Annual Reports: A Burden Carried Or A Cornerstone Placed?

We’re half-way through the fourth quarter of the calendar year and weeks before the holiday season. While development staffs at many nonprofit organizations are launching year-end fundraising campaigns, the rest of the organization often focuses on completing tasks to achieve annual goals or meet projections.

Photo by Marcus Exner

Reviewing progress and efforts made toward achieving your organization’s mission should be part of the planning process for an annual report. However, many organizations approach the process of planning, creating and distributing an annual report as just another task to complete before moving on to the next urgent task or big project.

An annual report can be a cornerstone in the foundation of your organization’s communications plan. But annual reports require a commitment of time to develop a strategy and financial resources to carry out the execution.

Why devote resources to an annual report?

Organizations can receive a beneficial return on its investment of time and financial resources in the production of an annual report. Development and execution of a strategy is required to make the document–digital or print–a foundational element of its communication strategy.

Here are some organizational objectives that should be considered:

Photo by USDAgov

Funding: An annual report can influence current donors to remain engaged and supportive of your organization. The publication can be used to cultivate prospective donors by communicating a clear and concise story of how your organization is successfully achieving its mission. It can be used as a part of proposals for grants and other requests for funding.

Community Engagement: The publication can build relationships and forge new alliances with other institutions and organizations that can advance your organization’s mission. Your organization can display its level of civic engagement and contribution to public policy. Explaining how individuals and groups can access your organization’s programs and services can contribute to growth in these areas.

Recognition: The publication can highlight your organization’s goals, achievements and programs. Stories and photographs can publicly praise the efforts of your organization’s board, volunteers, donors and staff.

Photo by Reynermedia

Transparency and Governance: Nonprofit organizations can build support, alignment and collaboration by providing simple and clear financial information. This includes an income and expense statement for the previous fiscal year, a balance sheet and functional expense allocations. Organizations can provide evaluations on programs and services and communicate progress made or achievement of objectives set forth in a strategic plan. It’s standard practice to publish a list of board members, top management staff and other major contributors.

Is your annual report a cornerstone in the foundation of your organization’s communications? Or, to use a phrase from a dear friend who served in the military, is it just another, “big rock in your rucksack?”


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