Are you thinking about doing an annual report? Perhaps you’ve been putting it off because it takes so much time and most annual reports are long, boring booklets that put your donors to sleep, if they even bother to read it in the first place.
You don’t have to do an annual report, but you do have to share accomplishments with your donors.You might want to nix the annual report and send short progress reports a couple of times a year or monthly e-updates instead.
If you decide to do an annual report, I encourage you to move away from the traditional multi-page one. Aim for something no longer than four pages.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you create a better annual report that won’t bore your donors to tears.
Your annual report is for your donors
It’s not for your board and you don’t have to do it the same way you’ve always done it – no more massive, boring booklets. Keep your donors front and center and include information you know will interest them.
You may want to consider different types of annual reports for different donor groups. You could send an oversized postcard with photos and infographics or a two-page report to most of your donors. Your grant and corporate funders might want more detail, but not 20 pages. See if you can impress them with no more than four pages.
One way to shorten your annual report is to not include a donor list. The Annual Report Donor List is a Stupid Waste of Time If you think you must have one, put it in on your website.
Make it a gratitude report
Donors want to feel good about giving to your nonprofit. Think of this as a gratitude report. You may want to call it that instead of an annual report.
Focus on thanking your donors for their role in helping you make a difference. Get inspired by these examples that celebrate the donor.
How are you making a difference?
The theme of many annual reports is look how great we are. Don’t Brag So Much
They also include a bunch of boring lists, such as the number of clients served. You need to share specific accomplishments that show how you’re making a difference.
Focus on the why and not the what. Something like this – Thanks to you, 85% of the students in our tutoring program have improved their math skills and now have a better chance of graduating from high school on time.
BTW – Phrases like Thanks to you and because of you should be predominant in your annual report.
Tell a story
Donors love to hear about the people they’re helping. You can tell a story with words, a photo, or a video. Share a success story.
For example – Megan, a sophomore at Brookfield High School, always hated math. “It’s just so hard. I don’t get it,” she said. Geometry was worse than Algebra, which was awful. Then Megan started meeting weekly with Sarah, one of our volunteer tutors. It was a struggle at first, but thanks to Sarah’s patience and encouragement, Megan gets it and is doing much better. Now math class isn’t so bad.
Make it visual
Your donors are busy and don’t have a lot of time to read your report. Engage them with some great photos, which can tell a story in an instant. Choose photos of people participating in an activity, such as Sarah helping Megan with her math.
Use colorful charts or infographics to highlight your financials. This is a great way to keep it simple and easy to understand. Sprinkle in quotes and short testimonials to help break up the text.
Be sure your report is easy to read. Use at least a 12-point font and black type on a white background. A colored background may be pretty, but it makes it hard to read. You can, however, add a splash of color with headings, charts, and infographics.
Write as if you’re having conversation with a friend
Keep out the jargon. Most of your donors don’t use words like underserved or at-risk, and neither should you. Use everyday language such as – Because of you, we found affordable housing for over 100 homeless families. Now they no longer have to live in a shelter, a motel, or their cars and have a place to call home.
Write in the second person and use a warm, friendly tone. Use you much more than we.
You can create an annual report that’s not boring. Read on for more information about creating a great annual report.