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It’s not hard to see why World Vision Canada earned a nod for producing one of Ontario’s best charity annual reports last November. The organization’s dynamic online report is easy to navigate, and includes fun-yet-informative features such as videos, graphics and compelling photos.Could your organization follow suit? Have you considered placing your annual report online or moving beyond the traditional printed format? Here are a few of the exciting trends:

New formats
Annual reports have come a long way from the bound grey booklet, with new formats evolving to impress stakeholders every year. While there are still many restrictions on corporate annual reports, the nonprofit sector is enjoying a renaissance of creativity in a once-tedious forum. The newest and most exciting formats we’re seeing in 2012 include:

  • Multi-media, using presentation software such as PreziSM or SlideRocketSM
  • High-graphic enriched layouts, magazine-style reports
  • Video presentations with music and personal stories

Keeping the faith
Kivi Leroux Miller of Networking for Good shares that the following must always be included in an annual report:

  • Activities: Describe all activities and tie their descriptions to your mission statement.
  • Financials: While profit/loss information is important, the most important thing to your readers is to see the good work that was done with their money. That’s easily accomplished through the use of visuals. Additionally, you should acknowledge and explain any hot-button issues or apparent inconsistencies.
  • Call to action: Let readers know specifically that you need funds for no more than three issues/events or campaigns. Tell readers how they can give their time or money, and make it easy for them to contact you in person or online. Donations can be rewarded with a thank-you gift of a picture frame magnet, complete with a picture of your staff holding a thank-you sign!
  • Donor recognition lists: For many readers, recognition is the whole point of your annual report; they flip through to see their name. In a video, donors can be listed at the end, or segmented by donation level and shared at intervals throughout the video. In some cases, the donor list can be too cumbersome to fit in the video. A separate PDF list should be available for download with the posting of the video. In that circumstance, donor lists can be issued in a separate mailing, coupled with a memento of gratitude, such as executive padfolio or Montara Travel Tumbler.
  • Goals and/or vision for the upcoming year: These should be in keeping with your organization’s mission statement and be clear about your continued growth. Particularly with non-traditional annual reports, you may wish to send a physical reminder to your previous year’s high-level donors, such as an imprinted crystal paperweight that communicates your vision.

Writing the annual report often becomes the most dreaded task of the executive director or marketing team. Catching the energy of a new media may make all the difference in the desire of staff and/or volunteers to help. While the executive director traditionally writes at least a letter to the board, with informational support from finance and marketing, in these new formats, the work may be sourced within the organization or outside.

The delightful thing about these new channels of distribution, whether they are a presentation format or a video format, is that they are digital. That means that they need no conversion for digital media and social media distribution.

  • Embedded video can be shared easily on your organization’s website, as well as through FacebookSM, TwitterSM, and LinkedInSM.
  • Staff, volunteers and community supporters can all get in on the fun of sharing the video through their connections to these online communities as well. Promoting a contest for numbers of shares of the video is also a good incentive for people to share your embedded video message.

In addition, video presentations and even paper appendices and donor lists can easily be shared on a keepsake logo-printed USB flash drive. Costs for having administrative staff or volunteers load the data on these drives, and their mailing costs, is still significantly less than traditional printing, binding and postage, and recipients will receive all of your documentation on a reusable tech memento.

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