You don’t often see the words “cool” and “annual report” in the same sentence. For the most part nonprofit annual reports are either “compliance documents” or highly polished brochures that donors flip through and then put in the recycling.
But a few nonprofits have been playing with new formats for annual reports that help donors better understand their organization. The key to an annual report being useful and compelling for a donor is that the report 1) be engaging, 2) tell the story of the organization and 3) explain the organization’s results and goals within the context of the organization’s story.
While a simple paper report can do all of the above, new technologies are helping some nonprofits up the engagement factor of their reports. One great example is the new annual report from VolunteerMatch.
[If the text is hard to read in the report or you are reading this in an email, click here to view a larger version]
The report is presented using the new, innovative presentation software called Prezi. In my public speaking, I’ve started using Prezi exclusively. One of the interesting elements about communication, is that how you present information is often as or more important that what you say. While this can of course be used to “spin” information, it can also be used to present information in ways that help the listener better understand what you are trying to say.
VolunteerMatch has a history of strong, donor centric communication. It isn’t enough for the social sector to move to a world where results are the focus. Results need to be given the same level of communication attention that fundraising is given.
Sean – Robert here from VolunteerMatch. Thanks for sharing!
I have to be honest: I was initially lukewarm to the idea of making our annual report interactive this year. After all, I thought, supporters who care about us will check out our story no matter what…. provided we just stay true to our values in donor communications: transparency, measurable results, sharing the credit, etc.
To my surprise, the Prezi format has stimulated a lot of talk among our peers. But I think that as much as the buzz has been about how to use Prezi to spice up presentations, it’s also been about how organizations — nonprofits and foundations alike — can leverage innovative donor communications to highlight their broader approach to solve problems.
Which is another way of saying, we don’t want to be Prezi experts, but we’re happy to use Prezi to shine light on the expert work we do in volunteer engagement (and the impact of the amazing people and organizations we work with).
Sean – Thanks. The story behind the story here is how hard it can be to break old habits. We’ve been producing printed annual reports (without earning a single ‘cool’) for 10 years and even for a tech-centric enterprise it wasn’t easy to let go. The enthusiastic response has been a reminder that the rewards of innovation are always an uncomfortable stretch away from the status quo.
I am intrigued by the use of the technology but wonder about how effective this report is in communicating this organization’s key messages and creating sustaining relationships with stakeholders. I find that in this execution, the technology is overpowering. Yes, the “cool, wow” factor is there but is that long-lasting? Perhaps, on the other hand, being “cool” is one the group’s fundamental traits? If so, this could be more on target than I thought.
Amy. Good question. I doubt the Prezi format is the right choice for every organization, but it has been a good one for us.
Here is one of the comments I got back that I think speaks to your question:
“That was by a factor of perhaps 1000 the most impactful Annual Report I have ever seen – because it gets one to read it, when it is unlikely I ever would have without that presentation.”
That said, you’ve got to know your audience. VolunteerMatch’s is online and open to innovation which helped make this a good fit.
Well then, well done, Greg. And most importantly, kudos to you for being open minded to new ways of doing things.