Earlier in the year, we produced an article about best practices used when creating an annual report, “Short, Simple, and Sweet – Rules for Effective Annual Reports.” Today’s article goes into further detail about why you should follow those best practices and how to take your organization’s report to the next level.

Consider going above and beyond because:

1. It’s a reflection of your organization’s strength

  • Originally annual reports were created to inform investors about the financial health and viability of a company through financial documents and strategic goals. They continue to serve in this capacity to this day but have evolved into a much more complex combination of documents due to SEC regulations and best practices. Now 82% of companies include narrative content in order to build rapport with readers (Deloitte). Companies do this because they realize the impact annual reports can have on potential supporters and want to stay ahead of their competition. To further reinforce this fact, many nonprofits have adopted producing annual reports for their supporters—making it a critical part of their marketing strategy.

2. Brand reinforcement

  • Your brand is more than just your organization’s logo and business cards. Branding is also about your organization’s culture, attitude, and the effect it has on its target market/community. When aligned with your organization’s branding, an annual report is an excellent vehicle for showcasing what your organization is passionate about, how it goes about doing its business, and what separates it from the rest of the herd.
  • Following a consistent theme—with text, photos, layout and color scheme—will drive your organization’s brand home with readers and shows them that your organization is on top of its game. It also gives them a good idea of what your organization’s momentum will be like in the future.

3. It provides clarity to current supporters

  • Investing in your organization’s annual report so that it is easily accessible and easy to read is critical. According to a study by Deloitte on annual report trends, “only 14% of readers felt companies produced a cohesive (annual) report,” leaving 86% of readers feeling the report was disorganized and up to the reader’s interpretation. Now, what if your organization could capture half of those readers who didn’t understand and draw them into supporting your organization? Even if your organization only gets a fraction of that 86% your organization would still be attracting a considerable amount of new supporters/investors. (Deloitte).

(Pro Tip: Using pictures and captions that are in line with the overall theme of your report enables readers to skim through it and still understand what your organization does and what its impact is).

4. It showcases the human side of your organization

  • For larger companies, annual reports are a rare opportunity to showcase the men and women that work behind the scenes. Having a human face attached to your report creates empathy with readers and reminds them that your organization is not just a well-oiled machine, but also an organization of people united towards improving the lives of other people—and that in itself is an incredibly powerful message.

5. It highlights social changes that your organization rallies behind.

  • Taking #4 a step further, modern annual reports can include information about your organization’s environmental impact, executive compensation and other relevant social issues. In fact according to an article in Forbes, 52% of Fortune 100 companies include social responsibilities in their 2010 reports. They do this because, when it is done well, it can have a positive effect on their organization’s brand and on its bottom line.

Here are collection of reports that were big hits in 2013: Show Me. For more information on annual reports go to our News and Tidbits for the rest of our series and more marketing tips and trends for nonprofits and associations.

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