Skip to main content

Communicating with stakeholders when the world is upside down

By Samantha Grant and Erin Kelly-Collins

Gears fitting together with text: "stakeholder analysis"
We are many months into what we affectionately call pandemic programming. Youth workers are getting smarter about how we offer learning opportunities to youth. It’s been amazing to watch our colleagues innovate. But amid all the change, we can forget to clue our financial stakeholders into how and why our programs are changing.  

What is a financial stakeholder?

Financial stakeholders are people who have a stake in your program because they provide financial support. In 4-H, Extension committees and county commissioners are our primary financial stakeholders. Yours might be grant funders or other program supporters. These stakeholders want to ensure their investment is having an impact. 

Do you know what your stakeholders value? 

We developed a stakeholder analysis tool that we use regularly. It’s also a key feature in our staff development curriculum about reporting. This simple tool has transformed how we craft all sorts of reports, but most noticeably those for our financial stakeholders. The stakeholder analysis is brief, but helps get an in-depth look at the values, needs and priorities of stakeholders.

Our tool uses just four questions. That’s it.

  1. What does my stakeholder care about?
  2. What do they want to know?
  3. Who is my stakeholder reporting/accountable to?
  4. And lastly, what do I need my stakeholder to know, believe or better understand?

Because the questions appear simple, it can be tempting to say “well, I basically know the answers to these questions.” But our assumptions are often wrong, because they are based on faulty or outdated information. It is worth going through the process of writing down what you know and what you need to find out related to these questions.

What else should I know about reporting to my stakeholders?

Chances are, your programs are different right now and you might be wondering how to share about what you’re doing, especially if the program's initial goals no longer fit our current context. Here are a few tips to consider when talking to stakeholders during the pandemic.

  • Prioritize sharing how you are supporting your target audience. How are you showing up for youth in your program? Or adults? Or communities? Stakeholders want to see evidence that programs are responding to the challenges that families and communities are facing. From the stakeholder analysis, you will know what they value. How are you living those values in your current programming? 
  • Stop apologizing for the pandemic. You did not cause it, so don't start every report explaining that we are in a pandemic. They know. They are living it too. Get to the ways you have adapted, grown, and met the needs of your program participants. 
  • Forecast what you have in the works and tell stakeholders why this work matters. If you can connect these changes to evaluation data that you have collected from your participants, even better! 

Want more about communicating with financial stakeholders? Check out a podcast on the topic. In the comments, share your tips for keeping financial stakeholders informed and connected.

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Print Friendly and PDF