Annual reports are a good thing and an opportunity for organizations to communicate important information to stakeholders. The challenge is making annual reports compelling enough for your donors and stakeholders to read, so that they see the value of their investment in your organization!
At Transform Consulting Group, we have helped several organizations with their annual report and are in the process of working on one right now. Over the years, we have seen some pretty exciting changes and trends in how nonprofits are choosing to highlight their annual success and communicate their story to stakeholders. Here are three ways to refresh your annual report:
1. Be Brief
The label “annual report” is misleading as this does not need to be a formal report. Some of the most creative annual reports are less than five pages. As a result, organizations are challenged to limit the content to only the most critical and compelling highlights. A key question to consider in developing your annual report is, “what can I tell my donors about the positive results of their investment?”
Organization Spotlight: Girl Start This STEM program for girls created a one-page highlights report of their outcomes and outputs. For individuals that want more information, they can read their longer “catalog”.
2. Go Visual
Not only are annual reports being shortened but the format is becoming less formal and more visual. The use of charts, tables, and pictures is a great way to unpack all of the data that organizations want to share with donors. Infographics are a great tool to use in your annual report, and Transform Consulting Group has done a whole series of articles on this topic of infographics. Some organizations are letting go of a “report” format altogether and releasing a 2-3 minute video to highlight their results from the previous year.
Organization Spotlight:The Trevor Project This youth-serving organization created a micro-site (mini website within their website) solely dedicated to their annual report. When you click on their Program tab, they identified a key piece of information to share for each service area and created a visual display to represent the data.
3. Tell a Story (or two!)
Nonprofit organizations might have an advantage over for-profit organizations in this category. Nonprofits are addressing an issue, moving forward a cause and changing lives. The annual report provides an opportunity to put a “face” to the work that you doing and change that you are making in the community. Sprinkled throughout your annual report should be at least 1-2 personal stories of success that tie directly back to the services that your donors made possible.
Organization Spotlight: Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Transform Consulting Group highlighted Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana a few months ago for their impact in the community. Their annual report to the community is a great example of implementing all three of these tips – it’s short (only 9 pages), includes visual charts and tables and has personal stories throughout. After reading, even scanning, their annual report you immediately see how broad their scope and reach is beyond what we often think of when we hear Goodwill – donations. This is what an annual report should do – raise our awareness and understanding of an organization.
Last month, the Chronicle of Philanthropy hosted a webinar on Reinventing Nonprofit Annual Reports to discuss this topic further and present new and emerging ideas for nonprofits to consider in developing their annual reports. One of their guest speakers, Kivi Leroux Miller with Nonprofit Marketing Guide and EcoScribe Communications shared that their organization has compiled a list of “new and improved” annual reports if you want to see some more examples and ideas.
If you want to rethink your annual report or other communication tools, contact Transform Consulting Group today for a free consultation. Transform Consulting Group will work with you to refresh your annual report.