Are you responsible for producing a nonprofit annual report? Does the process feel like a drag every year? Reframe your thinking!

Although a “report” might not feel like the most exciting project for a marcom pro who enjoys more obviously creative projects, there are many ways you can benefit from the annual report creation and production process.

Here are seven reasons to embrace your role as annual report creator

1. You can strengthen relationships with colleagues

To get the content you need for your report, you will need to work with multiple colleagues. Often, you’ll need to connect with people you don’t typically collaborate with, such as members of the finance and executive teams. I suggest you sit down one-on-one to ask a few key questions to glean annual report insights.

When you work with colleagues on the annual report, you’ll be helping them to deliver information about and showcase their work. And if you handle the process like a pro, you’ll be helping them to see the value of the skills you bring to the organization every day.

2. You can flex your creative muscle

Yes, your annual report will be boring (as will the process be) if it’s nothing but a list of updates.

But I always encourage nonprofit communicators to treat their annual report as a creative exercise, which includes the development of an annual report theme. Among other benefits, a theme makes writing and design easier and more enjoyable. A theme also helps you – and your readers – to look at your organization, and the reporting year, with a fresh perspective.

3. You’ll update your knowledge of your organization’s work

It’s your responsibility as a communicator, to have an in-depth knowledge of your nonprofit’s work and impact – and all of its operations, for that matter. The research you’ll do and the conversations you’ll have to create your annual report is a built-in opportunity to get reacquainted and updated. As your organizational knowledge continues to grow, so does your value within the organization.

4. You can use your theme throughout the year

That theme you developed? It doesn’t have to end with the produced or printed annual report. Your annual report theme can carry through to and inspire other campaigns, collateral and key messages, such as direct mail campaigns, executive remarks and social media content.

5. You’ll have content you can repurpose

Once you’ve waded through the facts and polished them into content you can be proud of, keep using that content! Here are just a few ideas:

  • Those executive/leadership remarks I mentioned above? Draw content from the annual report leadership message as well as program and financial updates.
  • The outcome data you rounded up for your report to show the impact of your work? Use excerpts on your website, for example in your program descriptions and About Us page copy.
  • Scheduling out social media content? If you’ve gathered quotes or testimonials to use inside your report, use them again in your updates.

6. You can practice working with suppliers

In my experience, even among organizations that do everything else in-house, many still have a budget to outsource some or all elements of their annual report. If this is your situation, it’s a fantastic opportunity to practice working with suppliers. Knowing how to work effectively with freelance creative professionals, and select and work with printers, are necessary skills for a nonprofit communicator to polish.

7. You can experiment with channels and formats

Do you (or your internal clients) have a series of “go-to” tactics that bore you? Do you find yourself constantly fielding requests for default tactics such as flyers for events, brochures for programs and buck slips for campaigns?

Since an annual report is a once-a-year gig, and depending on your organization’s culture, this might be your opportunity to break from the norm and experiment a little. Research the most effective and innovative ways to reach your audience and use your annual report to test out a new tactic.

Instead of a printed booklet, could you consider a microsite, infographic, two-pager, postcard, video or something else? Check out this Annual Reports Wiki (of new and improved formats) from the Nonprofit Marketing Guide for ideas.

Annual report time? Don't dread it! 7 reasons nonprofit communicators should embrace the process #NPMC Click To Tweet

An essential element to setting yourself up for a pleasant experience and quality final product is planning. If you need help in this area, download the Step-by-step guide to planning your nonprofit’s next annual report that I produced with Julia Reich.

Finally, if you just want more annual report help and inspiration in general, check out this list of annual report resources from the Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

Producing an annual report can be more creative, interesting and useful if you frame the process the right way and go into it prepared to leverage the work you do in other ways.

Is there another way that the annual report process has benefitted you as a communicator? Please share in the comments.

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Copywriter and communications consultant at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is a copywriter and communications consultant at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity. Marlene specializes in working with nonprofit clients and has worked in the sector since 1999. Marlene’s approach is to work with clients and community members, tapping into the knowledge and wisdom they already possess, to help the communications ‘flow’.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira