Ahhh, the nonprofit annual report. Just the thought of producing one can bring an executive director to tears. There’s the obligatory ED letter, the boring financial overview and the usual impact stats we all love to tout so much. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be so painful! We’re helping our clients learn to eagerly anticipate the annual report as a great vehicle for engaging their supporters, telling compelling stories and inviting readers to get involved and invested. Here are a few recommendations to help you flip the script on the annual report.
1. Mix it up
Too many organizations get hung up on the same old format and layout — letter, stats box, story box, financials table, list of supporters. Stop the madness! While the information can be useful, mixing up the formats can breathe new life into your annual report. Our annual report work with Hope Reins is a great example of this. Even a quick glance at the report shows that it breaks out of the traditional mold. It’s light on text and heavy on images and infographics that tell a compelling story quickly. We’re still covering the basics, but we’re mixing up the mediums to make it more interesting.
We live in a complicated world. So many shiny objects and glimmering screens to distract our supporters. How do you break through the noise and get their attention? KISS – Keep it Super Simple! Avoid fancy fonts, glittery graphics and confusing content. Give them enough information to ensure they are in the know, but avoid death by copy. Focus on the three to five key messages you want to communicate and do so with the least amount of text possible. Large images, brief paragraphs and lots of white space will provide lots of breathing room and allow your readers to focus on what’s important.
3. Go digital
Print is still an important and impactful medium, but it’s certainly not the only way to effectively communicate to your supporters. Taking your annual report digital can expose even more supporters and prospects to your message. Whether you go with a basic PDF version or use a Flipbook platform or video version, take advantage of technology to tell your story. One of my favorite examples of cutting edge digital annual reports (one on which Angel Oak Creative did not work) is this web-based version from Girls Who Code. Pretty impressive, huh? While this technology can be expensive, the investment may be worth it for organizations looking to make a bold statement with their annual report.
4. Invest in design
Yes, this may be slightly self-serving, but it’s still an important and valid point. On average, we work with 40 or so nonprofits in any given year. So we’re given plenty of opportunity to speak to them about the importance of investing in design to ensure their visual identity matches the real value of their brand. Whether you hire us, another firm or a consultant, we encourage you to not take short cuts when it comes to designing your annual report. This is the one piece the vast majority of your supporters will see and actually take the time to read. This annual report we created for Haven House is one we would hold up as an example of investing wisely in design.
So as you’re planning this year’s annual report, don’t sweat it and don’t settle for the same old same old. Embrace the opportunity to stand out form the crowd by mixing it up, keeping it simple, going digital and investing in design. You’ll find that rather than being a drudgery, building your annual report will become a labor of love. And as always, we’re here to help.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant