The Top 5 Reasons to go Above and Beyond with your Annual Report

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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3 Short, Simple, and Sweet Rules for Effective Annual Reports

Association Coffee GraphicIt’s that time of the year again when nonprofit staffs eat a lot of pizza in the conference room and drink a lot of lattes during late night breaks to produce their annual reports. In honor of all of those marketing coordinators, membership directors, and executive directors who are working tirelessly to convey a year’s worth of effort and make sense of a 5-year marketing plan in a few amazing paragraphs, here are some tips for creating an effective annual report that attracts new members and donors in 2014.

1. Keep it Short

Annual Reports—just like any other piece of marketing material—are designed to convey a message to their readers. Don’t include material that might dilute your message? You want to quickly and easily engage readers, explain what you do, and convince them that your organization is worth contributing to.

(Pro Tip: The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” holds particularly true regarding annual reports. Images and infographics are nice way of keeping your content short and streamlined and still convey a lot of information.)

2. Keep it Simple

Fortunately, nonprofits aren’t stuck with all of the SEC requirements that their for profit counterparts have to deal with, but that doesn’t stop non-profits from unknowingly cluttering up their annual reports. Organizing and labeling key sections, combined with simple language (around an 8th grade level is recommended), and summaries at the beginning of each section will allow readers to pour through the text heavy sections of your organization’s report quickly and efficiently.

(Pro Tip: Infographics can be a great tool when utilized properly but having infographics for the sake of just having them is considered clutter. (Yes, even if they look really cool). If you use infographics in your report, make sure their designs are in-line with your message and that they convey information that emphasizes the theme of your report.)

3. Keep it Sweet!

There are a myriad of great nonprofits that are working hard to improve our society—so why should readers donate to, or volunteer for yours? Convincing readers to commit to your cause is no easy task. Here are some tips to make it a little easier.

• Tell a story that is centered on the impacts your organization has on people and the community. Show them the results your organization achieved.

• Create a world for readers to dive into by using pictures and testimonials of the people whose lives your organization has changed.

• Remember to highlight the human element of your organization’s work. Images, quotes and stories from volunteers and staff will go a long way towards connecting readers to your cause, as well as enhance your organization’s image.

A simple and great example of this, that is often seen on Facebook, are the before and after photos of dogs that have been rescued by the local humane society. In only a few seconds, viewers can see the dramatic difference the humane society has made on that dog’s life. Parallels can be found in almost any organization.

Short, Simple and Sweet, if your nonprofit follows these three tenets you are well on way to producing a great annual report. Many organizations struggle with principle one and two because they get lost in their passion for their cause. In these circumstances, it’s a good idea to hire outside content developers and designers. They will ensure that your message and passion gets across, without any unnecessary clutter.

That is it for today but for more marketing tips and trends relating to Annual Reports keep it locked on True Creative Services. Check back in next week for our “ARTICLE TITLE.”



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5 Reasons Why Your Organization Should Produce an Annual Report

Annual Report Chameleon GraphicModern annual reports are economical marketing chameleons streamlined for readability, accessibility and branded in-line with an organization. Public companies produce them as a way to laud successes and present the numbers. But many nonprofits also consider them to be a major element of a successful marketing campaign and produce them every year—even when they have no obligation to do so.

If your organization has not produced an annual report yet, here are 5 reasons you should start:  

1.    Demonstrate your Organization’s Accomplishments
An annual report is an amazing vehicle for showing current and future supporters why your organization is great. Your organization’s report should focus on the impact it has had on its community and relate that as a story so that readers resonate with it on a personal level. Using photos of your team in action and testimonials from those who benefitted from your organization’s work are effective ways of achieving this without taking up a lot of space.

2.    Celebrate Supporters
Regardless of who is supporting your organization, whether it is volunteers for or donors for non-profits or investors for publically owned companies, you will want to thank them in one way or another. Your branded annual report can tell the perfect story. The report is one of the best methods of saying thanks because it shows what you have accomplished throughout the year with their contribution—working to reaffirm their decision to support you again this year.

3.    Show Financial Accountability and  Organizational  Strength
People who are supporting—or considering supporting—your organization, want to know that their money is being spent effectively and responsibly. In the case for nonprofits they also want to know that your organization has a strong financial base and their money will be reaching the community. This is where financial figures are essential. Make sure that the financials provided are easy to understand and provide explanations written in layman’s terms for those who are less quantitatively inclined.

(Pro-tip: Financial figures accompanied by an infographic are effective tools for conveying a lot of complicated information, clearly and in a small amount of space. They also help break up the monotony of page after page of financials.)

4.    Fundraising
Like any piece of marketing, you should seek a return on investment. Keep in mind the return may not be dollars but rather awareness or an increase in volunteers. This is where your organization going above and beyond in creating a compelling annual report shines through. A compelling report creates excitement for your organization, solidifies current supporters and attracts new ones.

5.    SEC Regulations
If you are a publically traded company you should know this already, but in the rare chance this is news to you—sorry, you have to produce these for your investors. If this is the first year you are producing an annual report for your organization you should check out the SEC guidelines here.

When done properly, annual reports are effective tools that all nonprofits and associations should be utilizing in order to retain and capture supporters. In a single document, your organization can envelop readers in your mission, by highlighting the impact your organization has on its community, showing its strength and celebrating the men and women who make it all happen. Check back next week for more information on association and nonprofit marketing trends and tips.

Be sure to check back in next week for our next article for non profits and associations “Nonprofits, How Do you Rank on these Three Influential Websites?”


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