Annual Reports: Why Bother?

March 11, 2009

I’m in the thick of creating a 2008-2009 annual report, and the question I pose to other nonprofit communications professionals is, Why do we keep producing these things, and does anyone bother to read them anymore anyway?

Why do I pose the question? Well. if you enter the question, Does anyone still read nonprofit annual reports? in a Yahoo or Google search, some of the items that come up suggest that annual reports  are so last century. BUT, and this is a big but, the writers of these posts tell us that donors still care about what you are doing, who you are serving and your impact.

So, the question is, How do you provide this critical information to funders in a way that keeps the information lively and informative.

My colleagues tell me to consider a video annual report. Or you can try the four-page, keep it short and only discuss impact report. I also saw a report earlier this year that chronicled one young man’s journey thanks to the help he received from a nonprofit.

What advice can you folks give me and each other on the best way to create a relevant annual report in the “keep it simple and short” era? I’d love your help!

3 Responses to “Annual Reports: Why Bother?”

  1. You are absolutely right that donors want to know about what you are accomplishing thanks to their support and they want to know before they are asked to give again. I also agree that the days of long annual reports that are expensive to design and produce are over.

    Do you have a newsletter? Short, regular updates (4 pages) sent throughout the year are far more effective for building relationships with your supporters than an annual report. And they can include all the key points that people want to see in an annual report – stories of your accomplishments, moving personal testimonials, profiles of those who benefit from your work, calls to action, brief financial information on where your funding comes from and how it’s spent, and most importantly – LOTS OF THANKS to your supporters who made it all possible.

    If you already have a newsletter, you could think about modifying one issue each year to include some of the more traditional annual report info like the financials, etc. Though I think reporting on the specifics of where your donors’ money is going more often than that builds trust and shows transparency – both good things, obviously, especially right now.

    Tina Cincotti

  2. Tina Crouse Says:

    If the Communications experts are not up-to-date, then who will be ? I believe everything should be moved online and I am now encouraging clients to set up ‘educational sites’ linked from their websites which operate much like a course. Onscreen, there’s a sidebar functioning as a table of contents where you upload your ‘pages’ of info directly under the headings. Donors, Shareholders, new clients, gov’t reps can review all of the agency info in realtime. With some graphics assistance, these pages can be as glossy and artful as any Annual Report. The only reason I don’t suggest using only one website is ‘tone’. Let’s face it, most Annual Reports are read by the people giving money and that is very different from someone looking for service.

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