What’s the Story with Annual Reports?

  • by Christine Batta
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Image of vector illustrations

Annual reports are a key tool for nonprofits. This is an obvious statement, but the point is that annual reports, given time and focus, can be a great tool of growing your nonprofit. You have worked hard all year. Your annual report is the time to tell your story and show that hard work off. Annual reports tell the story of how your nonprofit has evolved in the past year and what direction it’s headed next. Here is some guidance on how to craft a structured story for your annual report.

Have a clear message

There is a wealth of discussion that can be had over compiling your nonprofit’s annual report, but here are some major points to be considered:

  • What is the story of your nonprofit this past year?
  • What are your focus points and themes?
  • What do you want your audience to come away with after reading your annual report?

The best approach to crafting your annual report is to build the story you want to tell as a yearlong process. Catalog the moments that stand out and contribute to that overall narrative. Was this a year of transition for your nonprofit? One of growth? Did your nonprofit merge with another organization?

Use the story as the foundational structure that all of your text, stats, and visuals build off of. Together, they will articulate an impactful message that draws the reader into further exploring your business. Without a cohesive narrative your materials will feel flat from empty words and numbers with no context. The message and your hard work become lost.

Focus on an audience

With all good storytelling you want to keep your intended audience in mind followed by the message you want to leave them with. Keep those two facets focused and build towards that narrative all year and your annual report will be a focused demonstration of what your nonprofit has and can accomplish. Your ability to successfully tell your own story reflects well on your organization. On this stage telling an effective story and captivating your audience can lead to securing resources and relationships for your nonprofit.

Key questions to ask are:

  • Who is reading your annual report?
  • How much do they already know about you?
  • In what way are they already on board and how can you further win them over?

This all ties back into informing the structure of your annual report and crafting the most impactful message for your intended audience. You want to entice your readers, so every facet from the design to the content included in your annual report should work together building towards that singular goal.

Let the design support your story

Whether telling a great story, joke, presentation, or even a great annual report, it can all hinge on your delivery. This is why it is so important to dedicate the appropriate amount of time and energy to the design of the report. What you use for your headers, images and layouts can determine whether the viewer stops and reads through the report in greater detail. These details should all be aligned with your intended narrative so that the viewer understands the story being told at a glance and is compelled to investigate further. Nailing the details of both the content and design will create cohesion and allow the two to work in tandem to deliver an annual report full of intent and makes an impact on your audience.

Remember: Intent and Impact

What is your intention? How can you make the biggest impact?

Great storytelling is achieved through design. Great design is great storytelling. Professional designers by nature are effective storytellers. If you are interested in learning more on how to apply great storytelling and design to your mission the SW Creatives team would love to work with you. Contact us at 301-891-0111.

See original eNewsletter.