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Marketing and your community group - Using your annual report as a Marketing Tool: The first steps

Marketing and your community group - Using your annual report as a Marketing Tool: The first steps

A community group can often overlook or underrate the benefits of marketing itself through its annual report.

Many groups and not-for profits have to compile and release an annual report each year, often spending a lot of time, effort and money doing so.

If this is the case, why not make sure that it returns something to your organisation?

The annual report you distribute can be a really useful marketing tool.

How your annual report can be used as a marketing tool

Apart from being a document required to fulfil regulatory requirements, your group's annual report is one of the ways to communicate your achievements and plans, as well as specifying relevant financial details from the previous year.

It should be viewed as a component of your group's wider marketing strategy. With this in mind, your group should remember a few key concepts or viewpoints when preparing its annual report:
  • The report is an extension of your organisation and those who read it are going to draw conclusions about you from it.
    • If it's competently done, well presented, clear, accurate, clearly focused and containing vision and passion, people will see that as representative of your group generally.
    • If people can see their support and money at work and what you have been able to achieve, it is easier to convince them to continue that backing.
    • If your report lists and thanks people who have helped your group throughout the year (donors, sponsors, volunteers, supporters, members, etc) it shows the importance your group places on the human side of the organisation and the way you value contributions from those involved in your group.
Your group also needs to look at the content of its annual report and how it is presented to ensure that it contributes to your group's overall marketing effort.

Obviously there is a certain structure that annual reports traditionally adhere to – for example, the inclusion and placement of chairperson's reports, audited financial reports/balance sheets, director's attendance at meetings etc.

There are ways that traditional report content can be presented and inclusions that can be made, that improve the marketing impact of your annual report.

Some elements your group should consider including are:
  • Clear statements of your group's aims, or vision.
    • A statement or expression of your vision should be clear and consistent throughout the report, from any introductory page the report might have, to your chair or CEO's report, reports on activities held during the year, notes of appreciation to stakeholders, etc.
  • List of your group's achievements.
    • Marketing your group is not only about who you are, but what you have done. Listing what and how your group has achieved objectives in the past year, markets your group as one which successfully backs up its vision with action; a can-do organisation.
  • List of your group's activities/programs.
    • Showing what you have achieved and how your group has achieved it is an integral part of your report. Listing and explaining your organisation's activities and programs and how they have helped achieve or support your group's vision is vital.
  • Case studies that demonstrate the practical results of your work.
    • Case studies clearly demonstrate the outcomes of your work. It shows the human face and end results of your group's philosophy, policy and planning.
  • "Statement of intent"
    • Having a statement of intent or explanation of your group's future vision is an important marketing tool.  It presents you as a forward-thinking organisation with an eye to future success.
    • Such a statement can be contained in the chair or CEO's report.
  • Listing donors and sponsors/supporters and helpers/board and committee members.
    • Including names of people not only gives them deserved recognition, but markets your group as well. To those reading your report, these lists of names (especially of supporters) add a sense of legitimacy to your group and what it is doing.
  • Dealings with media.
    • Details of your work with the media can be contained in a number of sections in the report or have its own section, if your group has had extensive media dealings throughout the year.
This shows your group as one whose activities are newsworthy – further marketing your group to existing or prospective stakeholders.

By building your annual report in this way, it becomes more than just a financial statement. It becomes a document which tells a story about your group and shows that you are worthy of people's support, respect and trust.

Who should it go to?

To increase its usefulness as a marketing tool your annual report should be made available to a number of groups of people.
  • Group members.
  • Stakeholders – sponsors, donors, supporters, volunteers, fundraisers, any business or community partners or bodies, etc.
  • Applicable local councils or local government bodies.
  • Applicable politicians (State and Federal) in your geographic or interest areas, as well as appropriate State or Federal Ministers.
  • The media – local, state or other.

Points to remember in putting together an annual report

Organise

Having someone coordinate the process is the first step towards producing an annual report which is also a successful marketing tool.

Develop a timeline for the report's development.  Have someone oversee the process, pull together the various parts of the report and make sure its underlying marketing themes are consistent.

Keep your report concise

Most people who see your report will want to read about your group's achievements, successes and dealings in the community – not how your organisation runs or who is answerable to whom.

Mentioning People

Mentioning "your people" is a must, but your report must be concise.  It's a question of achieving balance.

By all means list as many volunteers, supporters, donors, helpers, etc as you can, but think about the most concise way of doing so.

One option could be a page for each (page of donors, page of volunteers, etc). Another option could be shorter or more general lists, with links to full lists at your website.

Simplify

Try to keep it simple, so people who flick through, or read bits and pieces can still follow and gain information from the report.

Using short statements allow readers to visualise what you do and the scope of your services. For example: "Last year our netball club fielded 15 teams, at three different grades, in five age groups, involving more than 125 players in our local league."

Make it efficient and easy to understand.

If your report is easy to follow then its value as marketing tool is increased.

The improvement in computer software is a bonus to community groups.  Even small groups with basic word skills and computer knowledge can use software to produce an attractive and impressive looking document.

But don't overlook substance for style. Content is king.  It is better to have a competent, plain report with all the details you need, than one which looks fantastic, but tells readers nothing.

Make your content informative, positive and easy-to-read.  The type of marketing theme you should take throughout your report is to share your group's vision and passion.

Ensure you include: a table of contents; a main message that is clearly evident; and your contact details are included both inside and on both covers of the report.

Help them get in touch with you

Make sure you include and highlight all contact details – address (and PO Box or postal address if different from your main address), phone number, fax number, website and e-mail address.

Most importantly, include some contact details – name, phone number, website and email address - on the front and back covers of your report.

Your group should also aim to use a section of its annual report to get across to readers how they can help your group. For example:
  • More information on your projects and achievements.
  • Details on the where and how they can volunteer to help.
  • Details on where and how they can donate.
  • Details of how they can leave a bequest for your organisation.
  • Details of upcoming events and contact details for more information or inquiries if they want to join in.

Design and production

The size of your group and its budget, will usually determine what you can do in terms of design and production.

Work out your format:
  • Black and white?
  • Two-colour?
  • Full colour?
  • Colour on the cover only?
Use pictures carefully, if the ones you wish to use aren't good enough, take new ones. Consider getting in a professional photographer if your report is going to be distributed widely, or if the photos are going to be used again.

The second part of this help sheet – available by Clicking Here – looks at other important details your group needs to remember to make your annual report an effective marketing tool.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.

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