Climb to the Top of the Corporate-giving Ladder
Climb to the Top of the Corporate-giving Ladder With a Compelling Annual Report
Nov. 15, 2006
By Sarah Durham and Ali Kiselis, Big Duck Studios
When it comes to motivating corporations to support your mission, you've got one critical fundraising weapon in your communications arsenal: your annual report.
Annual reports often are the first thing corporate giving officers want to see. It's a way they can relate to a nonprofit and wrap their head around what you do, why you do it and how you're getting it done. While an individual might be primarily motivated to give because of the "warm fuzzy" connection she feels to your organization, a corporation is moved by a business-like case for support AND the "warm fuzzy" connection. (After all, an individual ultimately is behind the decisions!)
In other words, for a corporation to allocate serious dollars, it must perceive your organization as a sound investment. It needs to be able to proudly talk about its decision to support you with its shareholders, top brass and other key constituents.
Corporations make giving decisions based on a number of variables. They might give because of corporate policies that dictate areas they will support (for example, only community-based groups, healthcare issues, the arts, etc.), a chief executive's personal interests or connections ("pet" causes, for example) and more. Expect your annual report to sit on a desk alongside the annual reports of lots of other organizations you might be competing with for support. Will it hold up? Does it look like you spent too much money? Not enough?
Here are five ideas to make your annual report stand out from the crowd:
- Use an unexpected size (small, tall, wide or round, for instance).
- Incorporate "real life" pictures of the people, community or place you serve.
- Plan for the financials to be separate inserts to extend the shelf-life of the piece.
- Edit, edit, edit! (Too much copy can be overwhelming; sometimes less is more.)
- Post a PDF version online.
Your annual report doesn't have to be big, flashy or copy-heavy. You can make it image-intensive, playful or conceptual, but it has to appear credible and make a professional case for why anyone should support you. For instance, here's a great example of a nonprofit's annual report copy that packs a compelling and business-like punch:
"What would Mother Hale want us to do? This is the question we often ask ourselves when we are faced with decisions that affect the beautiful children playing within the comforting walls of the brownstone on 122nd Street. Before making a decision, we remind ourselves of the mission of Hale House and the wisdom of our legendary founder, 'Mother' Clara Hale.
As we strive to follow her lead, we believe we are, first and foremost, caretakers of the organization. We have been entrusted with a 35-year-old legacy. With prudent oversight from the Board of Directors and the expertise of Hale House's dedicated staff, we will lead Hale House into a future of positive growth."
-- Hale House (The entire report is available online at www.halehouse.org.)
Remember to keep the design clean, yet eye-catching, and ensure your copy speaks in clear, succinct language that makes a strong case -- both should leave an indelible appeal in the reader's mind. With a professional, well-articulated, credible and compelling annual report, your organization is primed to convince a corporate giving officer to turn his head and company's support your way.
Sarah Durham is principal and founder of Big Duck Studios, a New York City-based communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. Ali Kiselis is Big Duck's public relations manager. Both are frequent contributors to FS Advisor. They can be reached at email@example.com.