Category Archives: preparation

Tracking Made Easier (or at least less frustrating)

Very often when it is time for me to do an evaluation or assessment of an organization, department or program the proper data is not available.  It is not that it has been lost or that it is confidential.  Nope, it is that it has not been tracked.

Granted tracking is tedious and it does not contribute to the delivery of services.  However, it does help determine success and it definitely affects funding.

Not tracking results in cost — more paid to a consultant, time lost trying to gather at the last minute, frustration and, the worst, lost funding.

Following are some tips that will help you make tracking less tedious, time consuming and frustrating.  These tips will also help you track in a manner that facilitates turning activities into outcomes in your reports.

First of all you must keep your promises.  You must track what you said you would.  You should always strive to meet the expectations of your Funders, Manager, Board or Partners.

You should track as you go.  Recording data regularly means doing it in the manner that will enable you to know at any point that you are on the right track and meet any reporting commitments.  Regularly could be daily, weekly, after each event/session or whatever “as you go” works best for your organization.

Never use the “catch up” method.  Translation: recreating at the end of the month or when the report is written.  This causes all kinds of problems.

  • Inaccurate Reporting – accuracy is assumed by Funders and Managers.  It is your responsibility to be accurate.
  • Cheat your organization or department by not providing all of your accomplishments and not presenting it in the best light
  • Takes more time than recording as you go.
  • Means something else suffers while you dedicate someone’s time to preparing a report that would have virtually written itself if tracking had been done along the way.

Do not rely on an unorganized method such as sticky notes or notations on your calendar.

Honor the specifications of the person or entity that will receive the report (Funder, Manager, Board, Partner, etc.)

  • If they require a specific database — use it, and don’t whine.
  • Meet the recipient’s timelines – don’t ask for leeway or make excuses.
  • Realize that you not meeting specifications may cause your Funder or Department to lose their funding, community support, management favor, or something else vital to survival — don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • If your Funder or Manager does not have specifications for reporting, get approval for the method you want to use.  Not knowing the desired form and contents does not excuse you for not providing what they want.  Remember that ignorance is not an excuse. Do you get a ticket for running a stop sign even if you say you didn’t see the stop sign?

If you do not feel comfortable or confident about tracking, get help in developing a process and timelines.  Help can come from a consultant/evaluator, other organizations/departments, higher education and even the report recipient.

 

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Taking The Pain Out Of Doing Reports

Preparing reports is not the favorite activity of nonprofits and other organizations.  As a matter of fact it is often the least favorite part.  Leaders and program staffs of organizations want to spend their time delivering their services – helping people.  The accounting staff wants to do accounting.  Fund raisers want to raise funds.   Grants staff wants to spend their time on identifying and writing grants.  But reports must be written or the funding dries up.

There are some things that can be done to greatly reduce the pain and frustration of preparing reports.

 

Before the Report

Before you begin preparing the report there are some actions that will not only make the report preparation easier, they will also improve the quality of your reports.  You may be reluctant to spend time on some of these suggestions, but it is really a matter of “pay me now, or pay me more later”.  The time you spend on these groundwork things will save you time and agony when you actually prepare the report.

  • First be certain that you understand the reporting requirements of the one who will receive the report. Recipients can be funders, partners, board members, donors and, sometimes, licensing/certification entities.  Your understand should include:

>  Process

>  Form

>  Timelines

>  Methods

>  Don’t assume anything.  If the requirements and guidelines are not clear — ASK

  • Be very careful that you do not use familiarity as an opportunity to scrimp on the details. When a funder has been giving you money for a long time or a donor has been supporting your efforts for years, you may feel that they are a sure bet.  They know the wonderful things you do and there is no reason that they will stop helping you.  But what if something changes – guidelines, contact person, number of competitors for their money?  Any report you provide should be done as if the recipient knows nothing about you.  Because you never know when that might suddenly be the case.
  • Make a timeline for all facets of the reporting process.

>  Set dates for everything – collection, tallying, analyzing, writing, proofing, etc.

>  Put actions on your calendar and the one for the organization.  Be sure everyone knows the dates.  This makes it a commitment and it needs to be a commitment to actually happen

  • Have someone from outside your organization look at your plan, including outcomes and measurements, to be certain everything is clear and rational. You can trade with another organization (they read yours, you read theirs).  You can hire an outside consultant or maybe use faculty or students at a college or university.
  • Develop a tracking plan that gathers the data as you go. No “catching up” (translation: recreating at the end of the month or when the report is written.)  This practice causes inaccuracies, stress and likely makes something else suffer.  Include dates, remember there is not a commitment unless there are dates associated with an action.  To be sure you are on target to meet your commitments and produce the expected outcomes.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the date you are supposed to write the report and find that you are missing things.   It’s better to spend a few minutes at pre-determined intervals to be sure you are on target than to get into a OMG situation where you are running around like a crazy person trying to find and recreate the information for the report.

 

Preparing the Report

When it is time to prepare the report it is crucial that you set aside the proper amount of time to do the work.  Report preparation does not turn out well when it is one task of a multi-tasking session.  Interruptions will actually cause you to spend more time on the report preparation.  Be very careful that you do not use other tasks and people to avoid doing the report.  Here are some tips that will help you do quality reporting and lessen frustration.

  • Do it in the manner required and/or agreed upon. Changing the manner could result in you not having the information needed because you gathered data for the original manner.  It could also mean the report will not meet the requirements of the report recipient.
  • Be on time. If you have done the proper work before the report and you set aside time to do it, this should not be a problem.
  • Do quality reporting.
  • Don’t make excuses. Even if funders are tolerant of excuses, you do yourself no favors for future funding.
  • Have someone outside your organization look at reports to ensure they are clear, concise and impressive. You can use the same organization or person you had review your plan for reporting.
  • Recognize when you need professional help and get it. Your specialty is not preparing reports; the quality and benefits may be higher from getting professional help.  Also, it may be less costly to outsource some or all of the report preparation so that you and your staff have time to do the business of your organization.  Some options for outsourcing:  Consultant, Higher Education, Intern, Board Member or even another organization.

 

Fallout from Inadequate Reporting

There are definitive consequences from reporting that is inadequate or late.  The most serious fallout is loss of funding either immediate or future.  If your funding is reimbursement based, you could not only lose funding, you would also have spent money that you will never recover.  Poor reporting is likely to ruin your chances for future funding from the report recipient and from potential funders, because funders talk.  Inadequate reporting will likely result in the need to supplement the original report; this takes more time than doing it properly the first time.  Supplemental reporting, loss of funding and worrying that the report might not be adequate cause stress.  Something you probably have more than enough of.

 

Benefits of Good and Exceptional Reporting

On the flip side of the consequences of inadequate reporting, there are many benefits of good reporting, even more from exceptional reporting.

  • Meeting the requirements and being on-time shows that you are cooperative and compliant and have respect for the needs and specifications of funders and other report recipients.
  • Using appropriate statistics and examples shows how well you are delivering on your commitments and proves that you are producing the promised outcomes.
  • An exceptional report gives you an opportunity to brag, which in this case is not only satisfying; it also proves your value. If you see reporting as an opportunity to brag instead of an annoyance, your reports will be less aggravating to do and present a positive impression.
  • A report that delivers also provides a foundation on which you can build future proposals, requests and other things. In my experience as a consultant helping organizations with reports I have seen many uses for parts of the report, including:

>  Other grants

>  Funding justifications

>  Development of programs

>  Projections

>  Planning – strategic and tactical

>  Feasibility testing

>  Press releases

>  Annual report

  • A complete report provides an assessment of progress and identification of obstacles to help your staff and board understand the situation and positions you to make adjustments.
  • An exceptional report helps you build consensus and market your organization.

>  It helps you maintain belief and support among your followers

>  It aids you in development of advocates – partners, donors, fans

> It assists you in promoting your organization and programs to potential                   partners, funders and participants

  • A well-done report provides you and your staff with a sense of accomplishment. Seeing in print (or on a monitor) your progress and successes makes them more real and just plain feels good.

What Do Funders Say About The Organizations Who Want Their Money?

As a Non-Profit or Agency do you ever wonder what Funders say behind your back?  Well, you should.  As a consultant and evaluator I have had a lot of opportunities to hear from Funders.  Following are some of the principal comments and complaints they have about the organizations who are seeking money from them.

  • Applicants and Recipients track input and output instead of measuring outcomes.  Input and Output = activities, number of people touched, number of training completers, etc.  Outcome = Product, Systemic Change, improvement, enhancement
  • Organizations are focused on activities, not outcomes and do not usually show what change they plan to bring about or have accomplished.
  • Organizations very often want funding for something (staff, operation, equipment, etc.) and try to disguise their need inside a lame attempt to show they are seeking funding for a project or program that aligns with the Funders’ goals. But Funders have seen this before and they can smell desperation.
  • Funding requests often do not provide adequate proof that the fund seeker can deliver the proposed or expected outcome. The fund seekers often do not use evidence based elements such as:
    • Needs – lacks data
    • Situations – lacks examples and trends
    • Programs – does not appropriately correlate a program to a solution/outcome
    • Training – typically use homegrown instead of evidenced based
    • Improvements – lacks data
    • Differences – lacks measurement and/or proof of the improvement                You cannot say “We’ve got this, we are professionals
  • Reporting often does not prove that the organization is producing the promised outcome; they may be doing it, but are not showing evidence in reports.
  • Organizations usually only think of a Funder as a money source. This often means organizations hamper the ability of a Funder to help with things other than money.  They provide sugar coated reports to make them look good to the Funder.  However, if they shared information on obstacles with a Funder they  look more realistic and they also provide openings for Funders to help with:
    • Identifying and establishing partnerships
    • Identifying and obtaining resources
    • Finding a way around regulations
    • Removing roadblocks
    • Getting an audience

          Remember Funders have money and connections – people listen and respond              to them

 

A larger and disappointing reality

Sometimes an organization still gets funding because it is known to the Funder, but this can cause its own set of problems:

  • Complicates reporting – how do you report on things that are not definitive?
    • Vaguely
    • No or little proof
    • With anecdotes and testimonials which is not true substantiation
  • Jeopardizes future funding from the funders that know you because reports are lacking in statistics and other data; there is little justification for continued funding
  • Limits you to getting funding only from Funders who know your organization. Limiting the number of Funders results in limited funding.  Regional and national Funders are not likely to consider your requests.  Even new local Funders will be a hard sell since you do not have a foundation of proof to show them.

Is Good Enough Reporting Limiting Your Funding?

When you choose a birthday gift for a family or close friend do you pick something good enough?

Would you return to a restaurant where the wait staff asks “Is your food good enough?”  instead of “Everything taste good?”

Probably not.   So why would you expect your funders, board members and partners to accept reports that are barely good enough.  And why would you accept good enough for your organization when you have an opportunity to be outstanding in the reporting of your accomplishments.

I am often told by funders that they provide funding to local organizations because they know the organization and its purpose.  The funders say they do not rely on reports because they are in regular contact with the organizations they fund by virtue of operating in the same community.  But even though this coziness makes it easy to get some funding, it also creates artificial limitations.  If you structure your reporting to only meet the expectations of the local funders who do not require much detail or measurement, you will minimize the possibility of appealing to regional and national funders and diminish your chances for larger funding opportunities.  Non-local funders do not know your organization and grantors who make large donations have complex expectations for reporting.  Good enough reporting keeps you local, outstanding reporting broadens your funding prospects.

 

Here are some things that will make your reporting outstanding:

  • Include measurements that matter. Say your goal is to increase the number of students that graduate from high school.  The appropriate measurement for your reporting is the number of students that graduated, not the number of ninth graders who got tutoring at your after school center.  Including statistics for activities along the path toward your goal (number of ninth graders tutored, number of parents trained, number of PTA speeches, number of eleventh graders who improved grades, etc.) can be appropriate.  Reporting these things in the proper manner help you demonstrate that your strategy is working and show what it takes to reach the goal.  This will justify the money, support or partnership you are seeking.  But the measurement should be the one that reaches your goal.
  • Treat your reports as marketing collateral. If a report is written properly it can be included in whole or in part with grant applications or partner proposals.  This not only saves you time down the road; it is also a real illustration of your accomplishments.  An actual report is more impressive than a description – it is tangible and more succinct.
  • Match your reporting to the goals of funders and potential partners you want to approach. In anticipation of seeking funding from a foundation or agency make yourself familiar with their goals.  In hope of collaborating with another organization be sure you understand their mission and goals.  Then include statistics and other information in your current reports that address those goals.  This serves several purposes:
    • Makes you look more broadly at the goals and actions of your organization or current project
    • Does future work now – if you have to write a report anyway, prepare it in a way that it can be used in the future thus eliminating duplicate work
    • Enhances the aspirations of your organization or project
  • Illustrate how your strategy and efforts are scalable. Most funders who do not limit their funding to a local community want things they fund to be scalable.  Usually funders require that a grant application and, especially, reports demonstrate scalability.  Thinking about how your program can be scaled – duplicated, expanded, built on – and showing that in reporting eliminates the artificial limitation that you can only get local funding.  Demonstrating scalability will not hurt you with local funders and it will certainly make regional and national funding a stronger possibility.

 

Some of you are probably thinking that reporting already takes up too much time, not to mention that it is annoying.  Just take a deep breath and read the above bullets again.  This time try to think of all the time you have spent writing a grant from scratch (because you could not use reports or anything else already written) and the frustration you felt when you did not get funding (because they didn’t see the value of your proposal, project, organization).

Bottom line – do reporting on a level that matches your aspirations not on a level that is good enough.

3 Most Time Consuming Mistakes In Reporting To Funders

For 20+ years I have been helping Nonprofits and government agencies do reporting to funders (donors, foundations, government grant providers) and partners.  I have seen a lot of processes and lack of processes for doing reporting.  I am usually hired to help with a report because an organization doesn’t have the staff and/or time, is at the end of their frustration rope or realizes report development is not their strong suit.  But even if an organization hires me, they still have to supply information.  Following are the 3 mistakes that, from my experience, cause the most frustration and waste of time.

  1. Not tracking as you go.  Waiting until the last minute to compile numbers puts you at risk for errors and omissions.  Because this usually means you have to recreate and guestimate, it is likely you will over or underestimate your statistics.   Overestimating could cause you to be non-compliant in your grant or to ruin your reputation with a funder – either could cause loss of funds.  Underestimating robs you of an opportunity to show the magnitude of your efforts, which could also negatively impact future funding.  In addition to increasing the likelihood of mistakes, it also takes a chunk of time, when tracking as you go takes small amounts of time along the progress path of your project.
  2. Not understanding what the report recipient wants. Speaking of time . . .  this mistake can take a lot of time.  If you have to redo reports or backtrack and gather information you didn’t know you needed, it will take a lot more time than it would have taken in the beginning to understand what the report recipient wants.  A good way to look at it is, “pay me now, or pay me more later.”  Also, if you don’t do reporting according to specification you risk losing the funding or partner or not getting future funding or necessary partners.  Keep in mind that you are using someone else’s money, so their rules trump everything.  One other important point.  It is actually rude and disrespectful to not attempt to understand the needs of people you report to (Board Members, Funders, Donors, Partners or other departments) and disrespect will not win friends and funders.
  3. Putting it off until the last minute. Reporting usually takes more time than you think it will, no matter when you do it – just the nature of the beast.  So, likely if you put report preparation off until the last minute, you will not allocate enough time.  This will result in one or more of the following:  an incomplete report, a poor quality report, working on the weekend and/or at night, other things suffering (including personal life) and, last but certainly not least, frustration.  Often I am hired by an organization or agency to do or help with a report because someone has put it off.  This works well for me because I make money.  But it’s not the best situation for the organization that hires me.  Sometimes it is best to hire an outside person to develop a report because:  it is outside your ability or time scope, it will help to have an outside view or the funder requires it.  But having to pay someone just because you put it off is not prudent use of funds.

 

During my time of helping organizations with reporting I have learned that the 2 most effective tools for avoiding these report development mistakes are:

  • Include reporting in your plan (strategic, tactical, budget, etc.). Plan the who, what, when, where and how of you will do reporting.  Include the cost in your budget whether it is for an outside source or for the time to be spent by you and/or your staff.
  • Put commitments for the activities related to reporting on the calendar. This should include tracking, collecting, analyzing, writing, etc.  If you put it on the calendar you are giving it the importance of meetings, fund raisers, vacations and other vital things.  And once you put it on the calendar do not take it off; you can move it, but don’t remove it.

A Report Can Be Your Friend (Yes, Really!)

If you are not using reporting as a way to promote your organization and its mission and services, you are missing a remarkable opportunity.  Reports to your board, funders, donors and partners often have to be done, so it makes a lot of sense to make them work to your advantage.  If reports are not required, doing them anyway gives you the same opportunity to promote your work and serves as an anticipatory move that will give you an advantage the next time you make a request for funds or action.

 

Here are some ways that you can use reporting to your benefit:

  • Show, when done to the recipient’s requirements, that you are cooperative and compliant and have respect for their needs and specifications. All things that funders, boards and partners love.
  • Allow you to provide statistics and examples on how well you are delivering on the projected and desired outcomes. If you see this as an opportunity to brag instead of an annoyance, your reports will be less aggravating to do and present a positive impression.
  • Provide information that will be a foundation on which you will build future proposals and requests. You write the reports, so you can decide how they are written and what is included (beyond the required elements).  Use the opportunity to present the message you want them to receive.
  • Supply a document that can be used for other purposes such as a press release, a separate grant, another report, historical reference or the book you plan to write.
  • Offer an assessment of progress and obstacles to help your staff understand the situation and position you to inform board members, partners, stake holders, clients and even funders about things they can do to help or enhance and expand.
  • Provide you and your staff with a sense of accomplishment. Seeing in print (or on a monitor) your progress and successes makes them more real and just plain feels good.

Timing Is Everything

“The difference in a good life and a great life is timing.”  That’s what my former business partner used to say.

Timing is the difference between success and failure, agony and defeat, yes and no.   Whether it is in your personal or professional life, timing can make a huge difference in an outcome.

Here are some examples that illustrate just how important timing can be.

When my daughters were children they knew not to press me for a decision.  They still remember me saying, “If you want an answer right now, it is No.  If you give time to think about it, it might be yes.”   I have often seen that practice in the professional world.  If you press someone to make a decision before they are ready, you might not get the answer you want.  If you push for a commitment on funds before a donor is ready, the result may be negative and you may have used your one chance.

A few years ago my nephew, JT, had some tough instruction on timing.  For years he had been planning to hike the Appalachian Trail when he graduated from college.  On May 29 JT and his father flew from Atlanta to Maine to start the trip.  They had plane delays and missed flights and got to Maine a day later than they planned and because the flight they could get landed them in a different city than they planned, they had to drive 3 hours after landing.  The Appalachian Trail actually begins at the top of a mountain and that part of the trial is closed when weather is bad.  Well, since the weather was stormy my nephew and brother-in-law had to hike the second leg first and the first leg second.  (Nothing like not starting at the beginning to get you disoriented).   When they did hike the first leg, JT hurt the tendon in one of ankles.  Of course he hiked on.  A few days later he was attacked by the dog of another hiker while in a camping site.  The dog tried to take a piece of his leg, but my nephew fended him off.  However, the dog was persistent and finally clamped down on his arm.  JT left the camp site and got to a lodging area where the owners helped him clean and bandage his wound.  The next day he went to the emergency room and had both the ankle and dog bite checked out.  The wound wasn’t bad and the doctor gave him antibiotic ointment.   They x-rayed his ankle and found that it wasn’t broken, but was sprained; the doctor said he needed to rest it.  So, JT rested for a couple of days, not the way he wanted to start his 2,180 mile journey.   After a few days, he got back on the Trail, but compensating for his injury made his other leg sore and caused blisters on his feet.  When he got to the next “stop” on his trek he found that the food he and his dad had sent to be held for him was not there.  (When someone is hiking the Appalachian Trail they make arrangements for food to be held for them at “stops” along the trail.  There are very few places to purchase supplies along the trail and most hikers do not want to or have the means to get off the trail and visit a grocery store.)  JT was about to enter one of the wilderness sections of the trail and had to have the food.   At this point he finally decided that his timing might be off.  He decided to go back home and fully recuperate from his injuries.  But he learned a lesson about the wisdom of timing.  He also learned that when there are signs that the timing is not right, you must heed them or suffer consequences.

Sometimes you have a good idea for a new program or service.   But if the timing is wrong your good idea may look like a bad idea.  If the timing is off, you just cannot make up for it with determination, passion and eloquence.   You have to do your research before starting something new – research is preparation.  You also have to be prepared to take another path if the first one is blocked or maybe even delay starting at all when you see the signs that the timing is not right.

One last illustration about timing.  In 2001 I attended a meeting.  I felt compelled to later contact the speaker and ask to meet him.  He agreed and we met a week or so later.  Soon after, he put me in touch with the head of economic development of a county in a neighboring state.  That man ended up hiring me and my then business partner for a project.  I met people involved in that project who hired me for two other projects.  Since that time I have done about 20 other projects and taught 5 workshops in that area.  I just completed the latest one in January 2017.  All of these projects and workshops would never have happened if I hadn’t gone to that meeting and hadn’t acted.   There is luck, but luck does not drop clients, donors, grants or effective board members in your lap.  Luck comes when you act.  It is very difficult to be in the right place at the right time, if you are not some place.  It is also difficult to get an opportunity if you do not take action.

Timing can be friend or foe.  Pay attention to it so you can reap the benefits.

Diet for Your Promotion and Publicity Plan

Before Atkins & South Beach diets and before The Biggest Loser, diets were not weight loss tools.  A person’s diet was the foods he/she ate.  The healthier the diet, the healthier the person.  And a healthy person could accomplish more, enjoy things more and have a better life.

Today we think of a diet as a tool to help us lose weight.  But most of us realize that if the diet is solely to lose weight, the weight probably will come back once we are off the diet.  But if the diet helps you become healthier then the weight comes off, stays off and life gets better.

So if your Promotion & Publicity plans and efforts are not moving you forward at the proper pace or at all, you need a healthier diet for them.

Here are questions you can ask to determine if your Promotion & Publicity plans are healthy:

  • Can I measure the results of time, efforts and dollars spent (or do I even know what the results are)?
  • Do my staff, partners, funders, etc. know what results we need from Promotion & Publicity?
  • When I make a change (i.e. new logo) or add something (i.e. mail-out) do I have a specific result in mind (i.e. new clients in a program) or am I changing because it seemed to be time.
  • Have I been able to realize new clients of funding increases as a result of the time I spend on in-person and social networking.  Or to put it another way, are the people who “like” my organization benefiting us.
  • Do I have an idea of the ROI (Return on Investment) for the Promotion & Publicity dollars I spend? Could your time and/or money be better spent on something else?
  • Are your Marketing & Sales activities driven by someone else – competitors, trend setters, etc.? If they are, do those people know your business and do they have your interest at heart?

If you are not pleased by your answers to these questions, it may be time to put your Promotion & Publicity plans on a diet.  Yes, it may be time to do some of the following:

  • Reduce fat – if I am paying someone else to do my promotion, publicity, social media, etc. could we do it internally as well or better and save money?  Are there efforts or advertising I could spend less time and money on and not hurt my results?
  • Increase fiber – Am I networking directly with potential clients, partners, and funders?
  • Increase fruits and vegetables – Am I properly serving my current clients, partners and donors in ways that will increase their loyalty and participation?
  • Get appropriate protein – Am I concentrating my Promotion & Publicity efforts on the clients that are the core of our mission?
  • Limit desserts – Am I appropriately mixing the fun stuff with the have to do stuff so that my work life is balanced but profitable?

Most any organization can benefit from increasing revenue without inappropriately increasing cost because that expands your ability to provide programs and services.  A healthy Publicity & Promotion plan is a major component of a healthy and fit ROI.

Have you looked in the mirror lately?

By now you have probably started (and maybe tossed) those resolutions for getting personally healthier, fitter, thinner and better looking.  So now would be a good time to look closely at your reporting and publicity and see if it needs some help.

Have you ever seen someone and thought, “Obviously he/she does not have a mirror at home”? Well, let’s apply that to the image reflected in your reports and publicity.  If you hold it up to a mirror, would the image truly reflect any of the following:

  • programs and services you offer
  • benefits you provide to clients and donors/funders
  • integrity and quality of you and your staff
  • level of experience and expertise
  • outcomes of your programs and services

If it doesn’t reflect all of those it might be time for a makeover.  Now by makeover, I do not mean a new logo, new brochures, a new website or a new donor management system.  Although any or all of these could be part of your makeover.

A makeover can be deep or it can be surface.  So if you look at the things in the previous list and you see something that is not up to the standard you want or need for it to be — then the makeover needs to be deep.  If the trait or asset is there, but your reports and publicity do not reflect it, the makeover needed would be on the surface — cosmetic so to speak.

Does this sound like branding?  Well, yes, branding is part of it.  Actually branding is an outcome of the things in that list along with the other things that make an organization what it is.

So hold that mirror up to your image portrayed in your reports and publicity and see how well the reflection matches the accomplishments, values, quality, integrity and even personality of your organization.  If you think you need a makeover, then take the steps to accomplish it.  You don’t want anyone thinking your organization doesn’t have a mirror and does not know how it really looks to others — clients, funders  and partners.

Your Christmas Decorations Are STILL Up?

Do your Christmas decoration habits reflect your Publicity & Reporting habits?

It’s true, in the US we now have 5 seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Christmas or the Holiday Season.   Christmas decorations are now put up in stores while pumpkins and skeletons are still in evidence.  Santa shows up at malls the weekend after Halloween.

When do you put up your holiday decorations?  And when do you take them down?  I think that your Christmas decoration habits can give you insight into your personality and how it relates to your promotion and reporting habits.  Bear with me.

If you put your decorations up before Thanksgiving you may tend toward “showy” publicity and reporting.  You likely prefer events to one-on-one meetings.  You might use a power point presentation for a 10 minute talk and use long paragraphs in your reports.  You may be partial to promotional items and not so partial to statistics and outcomes.   None of this is bad – or good.  What is important is that you take into account your personality when you plan and execute your publicity plans and reporting.

If you always put your decorations up at the same time every year you probably like structure.  As far as publicity you either don’t want to do it because it seems so ambiguous and not easily measured or you have a real plan and you work that plan and you are not happy when something gets you off that plan.  Structure is a good thing and having a plan is essential to promotion but that plan should have room for occasional adjustments.  Structure can be a real asset in reporting as long you focus on measurements and outcomes.

If you leave your decorations up longer than twelve days after Christmas then you are either lazy or you have a hard time letting go.  Either one will get you in trouble if you treat publicity and reporting in the same way.   If you are lazy about promotion or reporting it will hurt your organization.  If you hold onto a promotion activity or plan when it no longer serves a purpose or it has become non-effective, you may as well not be doing publicity and promotion and save your money and effort.  If you are still doing reporting the way you did it ten years ago, you may not be meeting the expectation of your board, funders and partners.  Now if you say your decorations are still up because you are too busy to take them down – well that’s another problem.  If you feel the same way about publicity and reporting then you are cheating your organization out of possible clients and jeopardizing funding.

Now for those of you who say, “I don’t even bother with decorations!”  Not only are you a scrooge, you probably have stubbornly not seen the purpose of publicity and think it is fluff, just like decorations.  Even more risky, you may be jeopardizing current or future funding if you do not do a good job with reporting.

If you put your decorations up just a day or two before the holiday and then leave them up for weeks after the holiday you may be a procrastinator, not a believer in planning or just have bad timing.  If last minute is a way of life for you, you need to be sure you truly know and understand the needs of your partners and funders; otherwise you could lose them.  If you try to make up for being late by going overboard (providing lots of flowery information, profuse apologies or lengthy explanations) you may want to rethink that “I don’t need no stinking plan” attitude.

What are my decoration habits?  My husband and I put ours up about two weeks before Christmas and then take them down the day after Christmas.  Do I think this is the way everyone should do it?  No, but this is the way that works for my husband and I – it suits our personalities.   We are kind of “everything in its own time” people.   And by the way, I put up a few decorations for Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving, ‘cause that suits my personality, too.

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