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December 2016

3 Reasons to Shorten Your Annual Report

Dec 5, 2016 3:24 PM
Heather West

Is it important for your organization to produce an annual report? Are people reading it?

I’m sure many answered the first question with an emphatic “yes!” And the second question with a little less certainty.

If you’re burdening readers with a document that runs 10, 20, or 30 pages long, there’s a good chance it isn’t being read. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have important information to share.

If you’re not obligated to produce a traditional annual report, why not make it easier for time-starved readers to digest the information they need and want to know about your organization?

Here are three reasons to consider a new approach.

Serve the reader

In your copy, you’re likely talking to stakeholders and customers about how you are committed to meeting their needs. But are you fulfilling this commitment when you produce such a lengthy document? Not really. People don’t have time to pour over lengthy narrative.

Save time and money

Annual reports are expensive to produce. Consider what you invest in researching, writing, revising and proofreading, let alone print and production. And most likely, you’re using expensive stock. All of this adds up; you’re spending a lot of money that could be going into more impactful marketing activities.

Expand distribution

When done well, annual reports build trust and credibility, attract new supporters, and inspire existing customers and stakeholders to continue working with you. However, most are printed in limited supply because production is so expensive. A shorter report can be shared with more people and can become an effective marketing tool.

In a recent webinar delivered by Nonprofit Marketing Guide, presenter Kivi Leroux Miller talked about the value of producing short reports. She also shared a few samples and tips for shortening content, including:

  • Focus on three accomplishments and distill them down to short bites of information that explain why each one matters to the reader
  • Share financial highlights in the printed report and provide the full statement on your website
  • Drop the standard CEO and Chair messages and deliver a more personal message in a short video on your website
  • Eliminate donor or volunteer lists printed in microscopic font and honour supporters in more meaningful ways

I’ve written and overseen the production of annual reports for more than 20 years. I believe its time to take a new approach. How about you? Contact me today to get started on your short report hwest@freshcomms.ca or call 416-884-5741.



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