Reporting and metrics are not always perceived as useful and valuable to grantees.

Co-designing metrics and reporting formats to be specific to the needs of the grantee can lead to more meaningful and valuable impact measurement for both funders and grantees.

“I’m not sure anyone reads our reports. They say they’ll let us know if they have questions, but we never get feedback.”

Reporting Processes

In the best case, quarterly and annual reports serve as much more than just an update or checkup. Reporting can be an integral part of creating a common understanding of the organization’s goals and core mission. Some participants stated that creating reports helped them hone their organizational focus.

But in other cases, reporting was seen as busy work that takes time away from what organizations saw as their “real work.” These participants viewed the report as a deliverable external to their organizational goals. This group also expressed doubts about the utility of their reports to GCE, since they rarely heard feedback after submitting reports.

Among the people who were the most satisfied with reports, many of them had negotiated a reporting format that worked for them. For example, some organizations sent one standardized report to all of their funders, so they didn’t have to spend time preparing multiple reports. Others worked with GCE to develop a specific format that best fit both their needs and GCE’s. We noticed that the organizations who took the initiative to make reporting work well for them were more likely to see the real outcome as not the report itself, but as a benefit to their organization’s health. On average, organizations reported that narrative reports are more cumbersome to produce than financial reports, but almost all respondents felt narrative reports were a clearer reflection of the organization.

Metrics & Benchmarks

When we explored the topic of reporting with interviewees, the conversation often turned to the metrics that are, for organizations, tightly linked with reporting.

Most organizations had experience with impact measurement of some kind, though sometimes at a less rigorous level than GCE’s standards. As with reporting formats, participants who pushed back on initial metrics, and as a result collaborated to create metrics they found more meaningful and useful, were the most satisfied and positive about their metrics. The chance to create impact metrics together with GCE was described as a helpful learning experience. In particular, some participants noted the value of being exposed to learning measurement techniques associated with the commercial sector.

The negative comments about metrics came from participants who felt that metrics were handed to them without opportunities for discussion and revision, and thus were neither reasonable nor applicable to their strategy and impact model. One participant noted that they were “burdened with measurable but unfair metrics and expectations.” Another commented that meeting metrics would only be possible if they behaved unethically. These organizations generally saw metrics as a way to quantitatively describe outputs, rather than a way to monitor outcomes.


“We appreciate the freedom to write the narrative report we think is most helpful.”

“[GCE] taught us to think about impact.”

“They respect you if you push back. When we said we wanted to do the same report for all our funders, they agreed. They were really flexible and accommodating.”

“We made an ethical decision to not meet our metric.”

“The reporting burden has been by far the most negative aspect of the relationship with the GCE team… at the moment, the reporting requirements are onerous and do not support meaningful organizational monitoring, evaluation and learning.”

Related Recommendations

All Recommendations arrow_forward

Related Resources