Why Annual Reports Matter

By: Delaney Buenzli, Program Coordinator at Allow Good

Let’s face the facts: Giving is changing. According to The Balance, Millennials have more expectations than generations before. They are expecting that their investment in a nonprofit organization will be reflected in program metrics, higher instances of positive outcomes, and more people served. Millennials are also willing to volunteer more than just their money to an organization. Many millennials will lend their professional skills and personal networks to organizations working on social issues that appeal to them. If your organization wants to tap into this young, motivated, generous generation, then you have got to demonstrate impact, direction, and flexibility -- this all starts with a stellar annual report.

A well-organized, visually appealing, accessible and informative Annual Report is a simple thing that can set an organization apart. Whatever the size and operating budget of your nonprofit organization, it is becoming increasingly important for information about impact and financial reporting to be easily accessible to board members, annual donors, event attendees, and website visitors (read: prospective donors). According to a recent Firespring webinar, 82% of donors visit a website before they give. This makes your website a perfect place to highlight and store all of your organization's annual reports.

At Allow Good, we focus on empowering all youth through the tools of philanthropy to take meaningful action in their world. Our school-based program guides high school classes through a completely student-directed grantmaking process where the high school students are responsible for each step from identifying issue areas through actually granting $1,000 to a community organization. A portion of our curriculum teaches young people to evaluate nonprofits based on their leadership, community reputation, sustainability, quantitative impact, and mission statement to decide where they want to direct their grant. All too often, we encounter organizations that appear to be doing great work but have inaccessible annual reports.

Thankfully, technology has made it increasingly easy to design and produce visually stimulating, informative, and aesthetically pleasing reports and brochures, even with little to no graphic design experience. Many of the free tools also have options to extend features using a paid version once you have learned the basics. One of my favorite tools is Canva, a simple, user-friendly graphic design tool for social media posts, brochures, presentations, and reports. Canva also has free design resources, tutorials, and inspiring examples to get you started. You can even build your brand through setting custom colors and fonts. We also like to use Piktochart, another user-friendly graphic design program great for building infographics and reports. Now that I have used the tool, I recognize infographics built by this tool on Pinterest, company websites, and blogs.

When it comes to sharing your Annual Report, celebrate it! It is the amalgamation of all of your successes for the year. Make sure that you share it with more than just your board and donors; send it in a monthly newsletter, as a social media post, and highlight it on your website navigation. We recently switched over to Squarespace, a website platform that helps you to create a streamlined website that visitors will love. The platform makes adding new pages and navigation menu items a breeze. Whatever platform you use, be sure to add your annual report library to your main navigation. I recommend pulling the content out of your most recent annual report and posting it directly to the web page instead of uploading downloadable PDFs. That way the information is easily accessible and you get to show off the beautiful design that you worked on! 

Thankfully, as giving changes and donors demand more information, more tools are made available to make providing that information quickly and in a visually appealing format. Now that you are prepared to make a magnificent annual report, go out there and attract more donors!

Program Alumna Colette: 5 Years Later

Colette was a member of our very first summer program in 2012. Over the course of the program, she learned how to create impact through fundraising activities, such as the fashion show that she organized to benefit the Liger Learning Center in Cambodia. Allow Good also taught Colette compassion and patience, skills she uses personally and professionally.

After her time with Allow Good, Colette enrolled at Columbia College of Chicago to support her growth as a young fashion designer. In her junior year at Columbia, Colette found a nonprofit organization that has helped her marry her love of fashion design and civic engagement. As an intern for The Creative Palate Series at Dream On Education, she created lesson plans focused on developing design skills among under served junior high school students. The curriculum focuses on goal setting, professional development, and career exploration and guidance. She also arranged for well-known companies such as Akira, Iridium, and Ford Models to present to the students.

The program was so successful that Colette was asked to help expand the program to schools on the west side of Chicago. Colette has enjoyed her time empowering young designers, she feels that she learned as much from them as they learned from her.

Now, Colette is pivoting to focus on her fashion brand, Mixed Sprinkles. Her brand that is just as fun, spunky, and energetic as Colette was during her time at our summer program. The first items of the collection, t-shirts with a design honoring Harriet Tubman, have been featured in her school newspaper! Once Colette gets her brand off the ground she wants to continue to give back through fashion, most likely by organizing benefit fashion shows.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Colette! We can see that you have a bright future ahead of you as you use your love of fashion to empower other young people and continue your journey as a changemaker!

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If you would like more information about Colette's brand, Mixed Sprinkles, you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram @mixedsprinkles

Program Alumna Nina: 5 Things I Learned From Allow Good

Nina participated in Global Philanthropy Summit (now called Summer Summit) in 2012, 2013, and 2014; Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy in 2013; and Global Engagement Excursions in 2014 and 2015. She has stayed involved with Allow Good through her position as the Youth Chair on our Board of Directors. In honor of our 5th year of programming, we asked Nina for the top 5 things she learned from working with Allow Good. 

  1. Service can take on a variety of forms. Often times growing up, we have a limited definition of service that largely consists of donations to charity and direct forms of community service (such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter). Allow Good is unique because it teaches teens and young adults that no matter what walk of life you choose to pursue, you have the capacity to give back to your community. This is especially seen in programs such as the Summer Summit, where participants can see the service components in companies and organizations ranging from Groupon to Design for America to Microsoft. Allow Good teaches teens that giving back isn’t limited to giving checks to charity - rather, it is something that all of us can incorporate into our daily lives and careers, regardless of whether we choose to pursue a STEM field or public service.
     
  2. Philanthropy is accessible to everyone. Continuing off of the previous idea, Allow Good teaches teens that we too can be catalysts for change - philanthropic work isn’t just for richer adults. Allow Good provides teens with the tools that they need to solve issues that they are passionate about by broadening their outlook on what philanthropy involves. It doesn’t have to be about money alone; volunteering our own time and talents can be equally as effective in creating change.
     
  3. Meaningful change takes time to create; it is not instantaneous. Working with Allow Good over the course of the past few years, and watching how the organization has grown, has taught me that creating a true impact within a community takes a great deal of time and effort - a large monetary donation won’t always immediately fix the problem. Allow Good shows teens how to solve a societal issue from multiple angles, and to look at the various factors that influence it, as they teach us that understanding those intricacies are imperative to solving problems in the long-term.
     
  4. Collaboration and teamwork are essential for maximizing one’s own impact. What makes Allow Good special is not only exposure to different forms of philanthropy, but also the community of young philanthropists that it helps create and join together. Throughout the past 5 years, as I’ve participated in various Allow Good programs, I’ve had the opportunity to meet like-minded teens from around the Chicagoland area, all of whom have brought their own ideas, solutions, and experiences to the table. Exposure to such diversity from other young adults broadened my own perspectives on how best to help my own community. Allow Good provides a forum for discussion on a wide variety of issues, and in doing so, they magnify the voices of teenagers, who aren’t often heard in other nonprofit organizations.
     
  5. There are smaller, more complex details involved in philanthropic work. Another interesting facet of Allow Good’s programs is that they teach teens the finer details of philanthropic work, from different types of business models that give back to a community (such as TOMS shoes) to the grantmaking process, wherein participants have a full immersion in the experience as they choose an organization that they want to give to. Much of the time, kids are limited in their knowledge of how a nonprofit organization operates on a day-to-day basis, and Allow Good offers them clearer insight into those processes.
Nina is pictured here on one of 2014 Global Engagement Excursions to Nicaragua

Nina is pictured here on one of 2014 Global Engagement Excursions to Nicaragua

Catching Up With Allow Good Program Alumna, Anna

By: Anna
Anna participated in our Global Philanthropy Summit 2012 (now called Summer Summit). She was also an intern here at Allow Good in 2014. She is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

Here is Anna’s update:

“I just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in Health and Societies -- basically looking at health through history and anthropology. I chose this major because of its ability to equip me to do good in the world. Many of my classes revolved around social justice. One of my favorites was a course with a community service component called Politics of Food. I worked at a local nonprofit for 3 hours a week as part of my coursework, while learning about food policy + justice in class.

I also spent a semester abroad in India, South Africa, and Brazil with a program studying public health. I learned so much about health and social justice through this program -- whether it was a guest lecture by a professor about post-Apartheid healthcare in South Africa, a meeting with a nonprofit that produces sanitary napkins in India, or a discussion with my homestay family about the Brazilian economy.

While I am most passionate about health policy (and specifically women’s health), Allow Good taught me to always remember the ripple effect -- the idea that small actions can ripple into greater impact. I remember learning at the very first Global Philanthropy Summit that the most important priority for the Liger Learning Center in Cambodia was not a shortage of school supplies, but was the need for clean water and sanitation! As a 17-year-old, this was incredibly formative; I started to think about the roots of social issues, leading me to pursue Health and Societies as a major at Penn

The ripple effect underlies everything I do now. I am about to start my first post-grad job, working on the research team at JB Pritzker’s campaign for Illinois governor. I am beyond excited to form an understanding of how political campaigns work, and to push for change in Illinois. In the future, I want to take my campaign skills and translate them to the field of health policy advocacy -- using my ripple effect to push for better policy.”

Anna has an impressive resume: researching racial disparities in children's vision care in Illinois for the Health Policy Team at Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, conducting research on America’s media coverage of the Zika virus through the Annenberg Public Policy Center (UPenn), leading a team of volunteers at the Democratic National Convention, and volunteering with Hillary Clinton’s campaign."

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us and continuing to be a changemaker in health policy advocacy and beyond. The Allow Good Family wishes you the best of luck starting your career and we look forward to seeing all that you will accomplish.

 

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Summer Fun and Inspiration with Allow Good

By: Julian
Julian participated in our Summer Summit 2017 youth program. He is an incoming sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago. 

I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend the early part of my summer. My mother later told me about a week-long summer program though Allow Good. What sparked my interest in it was the fact that this program focused on philanthropy. When I applied to the program, I shared my understanding of philanthropy at the time, but I felt an interest in learning more and I’m now glad I was able to. I made many friends, have had many great experiences, and I’ve gained new knowledge that I can use for my future, and to help others.

During the Summer Summit, I found many of the speeches given by the various panelists very interesting and thought-provoking--from their stories to their messages. The many activities we participated in provided more depth into the subject matter and showed us ways in which to apply what we learned. I especially enjoyed the brainstorming activity at Groupon.

Julian (left) presents an idea to his peers at the Groupon workshop. 

Julian (left) presents an idea to his peers at the Groupon workshop. 

Our final activity about making the organization, EducaFun, was one that stood out to me, for it was interesting to see how something you are passionate about can be the key idea for an organization aiding a social issue. Furthermore, it was exciting to see how multiple ideas could have such synergy so as to make one big organization. With the messages and activities the speakers delivered, I broadened my understanding of philanthropy and learned that it can be expressed in many unique ways. These ways can also incorporate what we’re passionate about, which makes it even more meaningful. These panels inspired me to just follow my passions, for it’ll make sense later.

The process of creating the social venture, EducaFun, was very engaging and involved many decisions. It first started as two separate ideas.  My partner and I had similar paths we wanted our organizations to go, so it was natural to merge our ideas. For my cause, I was inspired by the thought of exposing children to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), a subject I’m very passionate about. The subjects of math and science really intrigue me. My partner’s desire was to increase enthusiasm and academic results among inner city youth. From there, we incorporated aspects from both sides to create our nonprofit organization with income- generating activities. Presenting our organization at the end of the Summer Summit was an experience in public speaking that helped build my confidence.

The experiences I had at the Summer Summit will shape my future social endeavors, for I now know more about the meaning of philanthropy and the creative ways it can be put towards a common good.

I encourage any young person who is interested in learning about philanthropy, while having a fun and fulfilling summer experience, to participate in a future Summer Summit with Allow Good.  

Julian (right) and his project partner Jack present about their organization, EducaFun.

Julian (right) and his project partner Jack present about their organization, EducaFun.