How to Wow Supporters with Your Nonprofit Annual Report
Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 5:15PM
Karen Luttrell in alternative report formats, annual report, donor communications, donor report, donor retention, donor stewardship, event summary, nonprofit annual report, report formats, video, video annual report

I had the pleasure of co-hosting an event about alternative nonprofit annual report formats with Peter Reynolds of For the Record Productions. On January 24, we shared some trends and options with a great group of nonprofit fundraisers, communicators and writers.

So what are some of the formats people are using?

Oversized Postcards

Short and sweet, these reduce printing and postage costs and may be more likely to get read since they are brief. If you try this format, may I suggest getting a professional graphic designer to help you determine how much content to include and how to present it visually. You may also want to include a QR code that takes people to a microsite or special webpage with the financials and more detail.


Presenting information visually with a combination of illustrations, charts, and graphs is a growing trend in communications. It's interesting to see how this is starting to play out with annual reports. Ontario 211 created an infographic to accompany their online annual report last year. The Bush Foundation put out an RFP for designers to create an annual report comprised totally of infographics this year. I'm eager to see what they produce.

Slide decks

Some organizations are using PowerPoint or similar presentation software to create annual reports and share them through services like Slideshare. Working in presentation software forces you to stay brief and on point. 


Some organizations have been creating full microsites to share media-rich annual reports online. These sites can include embedded audio and video as well as a weatlh of photos, infographics and other means of visual communication. They can give brief summaries and link to deeper information for those who want it. Blog platforms available today also give organizations an opportunity to create online annual reports that "stay alive" throughout the year and encourage conversation. I would love to see an organization publish their report through a blog and invite the community to comment on their own experiences using or volunteering with the services reported on.

Digital magazines (Treesaver, Scribd, Issuu)

For organizations that don't have the resources to create a microsite or blog version of their annual report, services like Scribd and Issuu offer a quick and easy way to get your traditional report online in an easy-to-read format.


Peter Reynolds shared some great tips for creating video annual reports. He reminded people that, as with other communications channels, it's important to share a good story. He also told us he recently read a report that a video is worth 1.8 million words. I'm not sure how the report authors came up with that figure. But I have to agree that video is valuable. And please, whichever format you choose, don't include 1.8 million words in your annual report. For more info on video see and Peter's blog.

Traditional Print Reports

There are many instances in which traditional printed annual reports still give an organization an advantage. They are particularly important for major gifts and planned giving. Fundraising writer Tom Ahern wrote about how the Rhode Island Foundation received a large bequest without ever making an ask, because they had a printed annual report in a lawyer's waiting room. 


Some organizations have done interesting combinations. They produce a full print report for key audiences and places - like the lawyer's waiting room. But they also produce shorter pieces, perhaps a 4-page document, that can be used at events or in other public areas with high traffic. And they make the full report available online through services like Issuu.

A combination of full-length reports and a shorter version, perhaps in different media, may work for your organiztion. There is a chart of relative strengths of each format in the presentation slides below. It may help you think through your goals and which combination is best for your organization.


See Peter's photos from the event at his facebook page.

My thanks to Peter Reynolds and Katherine Tabaka of For the Record Productions for being great partners and co-hosts and for sharing their video expertise. Our thanks to Rolando Tecson of Simplicity Event Catering for great food well-presented. And our thanks to Network Orange for use of the Thompson Room to host the event.

What is your organization planning for your annual report this year? What did you do last year? Please share your ideas and examples in the comments!

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