For the past three years, 5 by 5 Design has worked with The McKnight Foundation to create an annual report that respects resources - financial and natural, professional and personal -- while continuing to communicate the foundation's yearly update in a creative format. The 2011 annual report is nearly 80% smaller in size than the 2009 report, while still delivering its message and generating attention.
"Ten years ago, our annual report was 100 pages. Today, it's a six-page, self-mailer," explained Tim Hanrahan, communications director for The McKnight Foundation. "As a tax-privileged foundation, accountable to the communities we support, we depend on creative approaches to demonstrate responsibility without sacrificing quality. 5 by 5 Design's attractive, streamlined report gets to the heart of what we need to share - it is easy to scan, easy to distribute, and easy on the budget."
"Other foundations see what this leader has done and have begun to emulate it," added Diana Lillicrap, co-owner of 5 by 5 Design. For example, The Fund for Theological Education recently hired 5 by 5 Design to slim down its annual report from 24 pages to 12 and apply a less-is-more approach with concise messaging.
"We wanted to bring clarity to who we are and what we are about," said Kimberly Daniel, communications associate for The Fund for Theological Education. "Our annual report seemed like the perfect place to do just that. The new approach allows us to have an image and voice that is fresh, concise, and compelling to all our audiences."
"Annual reports used to be approached like major ad campaigns with a big theme for the year and big budgets for photos, printing, design, etc.," noted Wendy Ruyle, co-owner of 5 by 5 Design. "Since 2009, the Security and Exchanges Commission no longer requires a paper version be distributed to shareholders. Now, all that bulky financial content can live on the web. However, that message of who we are, what we do, and why it is important is still a priority for organizations to communicate. And updating it on a yearly basis is a terrific way to evaluate where you've been and refine your goals for the future."
"Annual reports have turned into workhorse communications that need to strongly represent the full brand and company," Lillicrap said. "They are intended to show stability and consistency, but especially in a down economy, no one wants to look too flashy to investors and stakeholders."
Along with cultivating the desired financial perception, 5 by 5 Design observes that sustainability messaging and practices continue to grow as a positive attribute. Lillicrap noted, "Paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and printers who maintain that chain-of-custody are becoming the expected norm for any print project. Those wanting to go the extra step are using things like renewable energy credits."
"The future, as we see it, is not the end of the annual report," Ruyle emphasized. "It is the dawn of a more useful report that succinctly conveys an organization's message of where they've come from and where they are going -- a look back and forward."