By Riley Grim
Annual reports … two little words that have the power to instill fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned professionals. Sure, annual reporting can be a beast of a project and can take up precious time and resources; however, it can also be one of your best marketing tools.
There are lots of reasons to generate an annual report, like thanking donors, demonstrating transparency and reporting on stats. But our favorite reason is that it gives your organization the opportunity to toot your own horn. Your team works hard, often for too many hours with too few resources and not enough hands – but what you do is important and makes a difference, so toot away!
Understanding what needs to be included in an annual report can be confusing. Back in the day, annual reports only included the cold, hard facts and nothing else. But, as you would assume, that led to incredibly dry, long and boring documents that everyone merely pretended to read and then tossed as soon as they could. So the standard content of annual reports evolved and grew to include quotes, images and storytelling. We know all that might sound overwhelming, but the reality is that with the advancement of design technologies and AI platforms, generating beautiful and creative annual reports is easier than ever. Let us walk you through the basics:
When beginning work on your annual report, you’re going to want to start by getting all the information in place. Here are are the main information points that we recommend including:
Now that you have gotten all the right information together, where do you put it? Annual reports can come in every shape, size and medium. Sure, you could go with the traditional printed booklet, but you might also consider a website landing page, a digital PDF or even a video.
When deciding which method of delivery is best for your report, start by considering why you’re creating the report and who will be seeing it. Maybe your organization is legally required to send an annual report to a supervising board, in which case a printed booklet is probably your best method of delivery. Maybe you’re creating a report just to share with your community in an effort to demonstrate good financial stewardship. In this case, a video might be your most compelling messaging strategy.
No matter what method you choose, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are plenty of design platforms and AI technology that will make this process exponentially easier. The one that we recommend the most is Canva. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Canva is a free design platform that has thousands of templates and built-in AI generators that can help you draft copy and create designs and even infographics. Canva can help you build a video, word document or even a website, and it only takes a small learning curve. They have an extensive library of intuitive and user-friendly starter guides that will have you reporting like a pro in no time! We promise we aren’t getting a Canva kickback – we just love watching our nonprofits thrive!
So now you have gathered all your information, picked your delivery method, and have crafted a beautiful and engaging report thanks to our bff Canva. Here is the final step that we see so many organizations missing: Recycle! You have done the hard work of gathering your organization’s most important information and putting it into a beautiful format, so don’t let it go to waste. Take your facts, infographics, images and stories, and format them for social media. The information from your annual report can generate a large amount of content for your social media platforms and spread your message that much further.
We hope that after reading this you are feeling slightly less terrified to embark on your next round of annual reporting. You’ve got this – toot toot!