Our focus at SMU DataArts has always been on Cultural Data, which includes how to capture the work of the cultural field in numbers and data points. But, the reason we collect that data is to better tell the story of a vibrant sector. As our team has worked to streamline the survey, we spent a great time reaching back to you, the user on these changes. And, we heard from many organizations that it does them a disservice to present only data with no contextual information in reports to Funders. The new narrative fields in the CDP survey are intended to rectify that. We know that every organization has a story to tell, but here are some common examples of when we think these fields might be most appropriate. Many organizations have strong non-financial assets that are key to their organization’s success, which may not always be directly reflected in the financial data. For example, organizations that depend greatly on volunteer time and community support to run their programs -will look smaller in scope relative to organizations that rely on paid professionals. We also thought about organizations with unique programming. In truth, though the numbers we collect about programs are standard, we've learned that every organization’s programs are different and this space for narrative allows organizations to highlight what’s unique.
Organizations going through a transition or period of change, such as a leadership change, or a capital campaign can utilize the narrative spaces to explain any changes in their data. And finally, organizations facing unusual circumstances. In fact, most organizations are in this position right now with the global pandemic, but even after this period, the unexpected can happen and change things for an organization.
Funder Reports Narrative fields
These are brief narrative fields that appear at the end of the Revenue, Expenses, Balance Sheet, and Program Activity & Audiences sections
We want to clarify that each narrative section is optional, but if you do add information to them, the narrative will appear in your report to all funders
They will appear for each year in funder reports
They have a text limit of 500 characters
The narrative fields are really intended as annotations and explanations of the data in your report
They are not intended to replace any additional narrative portions of your grant
We encourage uses to stay focused on explanations of the data in these fields
Example 1: Community Arts Center
They rely extensively on volunteers from the community to make their programs possible, which they know is not necessarily expressed clearly in their data.
They have Programming based on long term interactions and relationships with families. This means that they have smaller overall attendance numbers, but invest much more time and build relationships with each of those participants. They want that to be reported clearly in their Funder Report.
The first narrative note they will add is in the expense section. They plan on explaining the large amount of volunteer community support to provide context to their work. (screenshot below) "In addition to our expenditures listed above our organization relies on a strong base of community support to ensure the sustainability of our programs. We have over 50 long term volunteers who carry out our mentorship and training programs, which expands our capacity for programming far beyond what is typical for an organization of our size."
Next, they will add a note in Program Activity to provide more context about their programs. (screenshot below) "Our youth arts program builds strong connections between our organization and the community. Every program participant listed above experiences over 100 hours of programming over the course of a year, in addition to other supports including access to supplies, mentoring, and peer counseling."
And here we can see how this will look in the organization’s Funder report . (screenshot below)
Example 2: Example History Museum
The board members for Example History Museum are creating a reserve for facility repairs and preservation and they have just wrapped up a capital campaign to grow the reserve.
As they are working to complete their survey, they would like to share this new strategy with their funders.
(screenshot below) They add the following narrative to their 2018 CDP survey Revenue section to note that it was happening, and to highlight progress. (screenshot below) Not seen in the screenshot: "FY 2018 was the second year of our capital campaign. We are more than three-quarters of the way to our goal of $1 million. This is reflected in the increase in board and individual donations recorded above."
They will also add a note in the year after the campaign to explain trends in revenue because of the end of the campaign. (screenshot below) "FY 2019 marked the completion of our successful capital campaign. The decrease in board and individual donations listed above reflects a return to our pre-campaign levels of giving from our supporters."
And finally, they will add a note in the balance sheet to highlight their increase in net assets, in the form of their building reserve. (screenshot below) "The increase in our unrestricted net assets from FY 2017-19 reflects our successful capital campaign. These funds will be placed in a board designated reserve, earmarked for maintenance and preservation projects with approval from the board."
And below you can see how those notes will appear in their funder report. Note here that, as mentioned earlier, the notes from each year in the report will appear, so they will allow readers to track the effects of the capital campaign through all the years in this report. The 2017 note seen below that is not above: "In FY 2017 we launched a capital campaign with a $1 million goal over 2 years to build up our board designated reserve for building preservation and maintenance."
Watch the full Webinar What You Need to Know About the New Cultural Data Profile: Narrative Questions