January 13, 2012

Should nonprofits use video for their annual reports?

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, cause organizations, NGOs, businesses.

Debra AskanaseThere are three things I know about the nonprofit annual report: It takes a ton of time to put together beautifully, few people actually read it, but funders require it. The annual report is one of those pieces of communication and collateral that executive directors and development directors dread putting together because it is such a costly endeavor with relatively little return and short shelf life. It doesn’t have to be that way in the age of social. We’ve socialized constituent communication, websites, fundraising and events. Why not rethink the annual report into a social communication?

Video is a natural medium for storytelling, and that’s what the annual report should be.

Several nonprofit organizations have done just that, transforming the paper annual report into a video report, and reinvigorating it in the process. Video is a natural medium for storytelling, and that’s what the annual report should be.

There are some significant benefits to a video report: lasting content on the Web, video footage for reuse and changing a report into a discussion. Here are four organizations that have done just that. I was lucky enough to correspond with Nathan Hand of School on Wheels and Derek Weidl of THEMUSEUM, who offer editorial comments about their organizations’ video reports as well.


1THEMUSEUM’s Report to the Community (See video at top.)

THEMUSEUM, a children’s “unmuseum” in Kitchener, Ontario, has a mission “to scan the globe for fresh cultural content and use it to stage experiences that stimulate transformative connections for our audiences.” As such, it isn’t surprising that they created a video annual report that expresses the creativity of what happened at the museum in 2011. It’s a lot of fun to watch, too.

Beth Kanter posted THEMUSEUM’s video annual report to her Google Plus stream, and quite a conversation ensued. Beth commented that the video seemed a bit long, with a lot of insider information. Derek Weidl, the video creator, agreed that “scope creep” played a role in length. One solution might be two versions of the report: a shorter video for external use and longer video for internal use with more insider jokes and  insider news.

“(The video) inspired some donations that we weren’t expecting.”
— Derek Weidl

Derek Weidl adds that the video has succeeded in a number of ways: “It inspired some donations that we weren’t expecting. It provided a great engagement point online (especially twitter) where people relived some of the great moments and events we’ve had over the past year. It’s been already used in some important meetings with potential sponsors/partners to great effect as it really captures what we’re all about. Also, an underrated part has been the reaction by staff members. Since it involves every staff member, it has reinforced their love of our organization. After we first screened it at our AGM, the staff insisted upon multiple viewings – we all watched it 5 times without a break (not kidding)!

The Sunlight Foundation

2Sunlight 2010: The Year in Review

The Sunlight Foundation offers a snappy mix of text, images from the year’s work, and video footage from its political advocacy work. It conveys achievements and highlights in 2:24, provides a lot of information in a short amount of time and keeps your attention. Continue reading