Storytelling has a new name: the earnings call
By Sidni Shorter In Podcasts Posted April 1, 2014 0 Comments

Storytelling has a new name: the earnings call

We’ve heard about the importance of storytelling repeatedly over the past few years—almost to the point of excess. Perhaps because nonprofits still need to hear it since so many have yet to apply this wildly successful strategy. You can imagine my surprise when I recently read about GuideStar taking a page out of the corporate handbook to adopt one of the private sector’s best storytelling strategies: the earnings call.

Approximately 92 percent of public companies offer earnings calls to their stakeholders in the form of large conference calls or webcasts. The majority does so because they keep the company’s investors informed, share projections and manage expectations on expected earnings.

As a former sell-side research analyst on Wall Street and a current CEO of a finance and accounting firm that interacts daily with its nonprofit clients, I had a rare moment of two worlds aligning, and I have to say I’m enthusiastic about this remix of the earnings call for nonprofits

GuideStar takes the plunge

GuideStar, a nonprofit that publishes the financial reports of nearly two million nonprofits, recently had its first “Impact Call” in an effort to be more transparent to its network of donors, users and supporters. More than 400 people logged on to the conference call to hear GuideStar’s 2013 financial results, goals and impact on the nonprofit sector. Some of the “Impact Call” reported:

  • A seven percent increase in the number of charity tax documents it made available
  • An 11 percent increase in the number of consultative calls to nonprofits
  • A 26 percent increase in the number of nonprofits that created donor-friendly profile sites using GuideStar software.

Other leaders using earnings calls

GuideStar is joining the company of other nonprofits that are no strangers to the earnings call. Root Capital, a Cambridge nonprofit that issues loans to businesses in rural Africa, started quarterly performance calls three years ago. One Acre Fund in Kenya, which also provides financing to farmers in Africa, holds analyst calls twice each year.

What are the results of these calls?

Both organizations have experienced incredible benefits to holding these transparent forums for their immediate communities.

For example, Root Capital’s April fourth quarter call projected losses of 70 percent in coffee production due to Latin American crops affected by leaf rust disease, which would significantly reduce the group’s lending. When the Skoll Foundation heard the challenge on this call, it elected to provide seed funding to Root Capital for an initiative to help farmers plant disease-resistant coffee.

Equally helpful to funding, representatives from the One Acre Fund said it also receives strategic advice during its calls. Root Capital adds the calls have educated its donor base, attracted investors and even generated resources from investors who are more aware of the group’s challenges.

Why not the social sector?

The same benefits can be shared by more nonprofits interested in holding these “Impact Calls.” Imagine how a nonprofit staff could be bolstered in its respective educational, event or solicitation efforts if a climate of shared knowledge was the foundation of its work.

If we learn as much as 70 percent from storytelling, I can’t think of a better reason to expand the ways in which we share about our causes. There’s no need to test this idea; it’s been working for the corporate sector for decades and early adopters in the nonprofit sector are already benefiting from the outcomes.

By Erica McGeachy Crenshaw, CEO of Execute Now!

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