Market Your Nonprofit with Organization Overviews, Annual Reports, and Newsletters

By Stan Hutton, Frances N. Phillips

Before you begin tackling client surveys and media releases for your nonprofit, you need to spend a little time making sure you have a few basic communication tools in place. These tools help you tell your clients, audiences, donors, and the general public who you are and what you do.

Here are a few websites that can help you understand and use technology for nonprofit communications and management. Idealware is the place to go for information and advice about which software will work best for your nonprofit. After you decide what you need, TechSoup provides free and discounted software packages to qualified nonprofit organizations. The Nonprofit Technology Network is an online community that helps nonprofits use technology tools to their best advantage.

Preparing an organization overview or brochure

An organization overview is a one-page description of your organization’s mission and programs. You can enclose it with news releases, grant proposals, and fundraising letters. Place copies in your lobby or reception area for visitors to read. Feature it prominently on your website.

As you grow, your organization may want to get a little bit fancier and produce a brochure with photographs or graphics. This may be a paper document or it may be a page on your website. An effective brochure clearly conveys the essence of your organization. You want it to be inviting and readable. Visual elements help to make a more attractive document and often enable you to tell your story in fewer words.

Keep the colors and design elements consistent among any printed materials and your website. You’re creating a face and a voice for your organization, so try not to send out mixed messages.

Producing annual reports and newsletters

Begin producing an annual report after your first year of operating. The report may be published as a letter, website feature, or even a booklet. Usually, the annual report includes a financial statement for the year, along with an overview of recent accomplishments. It may also include introductory letters from the board president and executive director of your organization.

An annual report conveys the image of an accomplished organization that’s transparent in its communications. The messages such reports convey build trust among people seeking organizations’ services or considering making contributions.

A newsletter offers background stories and information about your organization. You can publish it as a feature page or slide show on your website, as a PDF document linked to your website, in email, or as a printed or photocopied document.

Issuing a newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your organization’s constituents. It can take them behind the scenes of your organization. You may use a newsletter to profile members of your staff, board, and constituents; alert followers to upcoming events; summarize research; and announce news about your organization’s work.