For over a decade now, I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of the Main Street movement. When I started I was told by our State Coordinator that I needed to fill out our monthly reporting, so I did. I didn’t think much about it at the time, I just did it.
As time went by I found that despite what Nike tells us, many of my colleagues wouldn’t “Just Do It”. I’ll admit, as someone who was doing it, I started to get a little frustrated, but looking back on things I was frustrated for the wrong reasons. I was upset that they weren’t doing what they were asked to do. It’s the same reason I was frustrated when they wouldn’t show up to the director’s retreats or trainings. Now, in hindsight I realize this may seem a little petty. However, I was really bothered by the fact that they were using resources (staff time, money, etc) that was provided but not contributing anything back. If they weren’t going to do the required things, why should they get the benefit.
As time went on I sadly grew to accept the fact that they were not going to participate, and that our Coordinator wasn’t going to force them to. I also came to realize that I was not upset about the right thing. I should have been bothered by the fact that they were making it harder for our Coordinating program to show the real results and justify their own existence.
You see, I’m from Illinois – the State that has more Governors in jail than any other (take that Louisiana)! I should have expected the lack of fairness when it came to participation. What none of us were expecting though is to watch our state program be decimated multiple times by the swinging pendulum of state politics. We went through multiple directors and multiple instances of the program being shuttered all together. In fact, the only reason the program is operational today is thanks to the National Main Street program.
While we may not have been able to control the political swings, I do believe that our State program would have been harder to cut had we all been diligent about our reporting. When you can show the kinds of successes that most local programs experience, it becomes far more difficult at a State level to cut those programs. Even if you decide you need to replace the director for whatever reason, the program itself becomes much more sustainable. Sure, we’re in Illinois, we have massive budget problems, but I genuinely believe our State program could have survived in some fashion had we been able to prove that impact that we have across our state. And the only way we can do that is through our reporting.
Now, your situation is likely not as dire as the one we in Illinois have faced, but it doesn’t mean your reporting matters any less. Whether it is at the local or state level, being able to back up your success stories with actual data makes it easy to justify your programs existence, and even your salary. Reporting shouldn’t be seen as another chore you’re required to do, but rather an opportunity to share your success.
This is especially true at your local level. Whether it is an annual report, a request for funding from the City Council, or a grant, reporting is essential to the success of your organization. Even if you aren’t asking for money, it is still crucial to report on the state of your district and organization.
Let’s face it, people want to be associated with success. Reporting is how we share those successes. It’s how we demonstrate business growth, job retention, new development, and so much more. These aren’t just facts and figures, these are the successes of your district, and you should be proud of them. You should share them. When you do, I think you’ll find that very positive things start to happen in your district.