Rethinking the Annual Report

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It is that dreaded time of the year. No. I am not just talking about 31st March. I am talking of the time that comes next. Preparing the Annual Report. Yes, THE Annual Report. A task which has to be done, which almost everyone I know hates. A task and time which every nonprofit, every company goes through… collecting, assimilating, consolidating information and data… I bring it up now because this is the time to start thinking about it… before we get into the hammer and tongs action time.

So, how about giving it some thought…?

Some facts:

Producing the Annual Report takes TIME. Anywhere between a week to a month. At the very least.

Producing an Annual Report is EXPENSIVE. And I am not even talking about the design and printing costs here. Compute the time spent by program co-ordinators, managers and ED’s time on this task.

Just design & printing costs a bomb.

Quite often printed versions languish in the cupboard, either forgotten or wanting to be forgotten.

The reader usually flips through that 40-page glossies, glances at those smiling faces of children, and women, scans the data… all in less than 5 minutes. OUCH.

Some questions:

Who is the Annual Report for? Who reads it?

What do we expect it to do? What role does it have to play, it CAN play?

What content would it be exciting for the reader? In what format?

Do we need to spend so much time and money on it? Can it be done quicker, cheaper?

Can the AR become multi-utilitarian..? Can the content from the AR be REUSED – in organization blogs, social media, newsletters, or any other communication materials?

Can the long and dreary content be dynamized into clear byte-sized infographics..? Which in turn can feed into other communication materials?

Can all that time and money being spent on it be worth the while? For the reader. For the producer. For the team.

All said and done, the Annual Report is one document that actually is a GOLDMINE. Of information. Of data. Of processes. Of successes and struggles. It is the annual STORY of the organization. It is the one place you will find all communicators go back to and refer time and again. It has content that can feed the communication mills for a long time.

Can ARs be made and used differently? What format?

Do we have to follow that prehistoric format of presentation which is not much relevant in our current tech-savvy times?

How about an E-format? Eliminate the printing or keep it to a real, real minimum. Bring down the costs. Use all that money spent for staff welfare. Ok. I am just kidding.

How about a slide-show version? Easily shared on different media & channels?

Can it be a story?

How about a photo montage? Quickly put together with a bunch of photographs, some data, and good messages (either written or verbal) from the top?

Can it include experience-bytes of the team? How else will the Old Mama sitting in Texas waiting to contribute that $10 know the struggles and travails are of getting that one well sunk in a remote area or getting that one girl-child in school?

Can it become a real Fundraising Tool?

Let’s change the way we communicate…

– Radha Kunke

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