In the nonprofit world, an impact report occupies a place similar to the annual report in the corporate world. For healthcare nonprofits and community agencies focused on wellness and mental health, an impact report documents results over a defined period, typically a year.
But it’s not just a matter of facts and figures — although those are certainly important. An impact report tells the story of your organization’s progress toward your mission. It humanizes your work. It celebrates your employees, the people you serve, the successes you’ve achieved, and the challenges you’ve overcome.
Nonprofits are not legally required to publish annual impact reports. But they’re worth doing, and doing well, because they fill an important communication function. They’re also time-consuming to pull together and an investment to produce. So let’s look at how you can get the most, well, impact, from your impact report.
Over the years we’ve been creating impact reports for nonprofits in the healthcare field; from full-service regional health organizations to small senior-service agencies, we’ve seen these initiatives evolve. Not too long ago, the typical impact report looked like a corporate annual report: a slickly produced print publication.
Today, savvy nonprofits are using digital media and video to enhance the stories of their impact on their communities. Often there is a print component, usually a brochure that offers highlights and directs readers to a website to learn more.
The audience for these projects hasn’t changed, though. An impact report informs stakeholders of your results, inspires current and prospective funders to support your work, advocates for your organization to state and local legislators, and recruits people to join your mission as employees or volunteers. Just as important, it provides an opportunity for your team to reflect on their efforts over the past year.
Simply, it’s a recap of the work your healthcare organization has done over the previous year. There are some pretty standard elements included:
Who’s involved in producing it?
The process of compiling an impact report involves a good deal of work — and it also presents the opportunity for collaboration, reflection, and celebration. Even in small healthcare nonprofits, program managers can get so focused on their own initiatives that they lose sight of the organization’s other work. Planning sessions around the project help everyone see the good you all do together. It’s also a good idea to get the board involved in setting the key communication objectives for the piece.
Ideally, your program managers keep updated records on initiatives, results, and clients served, so pulling that information together should be fairly easy. Likewise, financial reports should be right at hand. Your marketing team has other assets like “about us” content and team bios. Results case studies require outreach to the patients or clients whose stores you’d like to share.
What form should it take?
This may be the single most important communication your team produces all year. So be sure it involves a creative layout and strong design that guides the reader through the information. Attention-grabbing infographics can simplify and magnify data, and photography makes the stories you’re telling real and human.
We advise our clients to create both print and digital versions of their impact report. There’s nothing like having something physical that you can hand to a prospective donor or include in a grant application. You can save on costs by developing a short printed document that highlights the most important information, while using a digital version to dig in deeper.
A digital impact report is the ideal place to incorporate video to tell your story. Consider interviews and event recaps. Video is fairly inexpensive to produce and edit with tools available on your smartphone.
How do you get the most bang for the buck?
Citizen Advocates, a client of ours, is a multi-county service organization that provides youth and adult services in mental health, addiction recovery, community and employment support for differently abled people, and more. It has a large footprint and employs a significant number of staff — but the broader region didn’t really know or understand the organization.
With their 2020 impact report, we built a powerful online platform they could use to communicate their story and influence. We included video and portrait and location photography to showcase their work. And we shared stories in words and pictures of several key projects.
To maximize ROI on the project, we then used the video for other campaigns supporting hiring and expansion and used project profiles throughout the year on social media.
The companion print publication expanded the report’s reach; the agency uses it as a leave-behind after meetings with prospective donors, an on-boarding tool for new hires, and a supporting piece with grant applications.
Most healthcare nonprofit communication happens piecemeal over the course of the year: a fundraising appeal here and an email newsletter there. The impact report presents the organization and its mission fully and in a narrative way. It shines a light in a way that provides greater visibility. When you begin planning this year’s report, let’s connect. We can help you create something smart, engaging, and persuasive.
Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes messaging for health and wellness organizations. Through insightful branding, engaging design and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate with their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.
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