annual report

Guest blogger Kimberlee Roth, one of our team’s valued writers, has written for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications. She provides writing and editing services to universities, health systems and other nonprofits.

Whether told through gestures, symbols or spoken words, carvings on a cave wall or YouTube videos, we humans have used stories as a communications strategy for thousands of years. It’s intuitive in many respects to tell a story.

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Thanks to guest blogger, Kimberlee Roth, one of our team’s valued writers. Kim has written for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications, and provides writing and editing services to universities, health systems and other nonprofits.

I harbor no ill will toward opening messages. In fact, I believe they can be an important component of a nonprofit’s annual report. When done well–well being the operative word–they provide context for the rest of the publication. They personalize it and make it more immediate, and they help point readers to key information and calls to action.

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I dug into VolunteerMatch’s recent annual report in video format the minute it reached my inbox. READ MORE

Nancy Schwartz in Annual Reports | 0 comments
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We’re thrilled to welcome back guest blogger, Kimberlee Roth, one of our team’s valued writers. Kim also writes  for the Chicago Tribune and The Chronicle of Philanthropy among other publications, and is author of Surviving a Borderline Parent.

Still not entirely convinced annual reports present opportunity over drudgery? Many nonprofits are bridging print and digital content in creative ways that make their annual reports interactive, engaging and attention-grabbing.

Of course there are some caveats. But first, a few options for adding a third dimension so that “same old” becomes a thing of the past:

1) Print with online clone: Sure, you can create a PDF of your print content and put it online, but why not add clickable links in the PDF to make the report more interactive? Or explore some newer tools, such as treesaver and issuu that allow you to create sleek online, magazine-style publications with your content.

2) Print teaser and online complement: For its 2010 report, Partners in Health sent out an eight-page summary that points recipients to the full 40-page report (PDF) on its website.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute sent out a large, tri-fold brochure with summaries of its “top 10” stories. The full interactive report lives on the HHMI website, with a PDF option, too.

Getting Attention reader, Tara, of the Watershed Agricultural Council shared how WAC has shortened its print edition and uses issu for the digital version. WAC also includes an online supplement in PDF for additional information.

The Kellogg Foundation recently added QR, or quick response, codes to its report to connect print stories with online video. Communications manager Rebecca Noricks explains.

3) Digital only: VolunteerMatch went digital in 2009 and presented its entire report in Prezi, a novel presentation application. (Think PowerPoint meets kaleidoscope.)

Excited? Great. But not so fast:

In With the Old
A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article pointed out that the move to digital reporting can be steep.

One way to manage costs is to look at what (well-done!) multimedia content you already have–videos, podcasts, photo-slideshows–that can be repurposed.

Strategy First
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of cool new tools, but always go back to your communications strategy. Ask yourself:

  • Who are your audiences?
  • What messages are trying to send to each?
  • What are the best ways to deliver? (QR codes won’t fly unless your audiences use smartphones (a lot); a direct mail report isn’t going to impress most Millennials.)

Preserve Prose
Photos and videos may be worth 1,000 (written) words, but don’t slash the text from your report. Clear, concise writing is critical–it sets the stage and gives context to your messages. Without it, disparate pieces of multimedia content can feel disjointed and confusing. Compelling prose ties the piece together and keeps audiences focused right where you want ’em to be: on your messages, mission and impact.

How is your organization thinking about approaching its next annual report? Please share your experiences and ideas here.

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Don't Even THINK about Social Media until Your Web Site and E-news Are Working WellWe have a family membership at an upstate New York sculpture center featuring outside exhibitions. It's a unique and beautiful place; one we can't visit that often (it's an hour away) but a venue we want to support. We joined for the first time this year.

The center has an incredible reputation — because it's so unique and beautiful — which has carried it far. So as a member, I expected to have the pleasure of a compelling series of communications, online and off. Didn't happen. Here's what did:

  • We received a thank you note for our membership (thumbs up) but it didn't mention any upcoming exhibits or events (where was the call to action, the opportunity to get involved at the next level?).
  • I went to the Web site but saw only an incomplete calendar of events for the next week (there are lots of concerts, tours, child projects there). The center is more than an hour away from the NY metro area, so most visitors have to plan ahead. It's not a drop-in experience. That's hard to do without advance notice.
  • So I emailed requesting to be put on the e-news list (didn't see where to subscribe online). But there's no e-news! Instead, I was told that they do have a twice-yearly print newsletter, the next issue coming in a few months but they'd be pleased to send me the last one.
  • Yet, the center has an active Facebook fan page (for those members and interested others who are even on Facebook), with 1,045 fans to date. I wonder how many members that includes; Storm King never told us about its Facebook page in any member communications.
  • Then we just received a full-color 16-page annual report, printed on heavy paper, featuring 10 pages of donors names. Expensive to produce and mail, but it has no value to me.

Even though we can assume every org has a range of target audiences, members have to be a priority for every arts and culture organization. For this one, we don't seem to be.

Here's what I recommend to the center:

  • List out the three or fewer target audiences you need to engage more effectively in order to meet the center's current goals. Members should be on the list. Then learn their habits and preferences (e.g. e-news vs. Facebook fan page).
  • Figure out how to engage current members so they become even more loyal. Make it easy for them (i.e. with advance notice of events) to become more involved. Make them/us want to be marketing messengers for the center.
  • Ensure your Web site and e-news (and despite the challenges of getting attention via email, you gotta have one) are tight, focused, timely and working for your organization…before you even stick a toe into social media waters.

Please share your suggestions for the center. What would you do if you were them? Tell us by clicking Comments below.

NOTE: Here are some brief guides to strengthening your Web site and e-news. For more, subscribe here to the Getting Attention e-update!

Flickr photo: al binami

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation, Social Media | 3 comments
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