Fundraising is a cycle: ask, thank, report, repeat.

Unfortunately, far too many nonprofits skip the "report" piece. And, the fact is, if you skip the reporting step, you're losing donors.

Why? Because in her book Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk found that donors just want three simple things.

One of those things is "measurable results on their gifts at work, before they are asked for more money."

Let's look at how you can report measurable results (or outcomes) to your donors.


A lot of people confuse "activities" with "outcomes." And it's a common mistake.

Activities are the things that you do. For instance, you provide job training. You mentor kids. You teach immigrants and refugees to speak English.

Outcomes are the things that happen (or change) as a result of what you do. For instance,

  • Adults who participate in job training programs get new or better jobs.
  • Kids who have adult mentors build confidence, stay on track and stay in school.
  • Immigrants and refugees who take part in English language programs can more fully participate in American society.

Here's a definition that will help you understand outcomes, using the acronym BACKS. Outcomes represent a change in Behavior, Attitude, Condition, Knowledge or Status.

Consider these examples:

When a previously unemployed person gets a job, that's a change in condition (going from unemployed to employed).

When someone gets a better job (say, going from part-time to full-time), that's a change in status.

When a child's confidence and self-esteem increases, that's a change in attitude. And when that child starts making better decisions, like not skipping school, that's a change in behavior.

And when immigrants and refugees learn new language skills, that's a change in knowledge. And that new knowledge can lead to a change in attitude, behavior, condition and status.


Nonprofits are notorious for reporting activities to donors:

  • We provided job training for 310 adults last year.
  • We mentored 202 at-risk youth during the school year.
  • We helped 413 immigrants and refugees improve their English skills.

The problem is donors don't know what these activities mean. More importantly, they don't know why these activities matter.

Have you heard this saying? "Numbers numb."

What about this one? "Facts tell, stories sell."

Donors want information about what you do. But they need context in order to understand the true impact of your work - and their gift.

You can provide context - and show impact - through effective storytelling.

Consider a program that helps immigrants and refugees find good jobs:

Semira and her 3 small children immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia. Like so many immigrants and refugees, Semira felt a lot of anxiety.

And uncertainty.

And the pressing urgency to find work to support herself and her family.

Then she enrolled in our Sewing Machine Operator Training program.

Semira learned English while she was also learning about scissors, seam rippers and threaders. She developed strong English language skills, while also developing real, tangible workplace skills.

And best of all? Semira found gainful employment after our 8-week intensive language and job training program.

A year ago, the future looked bleak for Semira. But now, her future is bright. Semira has stronger English skills. She has a job that she loves, and it pays above minimum wage.

Most importantly, she's on her way to providing a better tomorrow for herself and her family.

This short story gives examples of real outcomes. Real changes. Changes in behavior. In attitude and outlook. In knowledge and skills. In employment status. Changes in Semira's life.


Simply put, your donors prefer stories to statistics. They're not interested in your "busyness" or in your "business," so to speak.

Donors want to know how things are changing, for the better, as a result of their donations.

So, if you don't already do this, start to actively seek, collect and organize your nonprofit's stories.

Then use those stories to report back to donors about how their donation is having an impact.

Tell stories in your newsletter and annual report. Share them online and in your social media spaces. Tell them at your donor meetings. And tell them in your thank you letters.

When you share success stories with donors, always tell them, "This is just one of the stories that you made possible."


Remember that donors want to understand the measurable impact of your work before they're asked to give again.

That means explaining the donor's impact, in context. One way to do that is by telling more stories.

If you're looking for tips on becoming a better storyteller, check out Vanessa Chase Lockshin ( and Lori Jacobwith (

Now you have two of four tips to increase donor retention:

In the next post, I'll share some more tips for creating donor-centric communications. With more donor-centric communications, you'll keep more of your donors. And when you keep more of your donors, you'll raise more money.

Until next time.

This is the third post in a series on donor retention.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

Need help communicating your impact? Or creating a donor retention plan? Laura Rhodes can help.

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