4 Strategies For An Effective Annual Report

by | Nov 15, 2022

Never underestimate the purpose and power of your agency’s annual report! We know your organization is doing important work, and an annual report is an impactful tool. Why tackle developing an annual report? When done well, this report communicates impact, provides information on fiscal performance, and highlights donors.

Do you need to improve your annual report? Consider these 4 strategies before getting started this year.

Step 1: Communication and Key Messaging 

You put a lot of time and resources into creating your annual report. Don’t stop there! Creating a clear and straightforward communication plan will help you get the most out of your report. Typically, an annual report includes key agency outcomes and financial reporting.

However, have you considered your report a fundraising piece to help build a case for support? Highlight data to showcase the community needs your organization is addressing. Make your impact clear and get donors (both current and potential) excited about partnering with you (learn more about how to use data to tell your story of impact here).

Step 2: Strategy

We understand there is nothing simple about producing an annual report. However, one way to organize your process is by utilizing a creative brief. This tool is a document used to outline the approach to producing an annual report. This document outlines the project details, such as the purpose, goals, requirements, messaging, demographics, and other essential information required for a successful annual report. Check out Kivi Miller and the Non-Profit Marketing Guide for a template for creating your brief to guide the overall annual report strategy.

Step 3: Execution 

You need collaboration and a team to execute your report from a concept to mailboxes! You will ask agency staff to share stories, provide outcome data, and report on strategic initiatives. Ensure you have a plan and allow the time needed for collaboration with internal departments and external vendors. Here is a general timeline for production:

  • Project Scope/ Outline – 1 Week 
  • Content Creation – 4-6 Weeks 
  • Design Phase – 3 Weeks 
  • Printing – 2 Weeks 
  • Mailing & Dissemination – 2 Weeks 

Total Week Production Cycle= 12-14 Weeks 

Step 4: Utilization 

Last but not least, one of the most overlooked strategies is utilizing your annual report to your advantage. You have invested a lot of time and energy into this tool, so let’s make use of it! This isn’t just a newsletter or report. This is much more. It is an active tool that you can use throughout the year as part of your outreach efforts across the entire agency. 

Consider these strategies when utilizing your report: 

  • Send the annual report to critical stakeholders in advance with a handwritten thank you note!
  • Treat the annual report like an updated organizational brochure! Have internal departments use this tool to help acquire new clients, engage your volunteers, or assist your human resources department in recruiting new staff.  Reuse the content! The stories and stats can be scaled down and used again in email and social media.
  • Highlight your corporate sponsorships and utilize this piece for awareness and recognition of key business partners.

For example, we worked with #Transformers at Infancy Onward two years in a row to develop their annual report. The report is a requirement of their funding partner. When this client first engaged our team, they told us their desire to ramp up their report and better utilize it to build their case and share their impact story. Moving beyond compliance, their report is now a marketing piece to use year-round. 

If you’re dreading your annual report process, then let’s chat! Whether it’s data collection, writing the report, creating a communication plan, or your dissemination strategy, we would love to support your efforts and help you make the most of your annual report this year.


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