annual report help

Annual Reports: Which Format Is Best For You?

Let’s talk about Annual Reports. Which one is best for your organization?

At VSG we have the honor of working with many nonprofit organizations and as a result, we’ve seen tons of Annual Report formatting over the years. From full magazine spreads to a link in an email, we’re discussing the most common formats, and why each of them may or may not be the best fit for your organization.

 

Formats of Annual Reports

printed annual report formats

Print

A piece designed for print that is either handed out or mailed to donors and stakeholders. You will incur printing and mailing costs.

 

 

 

booklet

Format 1: Booklet

(4 pages minimum, no maximum)

 

Pros:

  • Provides room to give a comprehensive overview of your organization in addition to financial reporting.
  • More overview content means it can be used for the entire calendar year.
  • Donors + stakeholders are more likely to keep the piece instead of recycling it.

Cons:

  • Requires extensive staff time to put together or outsource.
  • Booklets are one of the most expensive print pieces to produce.
  • Can be more information than your donors/constituents want to read.

In Our Experience: Booklets are worth the time and money if you know that your donors and stakeholders appreciate getting the whole story. This format allows you to highlight someone or some cause that was helped, take a deep dive into the numbers, and flesh out your brand story the most. It also gives you the most creative opportunities of all print options. Do a fold out,  or a pop up. Bind the book or throw an activity inside- sky’s the limit!


bi-fold

Format 2: 2-Sided Flyer or Bi-fold

 

Pros:

  • Time efficient to put together.
  • Forces you to be concise & highlight only pertinent info.
  • Cost effective.
  • Much easier for donors and stakeholders to read all the way through and retain.

Cons:

  •  (A pro as well as a con depending on who is writing) The space limitation means information has to be concise and to the point.
  • Donors may want more detailed information in which case you would be fielding more calls or creating other reporting resources in support of this one.

In Our Experience: This print format is the way to go if cost is a huge factor in your Annual Reporting. Truly, it will depend on what you know about your audience. In the case of your annual report, is less, more? Is your audience sensitive to cost on items such as this? Do you have other projects that will follow close behind on your communications calendar that would expand on the information?

 

unique folds

Format 3: Unique folds- endorsement, 8 page roll, Double gate fold etc.

 

Pros:

  • Provides room to give a comprehensive overview of your organization in addition to financial reporting.
  • It’s cool! Tell your story in a fun and interesting way as the reader unfolds and interacts with your information.
  • Donors + stakeholders are more likely to keep the piece instead of recycling it.

Cons:

  • Often requires extensive creative time to put together or outsource. Intricate print design requires someone who knows what they’re doing and can work well with your printer.
  • Unique folds can often cost most than your standard bi or tri folds (although, still less than booklets).
  • Audience may perceive the detailing as extravagant or confusing. We’re looking at you, nonprofit with a donor base average age over 65 years old! Think through your audience and whether or not they would be overwhelmed with intricate folds and not be able to glean the info they’re looking for.

In Our Experience: This option is a happy medium between a booklet and a bi-fold. You have more room to say important things, and people are generally much more excited to receive a unique fold piece because they don’t see a lot of them. The folds can also lend to storytelling. For instance, you can lead people through a 4-step journey as they unfold the paper 4 times, making a longer lasting impact.

 

digital annual reports

Digital

A report designed for digital delivery either via email or on a website. No printing or mailing costs, but depending on complexity, you could incur development costs and need the help of experts outside your organization.

 

 

 

 

In general, digital formats will have the following advantages-

  • They are trackable. Using the correct programs will allow you to see who opens, clicks, or otherwise engages with your content.

  • They create opportunities for direct engagement. Recipients can respond directly from the email you send.

  • They make gifting easy! Even if you don’t don’t have a formal ask in your annual report, you can provide a donation link people can immediately go to for gifting.

 

digital magazine annual report

Format 1:  Digital Magazine

 

Pros:

  • Delivers your information where people are always looking, their email!
  • Cost effective. Depending on your email program and send method, it’s free to deliver to your audience.
  • Can be interactive. Add links + videos.
  • You have unlimited pages to tell your story and give reporting information.
  • Acts like a booklet for those who like the print format.

Cons:

  • Digital delivery = technical. Make sure you have resources to create, test and launch a campaign successfully. (Interested in learning more about our digital resources for nonprofits? Let’s talk.)
  • Requires a clean data list of donors + stakeholders complete with the correct emails for each person.
  • Some donors may be skeptical to digital delivery. Again, orgs with a donor-base over 65 we advise to provide both print and digital versions of your report. want to talk to an expert? Email applied@vsg360.com

 

annual report landing page

 

Format 2: Custom Landing Page

 

Pro:

  • Fans of digital information can explore a page or small site with all your report information easily, in a format they’re familiar with.
  • Putting information online and having a URL to share makes reach easier.
  • A landing page allows for SEO opportunities to help wider audiences find your organization and allows more people to link your cause.
  • With web, you have the opportunity to encourage engagement via videos, games, forms, cross promotions etc.

Cons:

  • To build a landing page, you’ll need a technology platform or a developer that empowers you to do so. This could result extra cost and time.
  • You’ll need to make sure your website infrastructure supports a landing page, or that you secure a unique domain for the report.
  • You’ll have to get people to the page once it’s up, so either a print piece or an email communication would have to be created in addition to this format.
  • Some donors may be skeptical to digital delivery or have a hard time finding the information they want. Be prepared to answer questions.

 

annual report video

Format 3:  Video

 

Pros:

  • A video tells the best story. Engage people in your mission by telling your story from a 1st person perspective, where they can see and hear you.
  • You can cover a lot of content in a shorter amount of time and communicate your intent more clearly.
  • Video conveys more emotion and often provokes the biggest reaction from your audience. Statistics show us that an ask made by a human is met with far more gifts than an ask in writing.

Cons:

Many of the same cons apply to videos as with landing pages-

  • Your team or experts will have to concept, shoot and edit the video.This will result extra cost and time.
  • You’ll have to get people to the page once it’s up, so either a print piece or an email communication would have to be created in addition to this format.
  • Some donors may be skeptical to digital delivery or have a hard time finding the information they want. Be prepared to answer questions

 

In Closing,

This is, of course, not even the entire list of formatting options available! We know that Annual Reports are a necessity in nonprofit life, no matter which format you go with. We hope this overview of common formats has helped you think through your current format and look ahead to trying new things that will drive your mission forward.

 

VSG Marketing has worked with many nonprofits- Globally and locally- over our 16 years in business and provides unique technology solutions that correct inefficiencies in marketing process and allow organizations to manage their brand, no matter how many moving pieces they have. If you would like to learn more, see our work: https://vsg360.com/our-work and make sure to stop by our booth if you’re going to the 2019 NTEN conference!

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