Write an annual report that
appeals to hearts and minds,
all in four pages.
“How to Write a
4-Page Annual Report”
Webinar on Wednesday,
January 14, 2008 at Noon Eastern
(9:00 a.m. Pacific)
Most professional writers will tell you that writing really good short articles and profiles is harder than writing long ones, and the same can be true for short annual reports. When you try to condense everything from an annual report that might typically run 12 or 20 pages into just 4 pages of space, it’s a challenge.
At the same time, we are all busy. We all have too much to read as it is. I’m willing to bet that more of your donors will read and remember what you have to say when it comes in a four-page report than when you send them a forty-page tome. It’s worth your effort to boil your report down to the essentials.
Here are five tips for creating a four-page annual report:
1) Focus on three accomplishments. As painful as it may be to cast off all the little wins here and there, focus on the big or most meaningful results. Yes, this means you will leave the work of someone on your staff out. And yes, it means you will leave a board member’s pet project out. But your donors will be much more likely to remember those three accomplishments when they tell their friends about you later. Recognize the other projects in other ways, such as on your website or in your newsletter.
2) Create some cool charts. Instead of printing your financial statements, use some really good pie charts or graphs to tell your financial story visually. Include two or three short sentences about where you get your money and how you spend it, in plain English. Include a short note about how supporters can download your full financials on your website.
3) Use a handful of great images. Rather than shrink a dozen photos down in order to make them all fit, pick the three or four you think really say the most about your work. Write really good captions for them that can stand on their own (remember, lots of people will read your headlines and captions only, then put the report down).
4) Share a few quick stories. You don’t have space for full profiles, but you can quickly share some anecdotes about some of the people you helped and worked with last year, related to those three accomplishments you are highlighting. Stories are great ways to give examples of more esoteric accomplishments and to help put lots of statistics into perspective. Or if you have one really amazing story that says it all, use the space to tell that single story well.
5) Trim back your donor lists. In a four-page report, you simply don’t have space to list hundreds of donors. One solution is to set a minimum donation level and only print names of people who gave more than that amount. Another approach would be to list only the donors who specifically funded the work you are highlighting in your three accomplishments. Or, you can leave the name by name list off entirely and include a more general statement of thanks to all of your supporters.
Want more advice? Register for this Wednesday’s webinar, How to Write a Four-Page Nonprofit Annual Report. When you register for the webinar, you can also sign-up for an optional 15-minute private consultation with me on your annual report. It’s the best way to get your specific questions answered and to see how to apply the lessons in the webinar directly to your situation.
You might also find these articles helpful:
Video Annual Reports: Tips for Nonprofits Who Want to Try It
Creating a Better Annual Report: Chat Transcript from the Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Discussion
Board Lists in Annual Reports: Past or Current?
Have a short annual report to share as an example? Post a link in the comments.