When it comes to your nonprofit’s annual report, how can you cut through the clutter, keep your copy concise and present your information in a visually compelling way? How can you effectively tell your organization’s story in short sound bites? More and more organizations are opting for shorter formats (think postcards and trifolds), but how do they get all their content to fit?

The answer lies in the use of annual report infographics. Information graphics, commonly called infographics, are used to distill complex ideas down to readily understood visuals. When you are looking to present information, data or knowledge quickly and clearly, a graphic representation is often the best way to do so.

Here are three ways to include infographics in your annual report:

1) Depict the challenge

For people to understand why your work matters, they must fully understand the problem that needs fixing. Whether your organization’s mission is to end poverty or bring arts programming to students, you can share the scope of the issue using facts and figures that highlight the struggle.

Robin Hood provides a fantastic example of how to break down an issue using infographics. Through the use of a few choice metrics, they explain that poverty comes in many forms — hunger, lack of education and joblessness — and how this directly connects to chronic illness, homelessness, and the increasing gap between those in poverty and those on a path to success. In less than 2 minutes, you can take in just how deep the problem runs and how important the fight against poverty truly is.

2) Illustrate your organization’s approach to combatting the problem

Now that your audience understands the problem at hand, you will need to share how your nonprofit goes about solving the issues. What makes your organization different from other like-minded organizations? How is your approach unique?

Infographics can be used to showcase your focus. Is there a particular segment of the population you cater to? For instance, 89% of our program graduates are women or 65% of our students qualify as persons with disabilities. Sharing your focus can emphasize your expertise.

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Infographics can show your service locations. You can use a map graphic to show the locations you support. This is especially useful if there is a misconception about where your programs are offered. Some of our clients have a far greater reach than people realize and a map provides a quick way of clearing this up.

Infographics can clarify all the different program areas under one organization. If your organization employs a multi-pronged approach to fighting one issue, often times your audience is aware of some of your services, but not all — or they don’t understand how all of the different program areas are integrated. If the latter, perhaps they think your organization is diluting its mission by spreading itself too thin. This is often the case when nonprofits tackle complex issues that require a network of solutions.

For many of our clients that work in community development, their work includes housing, economic development, workforce opportunity, education, safety and health. That’s a lot of information for a person to take in. However, if the organization creates icons for each of their program areas and showcases them all as a necessary piece of one pie or puzzle, viewers can process this holistic approach in a quick glance.

For a wonderful example, check out how the Ford Foundation visually communicates their fight against inequality. The foundation uses infographics to depict what drives inequality, how they respond to these drivers and how they operate.

3) Showcase the results (aka your impact)

As important as it is to explain the problem and your organization’s solution, what drives it all home is your ability to prove that your approach works. When you can share the metric(s) of how many people you helped, how many units of affordable housing you developed, how many jobs your created, how many vaccinations you provided, etc., you can prove that your organization is truly effective. Once you’ve established this, prospective donors and volunteers see your organization as a credible and worthwhile investment.

When you are getting real results for real people, you should make this bold and easily accessible. Here is a perfect example of a workforce training organization, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, doing just that. Their metrics state how many people they serve annually, how many program participants graduate, how many graduates get jobs and how many find jobs with benefits.

It’s even possible to show all three of these topics — challenge, approach, results — on one page.

Credit: www.IntendCreative.com Information graphic created for Community Capital New York

Credit: Design – www.IntendCreative.com; Photo – Adam Chinitz (www.chinitz.com)

Now, Make the Most of Your Investment

You may be under the impression that a shorter format annual report will take less time and resources to produce. Without a doubt, a shorter annual will cost less in printing, paper and postage (that’s assuming you’re not utilizing fancy die-cuts, foil stamps or non-standard size envelopes). It’s also true that you won’t need as much copy nor photos.

However, just like a simple recipe, when you are using fewer ingredients, it puts more pressure on each ingredient to be right. Each word and photo becomes that much more important because people will actually be focusing on them. Be sure to build out appropriate timelines (for help, see this article on annual report planning), and lean on copywriting or design professionals when in doubt.

The good news is, once you’ve made the investment in creating infographics to tell your organization’s story, you will have perfect visuals to use on your website, in social media posts and in future marketing communications. The graphics can be reformatted to suit all sorts of media and purposes. Furthermore, the more you use these graphics throughout the year, the more consistent your organization’s branding and messaging will become.

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Laura Wertkin

Laura Wertkin

Creative Director at Intend Creative
Laura Wertkin is a Creative Director that works with organizations focused on community development and social justice. She creates brands, marketing communications and websites that attract the support organizations need to fulfill their missions. Her design company Intend Creative has helped nonprofits such as City Harvest, LISC National, The Children’s Aid Society, and Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation increase awareness and raise more money with award-winning design work.
Laura Wertkin
Laura Wertkin