Good reporting takes effort—make sure it’s worth it!
Most companies and nonprofits go through the labor-intensive exercise of producing annual reports to share their accomplishments, expenditures, and projections each year. Yet, sadly, these reports are often boring—laden with financials, facts, and statistics that aren’t connected to real stories of impact or reach. Sure, donors and shareholders alike want to see results of their contributions, and be let in on future projections. But the reality of annual reporting is that turning data into accessible, easy-to-understand information too often becomes pages (and pages!) of charts, graphs, and numbers with no clear connection to what truly resonates with audiences: accessible stories demonstrating positive impact.
Sparking interest and encouraging audiences to learn more about your company’s impact—its mission, vision, values, people, and reach—should be top of mind when putting all the effort, time, and resources into creating a report that informs, entertains, and—hopefully—inspires.
Impact reports and annual reports—what’s the difference?
Some organizations use impact reports like the annual report, yet they really are different beasts. Here’s a quick overview of both types of communication tools.
Annual reports are published by nonprofit organizations and companies to give their donors and shareholders a look at financials, progress, products and services, reach and impact, event recaps, and other milestones, primarily financial. This year-in-review report offers a regular, predictable way to showcase accomplishments to audiences.
Impact reports offer a more targeted way of reaching audiences, potentially turning viewers into brand ambassadors or donors through impactful storytelling. Deep-dive reporting on an area—program, service, product, initiative—and related benefits or successes can show donors how their money is put into action, highlight to investors how their contributions are paying off, and recognize internal teams and how their work makes a difference.
Make your impact report more effective with meaningful storytelling
We all gravitate toward powerful stories, which are much more engaging, relatable, and convincing than stats. When we share the actionable and emotional pieces of our core offerings, teams, and goals, we’re providing a snapshot of real impact about the significance of our efforts. Facts and figures play supporting roles in impact reporting, making our most compelling stories come alive. The trick is to authentically share more about the people our work helps and responses to our efforts in ways that inspire and engage intended audiences.
Consider telling the story of your organization’s outreach, like meeting a critical community need. Or describe a company initiative, like providing ESG (environmental, social, governance) investment opportunities or DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) team training to engage potential partners, donors, investors, or community supporters.
The true power of this type of focused storytelling is in real-life accounts from your customers and clients, staff and volunteers, and partners and beneficiaries, which allows for an emotional connection with your readers—and will likely draw new supporters to your work.
How to create a powerful impact report
Your impact report should engage stakeholders and connect readers more directly with your organization’s outcomes, goals, and vision. Consider sharing these stories more than once a year to foster real engagement and connection with audiences. A deep-dive impact report could certainly appear annually. You’ll likely attract and retain people if you offer snapshots of outcomes and achievements monthly or quarterly.
When creating your all-encompassing impact report, you’ll want to be sure to:
Tell compelling stories.
Use client testimonials and case studies. Showcase team trainings and retreats that show how strategy sessions and skills-building activities are strengthening your team. Interview your people after a particular project or special event has ended, and share glowing moments. Highlight outcomes with authenticity and transparency, and you’ll be sure to gain new audiences who actually care about the work you’re putting out into the world. Share and care is always the way to go!
Use vivid visuals.
Pick simple, eye-catching infographics to grab attention and keep it. Share photos and short videos of your people and programs in action. Engage a good graphic designer to create compelling infographics to vibrantly illustrate outcomes. Limit the amount of information you include in your visual storytelling, though, as overcrowding dilutes core messaging. Stay focused and potent!
Be clear and concise in representing financials, statistics, and figures.
Focus on the impact of your work, not every excruciating detail it took to get there. People won’t flip through lengthy paragraphs or sift through pages of data to figure out what your organization is actually doing. Make it simple for us!
Use a catchy title for your report.
Consider branding it as a separate campaign so readers can recognize and look forward to its release each quarter or year. Name, tagline, logo will add to anticipation.
Make sure your impact report works in various modes.
Whether it’s on the web, on mobile devices, and on paper. Keep the paper version of any report to a minimum, however. Consider sending your core mailing list a preview postcard with the link to your impact report. Directing folks to a downloadable PDF version of your impact report drives them to other aspects of your brand.
Share highlights of your impact report on the channels where your audiences are hanging out.
Committing to regular communication will help foster community and conversation online, and engage stakeholders in fresh ways. Consider routinely sharing team updates and activities, client and customer testimonials, new partnerships, and exciting plans for the future. Make good use of your company’s website, blog, or social channels to engage your audiences in creative ways.
Solid scaffolding helps drive consistent storytelling
Demonstrating the true impact of your organization or company helps to secure more funding and more fans. We all love to see how your enterprise got to where it is now via stories that present exciting evolutionary steps toward a more impactful future.
Proving your impact could and should happen more than once a year, and with targeted impact reporting you’ll be able to share more readily with your audiences. Create reasons for ongoing conversation around your organization’s most important work through real stories that resonate. Good impact reporting naturally compels people to engage, connect, and care about your initiatives and offerings, and ultimately, your success.