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End of Year Blues? Here are 6 Tips on Creating your BEST Annual Report

Writing up the required annual report can be the most dispiriting part of the year for nonprofits and community foundations, especially in a year so many were threatened by COVID-19. However, it can also be an opportunity to effectively market your organization’s story by getting visually creative. Here are six tips to craft your best annual report yet.

annual report

1. Work as a Team

John Maxwell states “teamwork makes the dream work.” The same can be said in relation to creating your best annual report. Engaging annual reports are not solely developed by the CEO and your organization’s numbers. Assign tasks to each department head and partake in a planning committee to decide the information your organization will need, such as who will be responsible for assembling the income and expenditure reports. Utilizing your graphic design and content writing teams may help to share the story of your accomplishments and activities.

Graphic designers can:

  • Be creative with the colors of your brand to highlight the past year.
  • Use best design practices.
  • Make infographics, charts, graphs, and other visuals to showcase your brand.
  • Work with photographers to create powerful data visualizations, including photos and videos.

Content writers can:

  • Use the facts and figures to craft the story of the year to tell your story in a relatable way.
  • Interview supporters, employees, and any others who can enhance the accomplishments of your organization.
  • Combat challenges with transparency and prove that your organization has accomplished its mission and has been responsible to its supporters.
  • Use the facts and figures to forecast your company’s fiscal future.

2. Share Your Story

While the basics of an annual report include an introduction, a shareholder’s letter, a business profile, a financial statement, and an auditor’s report, the most important aspect of a good annual report is sharing your organization’s community with the impact of the year that will be told throughout the document.

An annual report should never be boring. To counter that, you don’t want to only report the facts and figures with your shareholder letter and call it a day. Instead, you want to use the facts and figures to showcase the activities, accomplishments, successes, and failures of the year and the years going forward.

Content writers can do this in several ways. They can simply list the activities, accomplishments, successes, and challenges in relation to the mission. To collect additional information, they can interview supporters, donors, and strategic partners, and use those interviews throughout the report in conjunction with the tasks, achievements, progress, and shortcomings listed. In addition, the writers can interview and write personal profiles on supporters/donors, employees, and others who have made an impact on your company, and/or on how they may impact your organization in the future.

Your best annual report:

  • Introduces the audience to your company.
  • Explains what your company has done in the past year.
  • Uses the facts and figures to highlight the accomplishments of your organization from the prior year.
  • Describes how your organization will do what it wants to achieve in the future.

3. Let’s Get Visual

Humans are visual beings—over 90 percent of information processed by the brain is from sight. According to Neuroscience News, even those born without sight use the visual part of their brains when hearing sounds in the dark.

So it is no wonder, then, that in order to create the most engaging annual report you can make, you must consider making it aesthetically pleasing. It should also be visually appealing to positively represent your organization and attract your targeted audience(s). And there are many ways to do that, including a food company that asked its supporters to bake part of their annual report booklet in order to read it.

Two other creative examples include Vrijwilligersacademie Amsterdam, a volunteer foundation in the Netherlands that encouraged their supporters to turn their annual report into origami after reading it, and Sonae, a shopping center company that turned their annual report into playful, rotating gears.

While print is the traditional way to go with annual reports, many organizations these days find that digital reports can be the most cost-effective, creative way to reach more supporters. It is also one of the easiest ways to market to more audiences through email, social media, etc.

This digital report from the Humane Society of the United States in 2019 showcases beautiful animal photography mixed in with articles explaining their accomplishments and interviews from supporters.

Some organizations have found using videos to create their annual reports has been the creative way to go. There are several reasons why video marketing is beneficial.

4. Be Transparent

Being transparent can be important to any part of an organization, but particularly in creating your best annual report. Your organization should not only divulge its activities and accomplishments from the past year, but it should also stress the shortcomings. Many organizations have had to face challenges in the past couple of years due to COVID-19.

An effective example is this digital report from Pathfinder International in 2020, whose impact included how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their organization’s mission and the people they help. Pathfinder International is an organization that supports women in making their own reproductive choices. In their annual report last year, they explained how they moved through the challenges of the pandemic, from health services and contraceptive supply chain issues to nationwide lockdowns.

5. Forecast Your Fiscal Future

An annual report typically goes over the prior year’s financial successes and pitfalls. A good annual report projects the potential for future revenue growth, too.

It’s also important to ask and answer what activities your organization will take on in the future. Don’t make your audience work to find out more about your future course of action.

Your best annual report:

  • Compiles your organization’s plans for the future.
  • Incorporates new programming and services your organization plans to propose.
  • Comprises plans for research and development.
  • Presents information about other opportunities and initiatives for your organization.

Providing a future plan of action gives your supporters an idea of your organization’s direction, which can help with monetary support.

6. Ask for Feedback

Include a feedback or response form. It can be helpful to know how your audience feels about your organization and your annual report. After all, effectively listening to your audience is essential. Feedback or response forms can help your supporters communicate about their opinion or questions they have on your annual report. That way, you can prepare to make an even better annual report in the future.

To keep your audience content, it may even be important to consult with your board members and supporters during the process of creating your annual report. Include them in the design direction. You don’t have to act on everything they say. However, incorporating some of your audience’s wishes will ensure that the final result is met with openness and transparency.

It’s important to keep an eye on your audience and how they respond to your annual report not only for transparency. You also want to get to know them.  Don’t just repeat the same unhelpful information over and over again. For annual reports that are created digitally, find content creation platforms that offer analytics reports. This will allow you to quantitatively measure and enhance your annual report for future use.

If all else fails and you need help finding what your audience wants, ask our team of creatives at PivotPath to help your organization pave the way to your best annual report yet. Contact us for a free consultation today.

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