How to use your annual report as a fundraising tool

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How to use your annual report as a fundraising tool

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When your annual report tells a compelling story about your charity’s impact, it can be used as a key tool for connecting with supporters and stakeholders, as this award-winning example from The Yard Scotland demonstrates


The Yard’s annual report is always a talking point. Each year since we started producing them, our reports have been a key tool in helping us spread awareness of our work and the impact we have on the lives of our beneficiaries.


We’re a very small team here at The Yard, a Scottish charity that provides safe play spaces for children with disabilities. When we released the first report 6 years ago, we had no dedicated fundraising function and were doing all of our marketing in-house on a very limited budget.


We did, however, work hard on building the relationships we had, which led to a beneficiary introducing us to local design company (Tayburn) who they knew through their own networks and who were looking for a charity to work with on a pro bono basis, and on a project that would give them lots of creative freedom.


At that time we didn’t have a coherent brand or messaging, and so the opportunity to have a tool that would help us communicate our cause to current and new supporters was a no-brainer.


The importance of making your impact tangible


We all felt that it was vital, before the design team put pen to paper (so to speak), that the designers got a really good feel for the work we do and the difference we make. We felt this would be difficult to convey if we all simply sat in a meeting room together and told them about what we do; it would be much better to show them. And so, the team visited us and spent a good deal of time on site, getting to know our work and our beneficiaries, getting involved in the play schemes, interacting with the families, and just standing back and watching.


It was our sensory play work that inspired the first report. The team created backgrounds that conveyed the different textures of our sensory spaces, such as bubble wrap and satin. Not only was this very unique, it also linked in closely with our work on the ground.


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Bringing the sensory play we do to our readers in this way really helped to make it our work much more tangible, and helped cement that emotional connection.


We used the reports to relate the stories of the children and families we’ve helped. As the pictures themselves spoke volumes, we were able to keep the copy short and sweet. This combination of striking design and minimal copy helped us convey our message in simple, fun and relatable way that had an instant positive effect on readers.


Strengthening our identity and our relationships


The report became our key tool for communicating our message to all of our stakeholders. It was sent out to all our prospective funders and existing funders, local MSPs and other agencies we work with, and became quite the talking point among them.


That was 6 years ago, and continuing our work with the design company we’ve produced different, but similarly striking reports each year since then, which have won multiple design awards. Our reports are always keenly anticipated and very well received by our supporters and stakeholders. They have helped to strengthen our identity as an organisation, and to spread the word about what we do.


The reports have also provided a really positive experience for our staff, as they see all their hard work and passion for the job conveyed in such a positive way. The acknowledgement and realisation that we can do something as impressive as this when we are still quite a small team has been great for staff morale. Everyone here really looks forward to seeing our annual report each year!


Our annual reports are a valuable asset to us. We’ve just secured funding to start producing impact reports too, and I’m sure that what we’ve learned about design and messaging through doing the annual reports will positively feed into this.


Jenny MacDonald is head of fundraising at The Yard Scotland

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