Digital Impact Reporting: Between the Idea & the Reality

Chris Snavely

Chris Snavely, Managing Partner, Ovrture

Three years ago, we began to build a digital platform that automated the creation of impact reports. This journey (along with numerous patient and insightful clients) revealed that we had to span a number of contradictions...

  • Build an on-brand experience for each donor while achieving the economy of serving hundreds of clients.
  • Distribute thousands of reports simultaneously while enabling delightful and deep personalization.
  • Allow for efficient, client-specific data ingestion while being agnostic to a client’s specific CRM.

Addressing these contradictions shapes how our platform technically works. Yet, time has revealed technicals are really only half of the problem (and the easier half in many ways!). We’ve observed a set of hidden business challenges that clients undoubtedly encounter along the road to building digital reports.

  • Collaboration: Whereas print-based outputs are limited by serial workflows, digital platforms enable parallel workflows where the “digital advancement office” forms a hive… working on complementary, yet different, parts of the project. How do you enable this efficiency without inserting risk? 
  • Analytics: Digital impact reporting yields new sets of data-driven returns, but what does success look like? 20% open rate, 50%, or 90%? How do you leverage analytics to provide more touchpoints/engagement along the way?
  • Appetite & Adoption: The last 10 months have driven home both the power and the pitfalls of digital. On one hand, our daily immersion can be overwhelming; on the other hand, we see the entrepreneurial instincts it unleashes when used to break from tradition. So, how do you introduce something that is not just another thing? How do you direct its use to embolden one-to-one, human-to-human engagement?

As we’ve helped our clients address these challenges, what have they learned? And, more importantly, how can you use their experience to help navigate your own internal conversations around digital reporting? From our seat, we’ve seen a set of recurring best practices emerge.

  • Crawl, Walk, Run: We get it. As a team used to arm wrestling spreadsheets and coordinating mail services, jumping into web-based impact reporting can feel disorienting. Further, driving adoption of a new technology is not easy. To this, we say take it slow. Find a solid first project, knock it out, learn, shape internal workflows, and move on to bigger projects.
  • Use Feedback Loops: Going digital is not a magic bullet. In fact, it requires a new set of capabilities and processes. For example, now that you can see who opened their report, you need to have a plan for those who haven’t. Embrace these insights, set expectations through them, and build your plan around them.
  • Own It: Do not go digital if there is not deep buy-in and the right internal culture. Though the era of physical distancing has broken down many objections, there still exists the perception that donors “just love print.” Ask them.

In the end, moving to digital impact reporting involves far more than acquiring a technology; success depends on adjusting your internal processes and collaboration. Have the deep conversations, build your team, and grow into your vision. Your donors will thank you.

Learn More About Ovrture

Back to the February 2021 Hub