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4 lessons from annual reports people actually want to read

Social Goodness Review. Annual report for Fab Lab Barcelona, printed by Newspaper Club.

Condensing a years’ worth of work into an engaging annual report — one that people actually want to read — can be daunting. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by stats and spreadsheets and lose sight of what’s most compelling about your business. 

But when done right, an annual report can be a valuable asset that informs and inspires your readers. “A report can create deeper understanding of what you do, why you do it and how well you do it,” writes brand agency Ideas on Purpose. “It can engage your employees and prospective employees, build trust in your organization and set your company apart.”

Every year, creative companies come to Newspaper Club to print annual reports that bring their businesses to life. How do they do it? Below, see 4 lessons from organisations that use a newspaper to share their success stories — and create more.

1. Make your achievements tangible
2. Get creative to tell your story
3. Keep the conversation going online
4. Reinforce your values

Detroit non-profit The Skillman Foundation annual report newspaper

1. Make your achievements tangible

People value things they can see and touch 24% more than things they can only see, according to a study by the Data and Marketing Association. It’s the difference between seeing a painting online and having it as a print you can hang on your wall, to use this report from The Skillman Foundation as an example.

Detroit non-profit The Skillman Foundation annual report newspaper

The non-profit organisation, which provides over $15 million in grants each year to support young people in Detroit, transformed what could have been yet another slideshow or PDF into a beautifully illustrated keepsake. The back page turns into a poster of the painting “Mentoring Manhood” by John Baker III, an artist who has taught in Detroit schools for 29 years, and his son John Baker IV, a high school student.

“When so much of the content we're engaging with is digital and forgettable, print makes things feel quantifiable.”

“It was important to convey the breadth of Skillman's work in print to mirror the impact they have in real life,” says Andy Kopietz of Good Done Daily, the studio that designed the report. “When so much of the content we're engaging with is digital and forgettable, print makes things feel quantifiable.”


Rescue: Freedom non-profit annual report newspaper

2. Get creative to tell your story

Putting together your annual report doesn't have to feel like a chore. When you have good news to share, it can even be — gasp! — fun.

“Supporters said that it's our best report yet. We've even received several unexpected large donations!”

Designing a newspaper gave the team at Rescue:Freedom, a non-profit that fights sex trafficking, opportunities to be creative that “we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” says designer Mollie Thompson. They crafted a crossword puzzle incorporating their stats and translated major milestones into eye-catching headlines. "We had so much fun making the newspaper."

Annual Report for Rescue:Freedom. Printed by Newspaper Club on our traditional broadsheet newspapers.

It wasn't all fun and games — it also got a powerful message across: “The newspaper made the whole report more inviting,” says Mollie. “Supporters said that it's our best report yet — people are posting about it on social media, calling and emailing to tell us how much they enjoyed reading it. We’ve even received several unexpected large donations!"


Little newspapers, big impact: 8 ways to stand out with minis. Bullhorn agency impact report printed by Newspaper Club.

3. Keep the conversation going online

Get a conversation going with your newspaper — but it doesn’t have to end there. Design agency Bullhorn says their newspaper (pictured above), featuring interviews with clients and stories from their team, has been “a fantastic complement” to the companion website they use to reach out to new clients.

Recently we’ve seen more and more customers use QR codes in their newspapers to stay connected with readers:

Rescue: Freedom non-profit annual report newspaper

You can use a QR code — they’re easy (and free!) to set up — to link to a more detailed version of your annual report like the Skillman Foundation did (above).

“It gave us a way to experiment with audience engagement and blend the best aspects of our analog and digital resources.”

“The newspaper conveyed the most significant accomplishments, but if readers wanted to learn more they could scan a QR code and hop online to deepen their connection to the Skillman's work,” says designer Andy Kopietz. “It gave us a way to experiment with audience engagement and blend the best aspects of our analog and digital resources.”

You could also link to your newsletter sign-up or social media channels to keep building a relationship with your readers.


Social Goodness Review. Annual report for Fab Lab Barcelona, printed by Newspaper Club.

4. Reinforce your values

Getting your message across isn’t just what you say, but also how you say it. Or, in this case, how you print it.

Consider what the look and feel of your printed material says about your organisation. The Skillman Foundation went with a newspaper because “it’s accessible and counters the polished and formulaic narrative many foundations present through glossy, laminated reports.” The democratic character of newsprint reinforces the Skillman's mission to provide equitable opportunities.

"A newspaper is accessible and counters the polished and formulaic narrative many foundations present through glossy reports."

The sustainability of newsprint makes it a good fit for organisations wanting to underscore an eco-conscious sensibility. All of our papers are recycled or come from sustainable sources and are 100% recyclable. Innovation centre Fab Lab Barcelona chose to publish their Social Goodness Review (pictured above) on newsprint “because of the low environmental impact compared with traditional magazine formats.”

Friends of the Earth newspaper

Similarly, for environmental organisation Friends of the Earth it was crucial that their mini newspaper (pictured above) be published on recycled newsprint. We offer 2 different types of recycled newsprint: 52gsm for traditional printing and 80gsm for digital printing. You can see both for yourself with our free sample pack.

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