Communication with the outside world has never been more important. Making sure you successfully communicate what you are doing and the difference you make to your beneficiaries can mean the difference between future funding being awarded or not. You should communicate not just how funds are spent, but the impact it has, that is, the public benefit you deliver.
Charities communicate through various means: the annual accounts, annual review, website, reports to funders, the media etc. Often content can be replicated; not only does this ensure a consistent message, it also saves time. Do something well, once.
If appropriate, case studies are an excellent way of communicating impact. People are interested in real life examples, as they allow the reader to relate to the situation.
Principles of good impact reporting
Within your communications try to make sure that the information is:
• Easy to understand; with a coherent narrative which connects all aspects of your organisation – i.e. your report must be clear.
• Accessible; allowing the information to be accessed easily by those who need it.
• Transparent; as with all your communications, honesty and openness is extremely important.
• Accountable; connecting all of your stakeholders and providing them with information and reassurance.
• Verifiable; appropriately backed and evidenced. It needs to be in proportion, ensuring the level of detail reported on reflects the matter covered.
Read your last trustees’ report and website. Ask yourself: Does it give me a real sense of what the charity achieves? Are the messages consistent? Would it make me want to support the charity?
To communicate impact successfully you’ve got to be clear on what you’re trying to achieve, how your activities tie into this, and how you can record or measure success.
With MHA, we have created Keeping Your Charity on the Right Track, a 12 month programme to help you improve your organisational governance in a stepped and measured way. Each month’s article covers an area of charity governance. The article for month seven considers reporting further, and includes a checklist:
• Assess whether you gather the right kind of information that will allow you to report with impact.
• Review your communications with the outside world. Categorise those that you have to do and those that you choose to do.
• Assess where material can be written once but applied to different publications. This saves time and ensures your message is consistent.
• Involve other teams early on to assist with populating reports. Hold a session to set everyone on the right track.
• Be bold – you do great work, your charity makes a difference, so make sure your communications demonstrate this.