We once had a big grant for our work. We had paid a professional proposal writer and she then left after writing the first year proposal. The project continued, and the person who was asked to take this on was new on the project. We realised we needed help. We didn’t understand indicators, and many of the things she had put into the proposal. In particular, we didn’t understand what the funder expected from us. We missed deadlines and struggled to hit targets. Luckily the funder worked with us as they wanted us to be successful, so after months of stress and worrying that the money would be taken back, we delivered a good project. But we learned many things from this, and one was always to have good relationships with our donors and funders.

Youth worker, Kenya

Once you have been given a donation of goods, money or services, the work hasn’t ended. Rarely do gifts come without conditions. 

Understanding conditions

Make sure you know what the donor requires before the gift is given. If possible, have this in writing. Even if it is agreed with a handshake, follow up the conversation by email. It’s not fair for donors to shift the goalposts. If you have been given a grant by another NGO, government agency or private overseas donor, they are likely to have expectations. These could include sending photographs, videos, testimonies, data or videos showing what you have achieved with their money and demonstrating that it has been spent as agreed.

Make sure that you are clear about their expectations and deadlines as soon as you have the money so that it becomes part of your planning. Ask them questions if something isn’t clear: they have given you money because they want you to be successful – they are there to make this happen, not to catch you out!

Official Reports for Grants

Make sure that you send reports to funders on time, following the outline that the funder wants. It’s tempting to share what you think they should want to know – if they have given you instructions on reporting, make sure you follow them! Writing these reports requires careful planning – ideally from the beginning of the project. It means ensuring you have the data you need at the end, and from all the right people. Set up systems at the beginning so that writing your report isn’t stressful!

Ask for help

Funders don’t want you to fail. If you feel that you are struggling to deliver the project you agreed to, speak to them. Ask them for more information if you don’t know how to report. They don’t want to trap you!

Success breeds success

It’s worth reporting to your donors or funders well. Many funders will be happy to give you further funding or recommend your project to others if they can see that their gift is allowing you to achieve amazing things for your community.

Unless they ask you not to, keep them engaged even when you don’t have a report due. For example, you could:

  • Invite them to an end-of-term celebration. 
  • Send them photos or videos of your activities.
  • Send them a Christmas card.

Personal Touch

Like everything, knowing your donor or funder, and why they wanted to give to your organisation in the first place, allows you to thank them in the way that they need. For example:

  1. Why are they giving to you? 
  2. What would be a meaningful way to thank them?
  3. Is the thanks proportionate to the gift? This is important. The gift may be money, items or services, but their gift was given to help you have more impact, not to distract you from it.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever had challenges in reporting to donors or funders? What were they and how have you overcome them? What have you learnt?
  2. How do you ensure good relationships with your donors and funders?
  3. How do you currently record when you need to report to donors and funders, and set deadlines for doing so?
  4. Do you use a shared calendar, or spreadsheet, for example?

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