Innovative charity annual review ideas

Your annual review is probably your charity’s flagship publication. It has the biggest budget, takes the most time and involves the most people.

It couldn’t be more important to get it right – but it’s easy to fall into the trap of churning out the same old format each year.

There are so many charities doing innovative things with their annual reviews. Why not join them?

Here are some tips and inspiration to help you shake up your charity’s next annual review. Come along to my Charity Writing and Publications Training Day workshop on writing annual reviews to find out more!

Go small, go short

The best annual reviews are short and snappy. After all, bear in mind that your reader will probably only scan the publication. There’s no point having loads of text-packed pages.

Could you cut your usual 48-page publication in half? Or go for an A5 or A6 format? How about putting it on postcards, like Cardboard Citizens? An unusual format will help your publication stand out.

Start by thinking about what you really want to say, and to whom. From there, you can pick out the best achievements, statistics and case studies to illustrate your impact to your chosen audience.

And remember: from getting funding and donations to selling your services, your annual review could have several purposes. But none of them should be ‘to boost egos and keep everyone happy by mentioning every single project and achievement this year’.

If you don’t want to go too short, could you produce a smaller summary publication alongside your main annual review, to give to readers not likely to read it cover to cover? Cancer Research UK do this very well.

Go useful

You may have slaved over it for months, but your annual review could well end up in a dusty pile with 20 others in a potential funder’s office. Stop this by making it useful for your audience.

Nacro published their annual review as a calendar, which stayed on potential donors’ and funders’ walls all year, showing the charity’s impact and attracting support.

Go digital

A beautifully presented print publication is difficult to ignore. But more and more, charities are focusing their efforts on online annual reviews – with fantastic results. Would that work for your audience?

At the simpler end of the scale, I worked on Alzheimer’s Research UK’s print and online annual review last year. We filmed case studies and rewrote the print copy, before uploading it on to a sub section of the charity’s web site.

However, the digital world really is your oyster. There are so many organisations doing exciting things. Take a look at these five for inspiration:


Calgary Zoo’s Instagram annual review

The Brandon Trust’s Prezi annual review

charity: water


Let the case studies lead

Nothing illustrates your organisation’s work better than stories of people who are affected by your issues, who benefit from your work, or who are involved in actually doing the work. Case studies should have the most prominence possible in your annual review.

Could a case study write the foreword to you annual review, like TeachFirst?

Your case studies don’t even have to be human…Blue Cross’s annual review is made up of a series of stories from the animals they help.

Don’t produce an annual review

Of course, you don’t have to publish an annual review, just your formal annual report. Would your effort, time and budget be better spent creating a few more targeted and specific marketing materials than one big, all-singing, all-dancing annual review?

Annual reviews often try to do and be everything and can sometimes end up doing and being nothing. Don’t just publish an annual review just because that’s what charities do.

More inspiration…

Before you plan your next annual review, check out these innovative, attention-grabbing annual reviews to get your creative juices flowing…

British Heart Foundation

The Wallich


Bully Free Zone

Need some help with your annual review? Drop me a line today.

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