1. Select a theme for the report, something that runs through your organization's past 12 months. Have you had unprecedented growth in challenging times? Have your exhibits drawn huge crowds? Have you begun to attract a whole new demographic/age group/type of student? You may even want to have the whole report written from the point of view of one of your clients, students, visitors.
2. Tell stories that illustrate how you have changed someone's life or made a dramatic difference in your community. Focus on people. Even if your organization is an animal or environmental protection group, talk about how people are affected by what you do.
3. Use dramatic photos. Make them big, perhaps even an entire page. Avoid small, group photos that are ordinary and boring. If you have some in your file that are appropriate, all the better, but if you have to take new ones, don't pinch pennies in this regard. Have them professionally done. You may also want to think about what "cut lines" you want to have BEFORE you decide what photos to use. Then you can take the photo you need.
4. Write for the reader. Use a conversational tone. Picture your typical reader as you are writing. Avoid jargon, long sentences and paragraphs, boring statistics. This isn't about YOU, this is about your donors and supporters. Think about what they want to hear, not just about what you want to say.
5. Use simplified financials, a pie chart, a brief financial statement. While this is vital to the report, it is only a part of your story and should not dominate the piece.
6. List your donors and meticulously check for accuracy and typos. Celebrate them and acknolwedge their critical role in what you were able to accomplish in the last year.
7. Have the report professionally designed and printed. Don't prepare it in-house and run it off on your copy machine. Because you are going to use it all year long (see number 8), spend the money to make it look crisp, clean and graphically beautiful.
8. Print enough copies to be able to do the following:
- mail to all your donors, supporters, key stakeholders
- provide copies to your vendors and board members to put in their waiting rooms as appropriate
- include in your media kit
- send to new donors
- send/give to prospects and those who visit your facilities
- provide at your events
- send to your collaborative partners
9. Have it translated into another language if that is appropriate for your organization. You may not need to print hard copies in a second or even a third language; it may be sufficient to have them available for download from your website. And of course you will have the English version available on the website also.
10. Begin now and continue all year long to make notes about what to consider including in next year's annual report to make it even better.