Thursday, March 7, 2013

Chronicle 17: Annual/Performance Reports – Part 1 of 2 – “Print Is Still Relevant”.

By Damon Thomas - Design Director, LEED AP, NOMA
  Say you are fundraising.  Relationships have to be built with donors and investors by telling them your story, your goals and accomplishments.  You can effectively tell your story about your organization’s work with Annual Reports or Performance Reports.  It’s a no-brainer that you can reach more people & faster by going digital with your report than in print, however print items such as Annual or Performance Reports are still very relevant.  These printed reports offer the following advantages:

 1. A Blog entry is a decent option to think about but usually you have many other entries on a Blog site to sort through.  Blogs are designed to be simple typing and uploading of images.  Annual /Performance Reports are comprehensive with graphs, charts and spreadsheets to illustrate financials, projection, etc.  Loading that type of content in a Blog entry can be cumbersome because the graphs, charts and spreadsheets among other things have to be images scaled to fit the format of the Blog page.  You will more than likely have to test the arrangement of images over and over.  These tasks are much easier using tools like InDesign, however programs like InDesign are not for websites and blogs.   

Formatting options on your average Blog is limited to the template layouts configured on the site you are using.

The actual print size (8.5”x11”) allows this image to look much better.  Photo captions, bullet items, titles, etc. are scaled proportionally in the print version making it readable.

2.  Web site based Annual/Performance Reports like the GE Annual Report (seen beloware great and offer options print can’t such as video links and animations, however these are better suited for targets like stock holders that may be more familiar with where to go for information.  One pitfall for organizations smaller than GE is budget.  The cost using the website option will be much higher than the print option.  Also, no matter how simple the site navigation is, all web users ARE NOT created equal or at least will process and maneuver your site differently.  Some don’t maneuver the web well, but everyone knows how to flip a page.

GE's Annual Report Micro-Site (above) is very nice & navigation seems straightforward. The CW/NE Collaborative Performance Report (below) is even more straightforward flipping pages.

3.  Downloadable PDF Reports may save you printing cost but it still takes the same effort and time to produce the content / graphics. You also have to depend on donors coming to your site to view it (remember you need their contributions not the other way around).  Sending the PDF via e-mail is an option but e-mail in-boxes have become more cluttered than real mail boxes in the digital age.  This option works best when someone specifically asks for the report to be e-mail to them.  In most cases it’s best to have both options (printed copy & digital copy) available.  We will come back to this point in Part 2 of this chronicle entry.

We have the same booklets pictured above. One is a PDF format and one is a hard copy. Can you tell which one took longer to design?

4.  Know your target.  Annual/Performance Reports make GREAT supporting material for grant applications or media kits.  When reviewing your grant application and data it is much easier to review print information at your fingertips than to go on line to view an on-line PDF, website or blog .  That doesn’t mean the information shouldn’t be on-line, but in this example print is the superior option.

Reviewing Grant Proposals - The internet is only a few clicks away to view any supporting material but, a PRINTED version of the same material can be viewed faster in this example (sample report next to manila folders).

     Conclusion; I’m a fan of digital. I do LOTS of work with my phone and laptop.  But in this digital age with Mobile Devices and IPads, there are still cases where print is still relevant and a better option.  In part 2 of this chronicle entry we will focus on the value of design for Annual/Performance Reports using one of our projects as a case study.  Thanks for reading.  See you soon.

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