly does each member of a fundraising team need to know?  

1. Transaction and Reconciliation Reports for Finance Folks

Within an organization, finance folks get the final say about all things money related. Therefore, you should work with them to understand their informational needs from the database to ensure the books are in good order. Below are some examples of reports the finance team needs from the database, but we encourage you to talk with your finance team to understand their unique needs.

  • Reconciliation reports so you can ensure your donor management system and accounting system are balanced. This may involve running reports by GL Code to ensure the totals in both systems contain the same amounts.  
  • T3010 Reporting: For Canadian organizations, the T3010 is like your personal income tax return but for an organization. The T3010 asks for specific information like receipted donations, non-receipted donations and donations from other charities. Ensuring you are tracking donation type in your DMS is the biggest factor in being able to pull these reports.

2. Summary Reports for Senior Leadership:

When it comes to your Senior Leadership team, they may not have time to dig into the details. You will want to provide them with a high-level understanding of your fundraising progress.  

  • To accomplish this, succinct summary reports organized into Appeal, Campaign and Fund will be able to address key questions such as how much money you’ve raised, how it was raised and how much you have in each fund to spend.  
  • By using a Year-to-Date (or Fiscal Year-to-Date) format, each month you run these reports, you will be able to highlight how much additional revenue you’re generating as you progress through the year.  
  • And, if there is someone at the Leadership level who wishes to dive further into the details, you can run a Detailed Report by each of the metrics above to provide further context. But don’t forget: sharing donor information across the organization should be subject to internal policies you have around confidentiality.

3. Detailed Reports for Fundraisers:

There is no shortage of options for the type of reports fundraisers can be using. Fundraisers should regularly be running detailed donor and donations reports focused on a wide variety of metrics.  

  • In particular, fundraisers should be regularly running detailed reports by Appeal or Campaign to assess who is donating to what initiatives and when.  
  • And since fundraising is all about relationships, reports should be used to help you get to know your donors. Regularly running a New Donor Report will help you welcome new subscribers and donors and get to know them.  
  • Reports can also be used to help streamline stewardship by highlighting who must be thanked and sent a tax receipt or who should receive a follow-up call if they have donated over a specific amount.  
  • Finally, some of the most important metrics for fundraisers are donor retention and attrition rates. Retention is the percentage of donors you have retained over time, while attrition is the percentage of donors lost. Using a lapsed donor report, you can compare donors within a given period to current donors to determine your retention and attrition rates.  

The more you begin to use reports, the more you will see their value. As you begin to learn more about your fundraising program, you will be able to identify trends and become more data-driven in your decisions. Eventually, your use of reports should expand in ways that are unique to your organizational goals.  

CanadaHelps DMS has a robust reporting system that allows you to do all the above and more. If you’d like to see a demo of the reporting features yourself, request a demo from our experts today.

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