The power is in the story: Social Venture Partners Arizona's Annual Report

The power is in the story: Social Venture Partners Arizona’s Annual Report

Sustainability is not just about being “green.” It’s purely about survival.

Survival for a nonprofit in this tumultuous economic environment is directly related to their ability to innovate. Adapt or die.

Here’s a story about one such nonprofit, and one way they are seeking to remain relevant that just might help you and your cause.

We hosted the annual Spring Partner meeting for Social Venture Partners of Arizona. More than 100 people attended to celebrate the impact SVPAZ’s powerful venture capital approach to philanthropy is having on Arizona charities. An example of the terrific work they do is captured in this year’s “Philanthropist of the Year” award. It honored Debbie and Steve Moak, founders of Not My Kid, an organization dedicated to helping young adults overcome addiction and destructive behaviors.

Even with this great success, partner numbers in SVPAZ have taken a hit. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to attract prospects in this market. Therefore, SVPAZ has to do more with less.

That became our job when creating this year’s annual report and marketing strategy. We relied on this truism: “Survival of the fittest depends on who tells the best stories and how they tell them.”

Our Seven-Point Strategy for an Effective Annual Report and Sustainable Organization

  1. AdrionFocus on the Organisms, not the Organization: Most annual reports simply glorify the company or cause publishing the report. Instead of self-gratification, we focused on the unique stories about the kids and young adults that are benefiting from the nonprofits that SVPAZ supports.
  2. Empower Your Evangelists: Just like telling a great story, interesting and unusual things command attention and get shared. Instead of a typical 16-page annual report, we created a 24″ x 20″ poster that folds down to a 5.5″ x 5.5″ square that just begs to be opened. It brings a smile to the face of the SVPAZ partner, and is every bit a reflection of their personal uniqueness and gifts, as it is a reflection of SVPAZ’s innovative approach to philanthropy.
  3. Left Brain vs Right Brain: We all know that people buy with emotion and justify their purchase with logic. As the reader unfolds the poster/report, the stories literally unfold before them to accentuate the impact SVPAZ is having on these young lives. On the back of the poster is the logical left brain stuff including financials and a partner list.
  4. Be True to the Story: Although short and sweet, our stories for each kid sticks to the time-tested architecture of a great tale: A protagonist who has a dream, and the obstacles they must overcome to achieve success. This is done with four colorful panels on the right brain emotional side of the poster. The reader is then invited into a landing page of stories on the SVPAZ website.
  5. Develop a Web Strategy for Your Annual Report: A PDF of your annual report on your website is NOT a web strategy. Our plan for the SVPAZ annual report was to drive traffic to a new site we launched for them last fall. The short stories on the printed piece intrigue the reader into visiting the “Stories” landing page where they are treated to the entire story. Each of the stories for Kevin, Selena, Adrion and Regina are featured on the site’s blog, which also fertilizes the SEO for the entire site.
  6. Don’t Forget Those Closest to You: Let’s face it, most annual reports are about impressing shareholders and attracting new stakeholders. They often overlook your most important audiences: Your employees and customers, or in SVPAZ’s case, its partnership. The stories featured both in print and online are as much about educating the current partners about the variety of nonprofits (investees) they invest in, as well as kids they actually help. This effort was expanded into a SVPAZ YouTube Film Festival, where each of the investees created a one minute film of their work. 
  7. Each was celebrated during a fun Academy Award segment at the event that recognized films for “Most Online Visits” – which drives traffic to the overall site – as well as “Best Picture,” “Best Actor,” “Best Use of Music,” etc. Everyone’s a winner!
  8. Concept is King and Saves Money: By reducing the production and printing to a fraction of what the annual report used to be, and wrapping the concept in a powerful web and social media strategy, SVPAZ will experience exponential benefit by reaching more people and prospects at a dramatically reduced cost.

What can you add to the list to create an even more powerful strategy for a sustainable annual report and nonprofit organization?

You can download a PDF of the Social Venture Partners Arizona annual report here: SVPAZ-09-Annual Rpt