s we move closer to the month of March, many nonprofits are preparing to release their annual report. The annual report can be considered as one of the most important documents that marketing and/or development teams will publish for the year.
The process for creating an annual report is not one that should be taken lightly. After all, not only will this document live in conjunction with the 990 on your website, it is also the document that many organizations use to secure additional donations, help publicize, and more.
Before you begin the process of drafting your annual report, be sure to keep the following five things in mind.
Revisit the target audience
The primary focus of the annual report is to update your stakeholders on the impact your organization has had during the past year. Think about who the annual report will be sent to, how it will be used, and the primary audience. Without knowing this information, you could potentially create a document that doesn’t resonate with your audiences.
Decide on the content
Content is the bread and butter of your annual report. Before you begin the content creation process, identify who else needs to be at the table. You are only one perspective. What you may think is important, others may not, and vice versa. Depending on your organization structure, that could include board members, executive leadership, directors from each department, their staff, etc. If you feel that it could be too time to consume for face-to-face meetings, consider starting a "living" document, such as a Google doc, where each team member plugs and chugs their content. However, if you use this method, be sure to provide parameters such as word count, structure, and picture type.
Determine the content format
Based on your audiences that will be interacting with the annual report, you should determine the best way to present the content. A website, videos, one-pagers, multi-pagers, and infographics are examples of how you could potentially display your annual report.
Website: With do-it-yourself website builders such as Squarespace and Wix, it is easier than ever to create one-page scrolling sites. This is perfect for annual reports. You can use either house the annual report as a scrolling page on your current website or have a separate website dedicated to it. The disadvantages to having your annual report on a different site are that it drives traffic away from your main website can cause you to invest more money (i.e., purchasing a domain name, website fee), and it is not something that you can physically hand to others. More than likely, you will have to embed a hyperlink to the report on your organization website and promote on social media. Example: http://salvationarmyannualreport.org/our-year
Videos: Video is everywhere. In fact, "45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week (wordstream)." This could be a useful format for your annual report as well. By using video, you can create a piece of work that is easily shareable on social media and can be embedded on your website. The downside to using video is that it needs to be compact.
Anything longer than two to three minutes can impact the attention span of your audience. Like the website format, you either must upload the video to a flash drive, or drive people to social media or your website to view it. Example:
One-pagers: An annual report does not have to be an uber long, elaborate document. It can be a one-pager that highlights the most critical pieces of your work from the past year. Besides, you can print and place it on your website as a PDF file. The drawback to having a one-pager is that you need to be succinct with your content. This is not the type of format you should use if you intend to tell narratives or impact stories. However, if you plan to focus on the numbers solely, this is the format for you. Example: http://annkemery.com/developing-annual-report/
Multi-pagers: On the flip side of one-pagers are multi-page annual reports. This format is useful for organizations that have many departments or branches and those who would like to tell narratives or impact stories. Like the one-pager, you can print and hand it to others. The trouble with having a multi-page annual report is that the longer it is, the less inclined people are to read it in its entirety. Example: http://www.layc-dc.org/2016-annual-report/
Infographics: Infographics are an effective way to convey information in picture format. If you want to highlight your impact using minimal words and mostly pictures, this is the format for you. The problem with having an infographic for your annual report is that it is not readily shareable on social media. Furthermore, if you are in a meeting with someone you either must direct them to your website, put the infographic on a flash drive, or email it to them. Example: https://www.acfb.org/annual-report
As you are preparing to send your annual report, think about what could be potential follow-ups or calls-to-action. For example, if your nonprofit is focused on volunteerism, you could post a follow-up email asking your audience to spread the word to other potential volunteers. Alternatively, you could ask your audience to help increase your impact with funds for the next year by donating. Lastly, the follow-up/call-to-action could be to share your annual report on social media to help your organization reach new audiences. Every little bit helps.
Promotion of content
You have made it to the point where it is time to promote your annual report. Think about the different ways you can alert your audiences that your annual report is available. You can announce it via email, write a blog post, record a video, place it with a print mailing, etc. Only you can decide the ways your audience will be most receptive.
Aleshia Patterson is the Editor-in-Chief of Nonprofit Marketing Magazine. She has served in the nonprofit sector for almost a decade. She currently works as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for a local nonprofit in Saint Louis, MO. In her spare time, Aleshia loves to travel, binge watch Netflix, and go on Office Depot excursions.