Finding the Pony

By Sande Smith

Women hold the solutions.
This spring, I attended a talk by Kay Sprinkel Grace called, There’s Got to Be a Pony in there Somewhere: Finding Abundance in a Time of Change.

It was one of my favorite talks that I heard at the time – when so many of us in the nonprofit sector were trying to make sense of what the economic collapse would mean for our organizations and the people we serve. Grace retold the story of the boy who digs with gusto through a huge pile of manure in the barn. Why? Because, he said, with so much s**, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere!

She did a great job of reminding fundraisers that one of the most important things we can do is to hold and convey the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish, and build relationships with donors that are based on shared values. She also called upon us to not forget to ask our supporters what they think about what we’re doing.

The talk inspired me in a number of ways. . . one of which was to work with my team to make the Global Fund for Women’s donor appreciation lunch more interactive so that donors could share with us and one another what inspired their passion for women’s rights.

Kay’s talk also inspired some radical changes in the production of our annual report. A very important vehicle for thanking our supporters and describing the work of women’s organizations around the world, our annual report tends to be 70 pages plus.

Last year’s annual report was no exception. A combined 20th anniversary book and annual report, it featured a 20 year timeline acknowledging achievements of the women’s movement, highlights of our 5-year strategic plan, and case studies of long-time grantees, which showed the impact of our combined partnership.

This year, in response to the financial crisis, we cut our budget by 6 percent, while maintaining grantmaking at 2008 levels. That meant that I had a lot less to spend on this years’ communications. Looking for the pony, I decided to radically transform this year’s annual report. But how?

The notion of streamlining annual reports isn’t new. A lot of organizations are asking themselves, and their donors, whether anyone really reads the annual report. And if they do, what format do they prefer? Print, online, a cd, a dvd video documentary?

The Communications Network has been a vocal advocate for streamlining annual reports. And the Lumina Foundation recently surveyed their donors to ask preferences and learned that many supporters do still want a print annual report.

Furthermore, a survey of Global Fund for Women donors who read our print newsletter revealed that many of our print readers are not active online. So I knew that making this a web publication alone wasn’t the answer. So, fueled by my work with tompertdesign, and sparked by other annual reports that I’ve gotten over the years, my team decided to center this year’s annual report around a poster!

Instead of 70 pages, I had 16 pages to tell our story, 8 of which would comprise the poster. Through brainstorming and strategizing conversations, we found a way to feature women’s organizations from each region, share reflections from our Board chair and CEO and thank our international network of supporters, advisors, grantees and board. Everything else would be available on our website.

We’re already receiving feedback from donors that they’re thrilled with our decision to save resources and still tell a compelling story. Plus they have a gorgeous poster to remind them throughout the year that Women Hold the Solutions to solving some of our most pressing problems!

Sande Smith is the Director of Communications at the Global Fund for Women.


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