Are you rushing to finish an annual report before your AGM? Or starting to plan the stories and materials you should collect for next year’s report? Either way, you are probably working hard to summarize a year of accomplishments succinctly and in a way that will engage supporters. Here are a few ideas to help you knock it out of the park.
1. Share stories of people helped. Bring their voice into your report.
One major function of a non-profit annual report is to assure supporters that their investment is paying off. So give them tangible proof of impact. Do include key statistics like the number of people you helped, but be sure to go beyond the numbers. Include stories of positive change for real people.
You might include a couple paragraphs about a person who changed her life with the help of your services. Or you might use a powerful quotation that sums up the person’s experience. You could use a series of these quotations at key points throughout your report.
2. Show off the people who support you.
Recognition is another major function of the annual report for a registered charity. Recognizing your donors, funders, and volunteers can certainly help strengthen your relationships with these supporters.
When done well, it can also help you engage new supporters. Writing about the remarkable people who donate and volunteer can make others want to join your group of inspiring supporters.
Remember, remarkable doesn’t necessarily mean famous or wealthy. Include “heroes” from all the key segments of your supporter list.
3. Make it easy to read and absorb your message.
Take care not to overwhelm your readers:
- Leave sufficient margins and white space.
- Break up long sections of text with informative subheads, photos and photo captions.
- The subheads and photo captions are some of the most-read parts of your document. Be sure people who skim read just these parts of the report will still get your key messages.
- Use simple language and remove jargon and acronyms
Often donor lists are the longest section in an annual report. If you have a long donor list, bravo! Keep up the good work. To present the list well, consider breaking up the list with bits of inspiring and emotionally engaging content. For example, intersperse quotations from donors about why they support the organization and add photos of donors at your special events.
4. Take advantage of the different media available to you.
The techniques described above work well for a traditional print annual report, but they can also be incorporated into new digital annual reports. It’s easier than ever to capture and share short bits of audio and video from people helped, donors and volunteers. Share this content in a report you publish online. If you publish through a blogging platform you can ask people who have used your services to add their own comments.
Some organizations are moving toward very short printed annual reports – postcard sized summaries. I would love to see a hybrid report. Imagine mailing out a post-card sized summary of your top accomplishments, but with QR codes & website addresses that drive readers to your website for videos and full audited financial statements.
Over to you...
What media will you use for your next annual report? How will you make it stand out? Of all the annual reports you’ve seen, which one inspired you the most?