Changing Your Nonprofit’s Annual Report Format

Yesterday I taught a webinar with our training partner CharityHowTo.com called “How to Create a Nonprofit Annual Report People Will Actually Read.” At the beginning of the webinar I surveyed the participants (about 80 people) about the format of their last annual report.

 

I teach this webinar several times a year and these are pretty typical results. If your nonprofit is doing an annual report (and a good portion aren’t), it’s likely that it’s a longer print document.  There were a few people on this webinar who were producing really, really long reports — in the 40-80 page range.

Do you really think your donors are reading that? And does your organization get a real bang for the buck out of a document like that, given the amount of time and cash that goes into producing it? My answer would be probably not.

It’s 2012 . . . I think it’s time to convert that book-length annual report into something that’s faster, more convenient, and more enjoyable to read. That’s why I advocate formats like 2- or 4-page annual reports and oversized postcards for those of you who do want a print version. You can couple those shorter print pieces with longer information online (for those real die-hard supporters), or go online entirely with something like a mini-site or a video.

Anytime I speak on this subject, I invariably get backlash from people who say they

  • can’t give up the long donor lists
  • can’t cut back on what financials they report
  • have to cover every single program they operate

and therefore need all those pages. But when I start showing them how other nonprofits have successfully communicated results to their donors in a 2- or 4-page annual report, or on an oversized postcard, or through a video, they begin to understand that they really can communicate more effectively in a shorter document. They realize that sticking with the same format just because that’s the way it’s always been done isn’t a good enough excuse anymore. You can see some of the examples I use on our Nonprofit Annual Reports Wiki.

Here is what participants said they would be willing to try by the end of the webinar:

 

What about you? Are you ready to reinvent your annual report?

I will be presenting “How to Create a Nonprofit Annual Report People Will Actually Read” again at CharityHowTo.com on October 22nd. As part of that webinar, you receive a bonus, my e-book, How to Write a Nonprofit Annual Report.

Or if you can’t wait that long, you can buy How to Write a Nonprofit Annual Report now.

For additional resources on annual reports, including more articles and examples, check out our Nonprofit Annual Reports section at NonprofitMarketingGuide.com.

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