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.