A Funder’s View

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As the Canadian population ages, there are many practical reasons for individual donors to look at how their charity dollars are used. Donors want to see the impact of their donations. That, in turn, puts increasing pressure on charities to show the results of their work in the community or in areas in which they operate.

Being able to articulate the value that a charity brings so that the objectives and results are clear to donors can help strengthen the overall trust and engagement of donors. At Mackenzie Investments, the employer/employee Charitable Foundation supports charities in the communities we serve. Impact reporting helps the Foundation make informed choices when selecting the charities with whom we deal.

The Foundation typically donates to smaller-sized charitable organizations focusing on children and families at-risk. A description (or Impact Report) from our partner charities on how our grant has been allocated is something our Donations Committee pays close attention to. It’s important for us to know how well the programs we support are impacting the communities we serve. However, we often find that charities are not providing donors with enough detail as to how their grants are impacting the community.

Help your champion communicate

Each of the charities supported by our Foundation is linked with a Relationship Manager (volunteer Board or committee members) who acts as the charity’s point of contact throughout the year. Each Relationship Manager reports back to the Foundation with any pertinent updates. This structure allows the Relationship Manager to understand how efficiently the charity is functioning, but without a proper stewardship report describing the impact of a donation, it can be more difficult for the Relationship Manager to express the program’s benefits to the Donations Committee, especially when granting decisions are being made.

Our Foundation sees that some charities report on what their donors ask for, which does not necessarily showcase whether the charity is achieving its goals. Therefore, it is important for donors to know how to ask the right questions.

Funding application may seed your impact report

When charitable organizations that are not current recipients apply to our Foundation for funding, they complete a lengthy donation application form with an entire section on Reporting and Accountability. We ask:

– What type of activities is the charity proposing to undertake with the donation requested?

– What are the benefits, both qualitative/quantitative, and the anticipated results?

– How is the success of the program measured, and how is this communicated back?

In essence, this can be considered a report on the impact the charity hopes to make.

The Donations Committee also takes a close look at the charity’s financial statements to gain a better understanding of the charity’s sources and uses of cash. This allows the Committee to determine if donations are flowing to the anticipated recipients or used for administrative costs, which makes a difference in the decision-making process.

When it comes time to finalize granting decisions, we evaluate the applications of new candidates alongside our current partner charities. This is precisely where having quantitative and measurable descriptions of a program’s impact on the community is helpful for both the Donations Committee and the charities we support.

In short, reporting along the lines of a “business” instead of a “cause” allows donors to make informed choices about where their money will go.