Amid such uncertain times, it’s natural to think about cutting out your annual report. It takes a lot of time to create a good one, even if you hire a good writing and design team. It costs a lot to print and mail it.
We live in a digital age. And in a time when budgets are, understandably, being drastically shifted to cover pandemic response, isn’t cutting out this printed publication the responsible thing to do?
We say no. Here’s why: With many people stuck at home, printed pieces showing up via mail have increased impact than they did before. They’re tactile, and people have more time to look at them than ever. And as we’ve written about before, small-dollar donations are expected to rise during this period, as people who can afford to do so seek out causes to support during these challenging times. Your annual report is a welcome reminder of the work you’re doing, especially amid pandemic response.
Here are four reasons to publish an annual report this year:
1. Your annual report is your best fundraising tool. Make no mistake, the purpose of your annual report should be to get donors who have given in the past to give again. The purpose is NOT to publish your financials, but to re-engage donors emotionally. Remind them why your work is critical, especially now. Remind them why they care. Remind them how their dollars help solve a problem in the world that they care about.
2. Balance smart design with optics. A well-written and well-designed annual report helps your organization stand out. But in a time when budgets are slim, you must balance optics. Sending a report that is obviously sleek and expensive may send the wrong message. Being cognizant of budget and optics, balance clear communication and effective design to create an annual report that engages your donors into giving more, rather than questioning the cost of the publication. Be sensitive, also, to image selection. Social distancing has created new visual taboos to avoid in print, such as large groups of people or unmasked healthcare workers.
3. A good annual report reminds donors that you need their dollars to solve an issue important to them. See point number 1. Your annual report is a fundraising tool and nothing else. Getting your donors hooked (again) on your mission, and setting your organization up as the answer to solving a challenge in the world that they want solved is your goal. And your audited financial statement isn’t what is going to hook them.
4. Your donors don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do. You think about them every day. They think about you a few times a year: when you reach out via direct mail appeal, with a newsletter, or via social media (if you’re lucky enough to break through the noise of other content in their feed). Your annual report is one more opportunity to pack a punch about the importance of your work and the fact that you can’t make progress without them. They aren’t tired of you!
Now is the perfect opportunity to leverage this type of publication to help your organization – and your impact – be even more memorable to your donors.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2010 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.