An annual report can come in many forms. They can be physical paper reports sent by direct mail or they can be digital and shared through your website, email, photo galleries, infographics, videos, or even via a conference call.
Let’s take a look at your options and the pros and cons of each.
When choosing the best format for your nonprofit, the first thing you should consider is your audience. Your annual report will probably be geared towards individual donors, foundations, and perhaps other audiences, so consider the best ways to reach each of them.
For less engaged supporters, condensed versions of your annual report are appropriate, while your institutional and corporate funders will be interested in a more comprehensive report. Have both types of supporters? Then a hybrid solution might work best for you.
When Sabra first started working with nonprofits and designing annual reports, the traditional bound book was the primary format, but in today’s, post-COVID, climate conscious world, more and more of our nonprofit clients have chosen to go digital instead. That being said, paper formats still have their benefits.
Because of the draw-backs of traditional paper reports, nonprofits have been getting more creative with their annual reporting. Some have gone completely digital or have chosen a more hybrid solution, but despite the drawbacks, many donors still prefer paper reports. To accommodate those donors, some nonprofits have replaced the traditional booklet with a more streamlined report in the form of a self-mailer, postcard, or brochure.
Here are the most popular formatting options for paper-based annual reports that our nonprofit clients like to use.
Traditional annual report booklets can range from a just a few pages to upwards of 40 pages long (we’ve even designed a report that was 200 pages!) and are great for containing a large amount of information in a substantial, tangible way. If you find yourself leaning toward this option for your annual report, just make sure to keep the content engaging–it’s not meant to be an essay!
Mailers are convenient because they don’t require recipients to open an envelope—the document is the envelope. This ensures that more recipients actually read your annual report. Self-mailers have enough room for a combination of copy, images, as well as a few infographics such as tables, graphs, or charts.
Still considered a quick read, brochures are a middle ground between a postcard and a book. Because the space in brochures are naturally divided by folds, topics can be broken up into panels, making it easier to figure out how much copy you can fit than with a self-mailer.
If you’d like to maximize digestibility, postcards are a good choice. With well-designed infographics, pictures, and statistics, supporters can understand how your organization did last year without putting in very much effort. Because of space limitations, you’ll have to sacrifice some copy, so if you want to tell detailed stories or include a long list of donors, stick to a longer-form option.
Is your nonprofit trying to increase efficiency, reduce costs, reach a wider audience, or attract more attention? Then going paperless is the right choice for you.
In order to keep operational cost low, many organizations have cut back on paper copies or supplement their print material with online resources. Others opt for a completely paper-free path, releasing their annual report as an infographic, interactive pdf, a video, or even a conference call.
Here are some of the most popular digital formats that nonprofits are using today.
Digital PDF’s are our clients’ favorite solution. If you want the room that a book offers, but don’t want to print, PDFs are perfect! You can make them as long or short as you like, plus you have the benefit of embedding other digital content like links, videos, PowerPoint presentations, etc… Plus if you have some donors that prefer a printed document, you still have the option to print up a handful for select people or by special request.
Here are some examples of Interactive PDF’s that we’ve created for our nonprofit clients over the years.
All of these examples were printed as booklets as well.
So, if you’re looking for a hybrid option, an interactive pdf might be the ideal solution for you.
Video annual reports are effective because they show rather than tell the audience what you’ve been able to accomplish. Keep in mind that people watch a lot of videos and can be very discerning. Make sure your final video comes across as professional—pay close attention to everything from scripts to lighting and camera angles. We highly suggest working with a professional team like DreamItReel to ensure quality results. In the video and animation field, freelancers often embellish their abilities and fall short of expectations.
Don’t shy away from dedicating a page on your website to an interactive annual report. Your audience can click through slides, expand graphs for more information, or hover over GIFs and videos to play them, making for a more tailored experience of your report. We love creating Interactive Webpage Annual Reports! They are often more succinct which usually speeds up the writing and editing process for our clients. Also, our clients can link pre-existing content, easily make edits at any time, and their donors tend to feel more engaged because they can click around and interact with the interface. Plus you can add accessibility options that allow readers to switch languages, enlarge text, choose color-blind friendly modes, etc… With a web-based annual report, the sky’s the limit!
Martha’s Table decided to go fully digital with their annual report this year.
The webpage we designed and built for them can be edited or updated at anytime, which means
next year it will take a fraction of the time to publish their annual report and share it with their donors.
If you choose a hybrid of paper and digital, you really can’t go wrong.
It allows you to customize your report and cater to the varying needs of your audience.
Before you put pen to paper, set up a creative consultation with Sabra. We’ve worked with nonprofits for over a decade and can help you find a hybrid solution that best suits your audience and budget.