Beyond Dollars and Cents: Making Financial Reporting Come to Life


Show dont tell

Explaining your mission in a way that the donor is able to best connect with your organization is a solid pathway toward stewardship. This month we will rethink how we report our finances and mission impact.




Numbers are the backbone of nonprofit finance. We report out to staff, volunteers, community partners, banks, funders and more. It is imperative that the numbers be both timely and accurate and finance teams spend tremendous time and energy to make that happen. But numbers alone are rarely inspirational. If we want to move people to action, we must make the numbers come alive.

Elevate stories that allow volunteers and staff to see through the numbers

If your meetings have a place at the top of the agenda for a devotional, a mission moment, thought for the day or another centering exercise, use it to your advantage. Look at what the balance of the meeting is going to delve into. There may be a specific program or line of business that is highlighted. Perhaps there is a portion of the financial statements that you are planning to focus on.

If so, try to tie your mission moment into those later portions of the meeting. Your organization exists to help transform lives and communities and a concrete example can help your team be ready to receive and interpret the financial results in a deeper way. Bring the dollars to life with an impact story about real people with real lives changed by real programs.

Use historical comparatives to show growth and momentum

Financial reporting is necessarily based on points in time or defined periods. Find ways to visualize the data with graphs that show momentum between and beyond those fixed points. Stakeholders need to understand where you are and where you are going, but also where you are on that journey and how quickly you might arrive. Plotting your results over time helps them visualize progress toward those goals. Also, do not forget that a portion of your audience are visual learners, and the variation of presentation may be a significant help to them.

Use additional units of measure to amplify the impact

Reporting on revenue without the context of what drives it can leave your results feeling flat. Report on dollars yes but supplement it with information focused on impact. Consider how constituents are being served in various activities for example. You can report by the number of people registered or the number of sessions held. For a summer program like day camp, consider emphasizing total weeks or days of programming provided (the sum of participants x the number of days each attends.) In this situation, bigger numbers can be better as you look to get people excited about the scope of what you are doing.

Take Action: Communicate the demographic components of your impact

When it comes to impact, knowing who you are serving is just as important as knowing how many. If you are not tracking demographic data, start. If you are, look for the data sets that line up with your strategic plan or emerging community needs. Where you are doing an excellent job celebrate and let people know. At the same time, be honest about the gaps that still exist and use that information to help inspire commitment for the future.

By bringing additional depth and context to your financial results your audience will be more connected to your mission and understand your financial situation more effectively! If you find that you need help getting started reach out to the DBD team for a free consultation.



Posted by Brian Keel
Brian Keel

Written by Brian Keel

As Vice President with DBD Group, Brian brings nearly 25 years of leadership experience gained both in for-profit and non-profit organizations. This background gives him a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in non-profit financial management.

Our Latest Posts