I contributed the following article to the December issue of NTEN’s CHANGE online magazine, which is a wonderful, free resource for nonprofit executives. I highly recommend you subscribe, and reserve an hour to go through it once a quarter when it comes out. It’s always full of great content. ~ Kivi

NTEN's CHANGE What’s the most loathed document nonprofit communicators are asked to produce?

The annual report, without a doubt.

Think about it. You are being asked to summarize an entire year’s worth of work. If you include details on everything your nonprofit did, you’ll produce a document that’s unbearably long and very hard to write. That also means it will be just as hard to read. And who wants to spend all that time creating something no one reads?

Many nonprofits are realizing that it’s time to remake the traditional annual report into something that works better for today – a communications piece that’s shorter, more personal, and more timely for readers, while also taking less work to produce.

Instead of 20-40 page printed reports, we are seeing nonprofits experiment with shorter print formats, like 2-4 page reports and even postcard annual reports, as well as online reports including videos, infographics, and mini-websites. These online reports can either supplement or entirely replace print reports, depending on how the report fits into your larger donor communications strategy.

For example, in 2012, the Humane Society of the United States, the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Nature Conservancy all released two-three minute videos on their 2012 victories. Each video quickly highlighted 10-12 accomplishments – out of literally hundreds of possibilities at each organization — usually with just one or two sentences per accomplishment. Of course, the photography and live video adds immensely to the story, leaving viewers with a real sense of progress.

Environmental and animal organizations have plenty of great photography and live video. But what if all you have is a big mountain of statistics? An infographic might be a good solution. But again, you have to pick and choose which numbers to highlight.

The New Organizing Institute, VolunteerMatch, Girlstart, and the New York Public Library all used inforgraphics to convey their 2012 accomplishments in a shareable way.  New Organizing Institute built its infographic around four key accomplishments, with about a dozen statistics in total. VolunteerMatch shared not only 2012 stats, but some trend data from 1999 – 2012.

In addition to highlighting sheer numbers, like the size of its collection, the New York Public Library’s infographic also shares superlatives like the Most Circulated E-Book and Most Frequently Searched Databases.  In contrast, Girlstart simply highlighted the five statistics that best represent the success of its programming in 2012.

Ready to try something new with your annual report?

You’ll find these and other examples of many of these “new and improved” formats on a wiki Nonprofit Marketing Guide is curating and on our Pinterest and YouTube pages:

The Nonprofit Annual Reports Wiki

Nonprofit Annual Reports Infographics on Pinterest

Nonprofit Annual Report Postcards on Pinterest

Nonprofit Annual Report Videos on YouTube – 2012

Nonprofit Annual Report Videos on YouTube – 2013


Want to learn more? I’m teaching two webinars on annual reports later this month at CharityHowTo.com.


Published On: January 6, 2014|Categories: Fundraising, Nonprofit Annual Reports, Nonprofit Communications|

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