On Friday, March 13, 2020, business as usual came to a shrieking halt. Not the kind of hiatus from work that a Friday hopefully would bring me. No, this was the Friday the 13th kind where all our nonprofit customers were left scratching their heads.
Questions lingered through the summer, such as, “Should we fundraise? Is it okay to highlight our work if it is not directly related to the Coronavirus? How do we continue to tell our story? Should we still create an annual report”
These concerns still exist because we are all in a place we've never been before. No nonprofit leaders ever attended a "What to do in a Pandemic, 101" class in school. So, you are certainly not alone in wondering how to proceed, especially regarding your all-important Annual Report for your nonprofit funders and other stakeholders.
There are no rules for the road just yet, but thanks to virtual conferences and online meetings, the nonprofit community is writing them together. One thing is certain: complacency and any sense of "business as usual" is a non-starter. If you hesitate to promote your cause this year, you may find your nonprofit empty-handed. Now, more than ever before, you have to ask for what you want.
Consider using an updated annual report as a marketing and fundraising tool to tell your powerful story, and convey what you need. COVID-19 may be taking up all the head space your staff, board, volunteers and other stakeholders, but you still have to showcase your programming, healthy (or not so healthy) financials, the best community impact story you can tell and highlight whatever volunteer work has happened or is still ongoing. If you are fighting for your survival, or just hoping not lose financial or service ground, don't forego a chance for those additional donations or funding. Be as transparent as possible, focus on your "wins" and be explicit about your determination to keep going with high quality work, even in these difficult circumstances. It's still critical to keep individual and corporate donors up to date.
It may be a bitter reality that your funders and other constituents are living with uncertainty about their financial future. They may feel that they have less time or money in 2020 than in previous years, Your donors may decide to hold off giving until next year. Still, if your cause is really helping your community, you have to ask for the tools and resources that you need. Do not assume they know what you want or need. Tell your story with eloquence, style and creativity and you may be lucky enough to get the few dollars that will still be available.
A really captivating annual report could help make your cause stand out.
Here are 3 Key Tips to Create a Nonprofit Annual Report
1. Keep the Content Coming
You may have made a pivot to serve your community’s needs, or maybe your cause might fit right in with what’s needed in response to COVID-19. It is imperative that you share that story.
Your supporters want to hear how you have stepped up so they stay confident in your cause.
These stories do not need to be about your personal efforts or how your colleagues made an impact. The storytelling should be focused on those you serve and how they helped themselves or their community. If you can, quantify your impact, but do more! Share your stories through:
- Written descriptions
- Relevant social media posts
- Photos and captions
- Already published videos from Youtube or Vimeo, like the National Gaucher Foundation did in this report.
2. Save Yourself as Much Time as Possible
Even in a normal year you might not feel like you have three months to curate content. These days, we are busier than ever, just trying to keep everything afloat.
Pulling together your existing digital marketing assets may save you time. Nonprofit storytelling can be about showcasing your impact and the odds are you have already been telling that story across social media, email and maybe your blog. A combination of new and recycled content can help you save time and focus on other tasks at hand.
3. Go Digital and Use Technology
Saving time means finding software that can help you make a digital annual report, so look no further than Yearly. It is a free drag and drop report creator allowing you to easily integrate your brand’s look and feel, while having the polish and wow-factor to engage your stakeholders.
Yearly’s interactive options include over 1 million royalty-free stock photography photos, integration of your videos, ability to embed social media posts, promotions for your existing donation pages and live polling. It is mobile-friendly, ADA compliant and since it lives online, you can edit and re-publish at any time. A team of graphic design experts can also design your report for you as part of a premium services package, should you need the help.
Other digital tools can make your reports easier to produce, like Canva, where you can easily design infographics and upload them into your annual report. If you want to create videos to say thank you to donors, Thank View is another tool where you can include messages within your report.
Get creative and take advantage of technology that is built to help nonprofits. This may also mean saving more of your budget and only printing and mailing annual reports to audiences that respond best to printed direct mail appeals. Otherwise, a digital report can save thousands and also act as a more engaging tool that can be updated, forwarded and embedded on your website.
Your nonprofit has a tremendous opportunity to showcase how you stepped up in 2020. Use your Annual Report as an opportunity to show you are alive, well and ahead of the curve.