Are you starting to think about your annual report?
Next week, I’m presenting my webinar on How to Write an Annual Report People Will Actually Read, and throwing in our e-book too, all for a “happy holidays” price of just $20, instead of the usual $99.
One important decision we’ll discuss is how you’ll measure the success of your annual report. It’s a lot of work, no matter which format you pick, so you need to know why you are doing it.
Just doing one can be an accomplishment. Doing an annual report is considered a best practice by nonprofit watchdog organizations. “Reporting back” is part of the well-established donor communications cycle, Ask, Thank, Report. So if you aren’t doing an annual report regularly, just getting in the habit of it, in and of itself, can be an accomplishment.
If your report includes a call to action, you can track how many people followed through. Some people use annual reports to fundraise; others would never consider that. It’s a judgement call on your part. But picking a call to action, whether donating, advocating, downloading, contacting you or whatever, is one way to measure the success of the piece.
Just keep in mind, however, that calls to action are often secondary goals because the annual report format isn’t usually your best choice for typical nonprofit calls to action.
For example, let’s say you do want to fundraise via the annual report. You can’t just throw a call to action in a letter inside the report and expect it to work. If that’s what you do, and no one donates, you might conclude that your annual report was bad. But that would be silly. You would still need a traditional direct mail appeal letter in addition to the report.
If your report is online, you can track views, likes, comments, and shares.
If your report is in print, but an action will take place online, you can use a custom URL so that you can credit that traffic and any completed actions to the report. For example, use yourwebsite.org/2015report where that URL only appears in the printed report.
You can explicitly ask for feedback. Do a survey on what people thought about it. Call a sample of the people who received it (which is great if you have another reason to call as well). Or just listen for anecdotes – does anyone mention it to you? We often hear stories about people mentioning postcard or infographic annual reports without prompting, when no one ever mentioned a full-length report.
For more, see Nonprofit Annual Report Best Practices, Example, and Templates.