IN THE MOST mundane, boring moments of your communications work, you might ask yourself questions like: what’s the most important donor reporting document?
Since apparently I’m in a similarly slow period of my work, I’ll go ahead and offer an answer:
It’s the monthly report. The monthly report is the bridge between weekly implementation of activities and longer-term outputs and outcomes that form the basis of quarterly, semi-annual, and annual reports. (We’ve written on this previously here.)
A month time span allows your team to accurately recount dates, milestones, and the nuances of changes in program implementation; while also providing a long enough period for some measurement of progress to be made.
I recently managed a communications department for a program which was not contractually obligated to deliver a monthly donor report.
It sounds great. A report written every three months. Cool, easy.
But it was a mirage. It quickly revealed itself as a deep flaw in the program’s reporting and information management system.
Quarterly reporting turned into a chaotic process in which we constantly pestered the program teams and senior management to go back in time over a three-month period to piece together data / information and the broader program-level narrative. Information did not progress naturally as it would monthly, instead it was clumped together at the end. The quality of the final product reflected it.
On a multi-million, multi-component program delivering numerous services, in different locations, taking place at the same time, it was a challenge to pull it all together. There were significant information gaps that were never fully addressed.
(Yes, we did institute an internal monthly report that helped. But it was informal. It was never shared openly nor reviewed by the senior management team, and so, never fully developed. We could easily get away with a poorly informed, incomplete monthly update.)
My advice to managers who view the lack of a monthly report as a fortunate oversight by the donor: avoid the trap. Commit to it; build it into your reporting mechanism. If a donor doesn’t ask, send one anyway.
It forces you into good habits that directly improves your quarterly reporting, and ultimately, your ability to manage your relationship with the donor.
Thanks for reading.