Keeping Track of What You Do When You Do It

Being Wednesday, I took part in one of my favorite midweek professional activities, #Fundchat.  For those not acquainted with #Fundchat, it is a weekly discussion held by fundraising professionals on Twitter.  A topic is chosen by the moderator, Brendan Kinney, and those that take part share ideas, knowledge and opinions.  Today’s discussion was “How to Improve Collaboration Between Nonprofits & Foundations.”

During the discussion, one of the participants brought up the topic of metrics.  She pointed out that many funders expect organizations to provide an accounting of what they do with the money they are given or will be given, and this can be a barrier to some organizations.

In my opinion, showing how the money has been or will be used should not be much of a problem if organizations are diligent about keeping accurate records.  Recording how many individuals your program serves on a daily basis is not that hard to do.  Filing receipts for money spent on the items needed to run your program should be second nature.  It is simply a matter doing business.  This is expected of your organization by those who finance your operations whether it is individual donors, foundations and trusts, or a government agency.

In my current location, a century old nonprofit is in danger of closing because the leadership was lax when it came to record keeping.  They did not do the simple tasks of keeping track of how they spent their donors’ money or how many clients they served, and now the major funders have cut them off.  The Board has been let go and they are scrambling to get their act together before it is too late, but the horse may have left that barn already.

If your organization is going to seek financial support from a foundation, trust, or government agency, expect that you will be asked to show how you will be using the money and how many people you serve.  Expect to be asked how you will show your outcomes indicating success.  The best way to accomplish that is to write things down when you do them on a daily basis.  It can be in a notebook or a database, but record what you do.  If you don’t, it could cost you next year’s funding.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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2 Responses to Keeping Track of What You Do When You Do It

  1. Susan Perri says:

    Susan Perri
    This week’s fundchat was a good one, and brought up many interesting perspectives from both sides of the coin – funder and nonprofit alike. Having the privilege to work closely with both of these types of groups, I was happy to render my opinion based on what I’ve experienced along the way. This being said, I’m afraid you’ve misquoted me. What I offered during chat was in response to a thread about program evaluation. I was speaking to the importance of being able to show potential funders, in quantifiable terms, what your program can or should do. The point I was making was that for some nonprofits, they have not conducted any sort of evaluation – some may not even have metrics – and (I think rightfully so) some funders want and expect program outcome metrics as part of the grant process. My exact quote was: “@ggfundraise @DennisFischman @NonprofitGold Some funders want metrics before they give $. This is a barrier for some nonprofits. #fundchat” I’ve written numerous grant applications on behalf of nonprofit clients that require previous outcome metrics for the program for which funds are being requested. This is a different scenario than making formal program evaluation part of the request, or projecting outcomes for the grant at hand. The barrier in this instance being that without the capacity to document metrics, the nonprofit is not in good standing to really even make the ask, meaning they go without the resources to show the metrics, etc. It becomes a vicious circle for some, and one that may be counterproductive to the grantor/grantee partnership. Some groups (such as Charting Impact) are working on this specific issue, and helping nonprofits build capacity, understand outcome and performance measures, and learn to speak the assessment standards language that funders want and need. Given that the focus of the chat was to discuss how nonprofits and foundations can work together better, my goal was to highlight what in my work has been a key issue for some in terms of getting to the ask with a robust program, including validated outcomes. Writing that as part of the program design is, as you suggest, rather simple. I look forward to our discussion, and hope we can keep them productive and respectful of each chatter’s intent.

  2. Susan, thank you for your comments. I am curious why you felt that you were misquoted as the tweet that you mentioned is what this post is based on, and nowhere in this post do I say that you don’t believe that an organization should have to provide evidence of their program’s success. In your comments you acknowledge ” I was speaking to the importance of being able to show potential funders, in quantifiable terms, what your program can or should do. The point I was making was that for some nonprofits, they have not conducted any sort of evaluation – some may not even have metrics – and (I think rightfully so) some funders want and expect program outcome metrics as part of the grant process.”

    What I am saying in this post is that if an organization is seeking funding for an existing program, then they should have some sort of data to show how effective their program is and why it is worth the financial investment a funding organization might make. For new programs, they should be proposing potential outcomes as part of their funding request to show that their efforts are working at alleviating the problems they are trying to solve. The point is, they should be considering these issues when the start their programs.

    In the many grant writing trainings I have participated, I have pointed out to my leaders that grant requests are very similar to the lesson plans I wrote when I was a teacher. My plans always had to include expected outcomes and ways to measure those outcomes. The only difference I have found between grant requests and lesson plans is that grant requests detailed budgets that are needed to make the potential program happen.

    Finally, I credited you with the statement you made during #fundchat because it is the ethical thing to do. As a blogger, I try my best to give credit where it is due. I did not take your comment out of context or twist what you said. You made a valid statement that I replied to.

    Richard Freedlund

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