Case study: Making the most of your annual report

Interact Worldwide, which works to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of poor and marginalised communities around the world, raised £15,000 from a appeal in its annual review.

Organisation Interact Worldwide
Project Rebranding of annual report
Agency Engage

Background

The charity works with groups that are particularly vulnerable to sexual and reproductive ill health and facing problems such as maternal deaths, HIV and violence against women. The organisation provides services, education and advocacy. In 2007, its income was £3.4m, made up of money from the Department for International Development, the European Union, trusts and foundations and individual donors.

How it worked

Until this year, the charity's annual review was written and produced in-house on a small budget. Previously seen as a bureaucratic requirement rather than a potential fundraising tool, the report didn't give the charity's donor base a full sense of what the organisation does.

"We wanted to use the annual review in a new way," says Paul Turner, director of fundraising and communications at Interact. "We wanted it to inspire potential donors, win over opinion leaders and unite more than 40 partner organisations in our cause."

The charity outsourced the writing and production of the annual report to Engage, a marketing agency, to give it a fresh look. With professional copywriters and designers, the agency was able to take a different approach.

The budget of £10,000 bought 2,500 A4 copies and 8,000 abridged versions of the report. The abridged version - a four page 'mini annual report', featured a direct donor appeal on the back page.

The charity sent the mini version to its 'warm' donor base, consisting of existing donors, external project partners, audiences at professional exhibitions and grant-giving bodies, including DfID, the EU and the World Bank.

Results

Income from the appeal on the back page was more than £15,000, at an average donation of £52.23.

"For the first time in our history, we have received entirely positive feedback from this year's annual review," says Turner. "It has raised our profile within the sector and has been a useful tool in securing funding from the EU and grant-giving trusts."

EXPERT VIEW

James Long, planning director at Flourish Direct Marketing, gives his expert view on the campaign.

Do people actually read annual reports? Or more importantly, what do charities want to achieve with an annual report? Change minds, reinforce perceptions or simply influence behaviour?

Annual reports are tricky because there is a tendency to add a bit of everything, resulting in a nice piece of communication that doesn't do any one thing particularly well. I suspect it's a trap Interact might have fallen into.

The report has a very strong creative look. The execution is exciting, modern and dynamic - it's obvious a lot of time and care have gone into this. If anything, I'd warn not to overdo it - the art direction is so full-on, I started concentrating on the style rather than the content.

The copy was more formulaic, which is no bad thing if you want to confirm to supporters that their perceptions of you are correct. It said all the right stuff, but it lacked a voice - with a voice comes spirit, and with spirit comes passion. That leaves me with a suspicion that, although the look has improved dramatically, it's at the expense of communicating who Interact really are and what dreams and challenges I can buy into.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 4
Total: 7 out of 10

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