Are You Sure You Want to Publish an Annual Report?

Are You Sure You Want to Publish an Annual Report?

Here’s a typical scenario that most fundraisers go through every year … It happens about six weeks after your fiscal year end close. The numbers are finalized and it’s time to let your donors know how you did. What’s your go to delivery device? That’s right, for most of you it’s the nonprofit annual report. The dreaded nonprofit annual report.

It’s the piece that every development director hates to write and every donor hates to read. The development director feels like they have to publish one (“because everyone else does”) and the donor feels like they have to read it (“because the staff went to so much trouble to write it”). No one really wins in this situation, it’s extra work for no real value. Yes, you may educate your donors a bit, but there is far better use for that time than compiling a lengthy report (like actually meeting with them face to face).

Yes, you need to report out on your results. You need to show how your organization pushed the needle forward thanks to the generous, loyal support of your donors. But you DON’T need to send an annual report. Especially not the typical eight to twelve page annual report with lots of text in small font, pie charts and an honor roll of donors. Donors don’t read this and for the most part don’t care about (or want) their name to be published anyway. I’ve heard this directly from them, time and time again, in donor focus groups for all types of causes.

So what should you do instead? I advocate publishing an annual report postcard. It’s a simple piece that highlights a few key statistics from the year, VISUALLY SHOWS impact and thanks your donors. That’s it … no boring paragraphs of text, no pie charts, no giant list of donors.

Here’s a sample of one I’ve created in the past:


The back isn’t pictured, but it simply says “Thank you for your loyal support. Because of you, the arts are thriving in our region. We appreciate you and wanted to let you know the impact of your ongoing support. Thanks again!”  This is printed in large font to fill the back of the postcard along with a few logos of corporate supporters (just the ones that actually want that).  Here’s the link to download this FREE sample.

This project takes a minimal amount of staff time, is quick (inexpensive) for a graphic designer to compile and is affordable to print and mail. That’s quite a few wins on several different fronts. The biggest win? Donors love receiving them! I’ve even seen annual report postcards hung up on the fridge when I show up for a donor visit!

So scrap that annual report and do something more productive and effective: publish an annual report postcard. Just don’t spend that saved time in your email inbox … get out there and meet with your donors.

Have you done an alternative annual report that was well received? Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more stewardship tips, check out our Free Resource Library. or join us for our next stewardship webinar, “How to Keep All Those New Donors You Worked So Hard to Get.”