One of the best ways a Not-for-Profit can improve its operations is by learning from others in the field. When it comes to the new government legislation that requires all New Zealand's charities to report on impact, there are many things NFPs can learn from other charities that have already completed similar reports. One such charity is Rural Women New Zealand.
Who is Rural Women New Zealand?
Rural Women New Zealand was established in 1925 to improve social and economic conditions for rural women living in isolated areas. The NFP has about 2,000 direct paid up members, and also works in partnership with a broad range of other organisations, stakeholders and the wider audience. Structurally, it is divided into seven regions, all of which have a mixture of Provincials, Branches and Branch groups, as well as Individual Members.
Growing and supporting rural communities has always been Rural Women New Zealand's main mission statement. Two years ago, the charity decided to modernise its governing structure, moving from a National Council to an elected Board. Although the charity's Branches have always done reports, it was at this stage that Rural Women New Zealand decided to consolidate its reporting, and start producing Statement of Service Performance reports alongside its normal financial reporting requirements.
What impacts did Rural Women New Zealand decide to report on?
After considerable debate, the Board decided to report on three measurable activities, all of which help it to achieve its broader impact of growing rural communities. These were:
- Charitable giving back (including money donated, volunteer hours, gifts in kind etc.).
- Collaboration and community relationships.
- Authoritative rural voice.
The charity found "authoritative rural voice" was the easiest activity to report on. This is because it is the most quantifiable - you can easily count submissions to parliament and media releases produced etc.
A key challenge for Rural Women New Zealand has been the administration side of things.
Charitable give back was much harder. In the first year of reporting (2016), the charity produced a form for the branches to record the extent of their charitable give back, however they found not all the information they needed was being recorded. So in the second year, the Board developed a new form which constitutes more of a "box-ticking" exercise. There are separate columns for the amount raised, what it was used for, its purpose etc. This allows the charity to more easily quantify this area of its activities and have the same data for all Branches.
Collaboration and community relationships was also a difficult area for reporting at first. After much debate, Rural Women New Zealand decided the best approach would be to tell a story - in their report they give examples of how they have furthered community relationships and collaboration.
What were the key challenges the charity faced when reporting impact?
A key challenge for Rural Women New Zealand has been the administration. "We've got all these great volunteers, and it's easy for them to see all this administration as a burden," explains Rachael Dean, National Finance Director at the charity. One reason why it's been such an administrative burden is because Rural Women New Zealand perform so many activities that it can be difficult to choose which ones to discuss. Their first report spanned hundreds of pages - although they hope fine tuning the process and refining the forms branches need to fill out will help to streamline the reports.
Despite the challenges, Rural Women New Zealand has seen benefits from producing Statement of Service reports. "Where it has delivered considerable benefits is with our ability to tell a story and raise our profile," explains Ms Dean. It's put us in a position where we can better celebrate the great work of our volunteers - and this helps to alleviate the stress of that extra administrative burden."
How can BDO help your NFP to produce impact reports?
BDO New Zealand has years of experience working with Not-for-Profits and can assist you with producing impact reports that are both comprehensive and concise. For more information, reach out to the team today.