$25,000 donation says, “Yes, you still need a printed Annual Report”

Grassroots International just got a $25,000 gift response to an acquisition mailing centered around their colorful, donor-centered 2011 Annual Report. I wrote the Annual Report copy and graphic artist Debbie Hird created our design with coordination from GRI’s Carol Schachet. (And yes, of course I’m bragging.)

Not long ago, communicators on LinkedIn’s Nonprofit Message group discussed whether printed annual reports are obsolete in an internet age without reaching a firm conclusion. Grassroots International’s experience shows that the time and cost of a traditional Annual Report can still pay off. But only if  you do it right.

Our Grassroots International team does Annual Reports right. Last year, GRI received a $10,000 check from a foundation out of the blue.  GRI doesn’t match up with the foundation’s program interests at all, but one of the foundation’s trustees was moved to direct a special gift after reading GRI’s 2010 Annual Report.

This year, GRI mailed the Annual Report and a cover letter to 200 high value prospects. The letter only dropped two weeks ago, so returns beyond the $25,000 check haven’t been totaled. As Carol says, “At this level, it only takes one.” GRI had no other contact with this group, just the mailing so this was a pure mail acquisition effort to potential high-level givers.

The mailing consisted of a plain white 8” X 10” envelope, a cover letter, the Annual Report, a reply card and a return envelope. The cover letter referred to the report content and invited the prospect to help address the root causes of poverty. (I didn’t write the letter.)

Our Annual Report content invites donors to think of themselves as partners with the frontline activists GRI supports.We honor their vital role in making GRI’s program work possible. Two personal profiles show how GRI helps specific donors fulfill their own values and their achieve their own aspirations to make a difference in the wider world. Throughout the report, we give equal prominence to quotes from donors and program partners. That visual balance reinforces the message that GRI donors play an active and important part in the success of the organization and the wider movements it supports.

We all know that media will continue to move online over time. But for now, print still has its role to play, particularly for long form, high-value donor communications.

I’m thrilled to help my client bring in new donors and raise significant revenue, but that wasn’t our goal for the annual report project. We  just wanted to feature GRI’s amazing donors alongside GRI’s courageous program partners. The Annual Report supports GRI’s donor stewardship and doesn’t include an ask. After all, virtue is it’s own reward. But sometimes it’s sweet to get a bonus.

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