5 Ways to Make Your NFP Annual Report More Powerful
Since 2000, the average attention span of humans has dropped from 12 seconds to 8. Depending on how fast you read, this means I may have lost you already.
But if you managed to stay with me in spite of that text you just received, or that dog over there (who’s a good boy!?), you can already understand the challenges communicators face in an ever-accelerating battle for eyes and ears.
With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to–and, if you can, keep it fixed upon–the Not-for-profit Annual Report.
If you see building your annual report as a daunting task, well, the bad news is it’s harder than ever to grab readers’ attention and engage in what is a very important story worth telling: YOURS! The good news is that proper planning and focus make all the difference.
HERE ARE 5 TIPS TO GIVE YOURSELF A FIGHTING CHANCE.
1. Make it look like it deserves attention
Remembering the somewhat disheartening 8-second stat, it’s vital that we understand the environment in which all communication materials, including annual reports, live. If a reader picks up your report or views it online, it is this insight that should inform your content and layout. At the same time, you need to impart enough information that your story is understood and is considered worth reading. So keep it visually light and open in its design. Make it well organized. Invite the reader in gradually with captivating visuals and small amounts of copy. What we’re talking about here is the hierarchy of information. You don’t have to present everything at once. Let the opening pages draw them in, and then fill in the more granular information gradually as they move through the document. Keep brevity top of mind as you build content. Remember, you don’t have to talk about everything you did this year, just make sure you highlight the impact you have made with donor funds.
2. Tie it in with your brand
This may seem obvious but your annual report, like all of your marketing material, needs to look, sound, and feel like it is part of your family of communications. This is actually a good test to see if you genuinely have a brand in place. Many organizations treat annual reports and other marketing communications as individual “one-off” pieces. That approach is a lost opportunity to build awareness of your brand.
3. Speak from the heart
Once you are clear on what it needs to look like, you need to create what it sounds like. What is the tone of voice, what is the language style that reflects your organization? Find that voice and use it consistently, by telling real stories about the initiatives your charity or cause has successfully put in place. Ideally tell these stories in the first person by people whose lives you change for the better. Avoid the pitfall of “farming out” writing assignments to too many people across your organization and have them write their own individual stories. Instead, collect their ideas, then write the text in one common voice. Along with this, develop a theme that can under-pin your stories so that the annual report has a proper flow and the information feels connected and interrelated. The theme can be very high level and serves as an “umbrella” that each story can ladder up to. For example, “Impact” could be a theme; “Changes for the Better” might be another one.
4. Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge
Thank your donors and volunteers. ‘Nuff said. It’s polite. It’s the right thing to do. And after all, they are the lifeblood of your not-for-profit movement.
5. Call to action
At the end of the day (did you know that there are over 86,000 seconds in a day!? Which if you divide by an 8-second attention span works out to over 10,000 distractions if you don’t sleep… where was I…) Oh yes, at the end of the day, use your not-for-profit annual report as a robust informative marketing tool, and ask for a donation. You’ve just spent a great deal of time and energy telling the compelling story of your charity or cause, now make it count!
Ramp Communications specializes in the not-for-profit sector. We’d love to show you the annual reports and other powerful marketing communications material in our portfolio. Give us a call when you have a few seconds.