Working with The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, Kelsh Wilson created an annual report that not only recognizes donors but also presents a picture of the school designed to make the impact of their philanthropic support crystal clear.
Annual gift reports provide the perfect proof that when it comes to compelling communications, context is everything. You see, whether in printed or digital form, gift reports fulfill a simple core function: recognizing the year’s donors by name. However, if your gift list comes wrapped in stories that show vividly the impact of the gifts donors have made, the piece becomes something more. It becomes a vehicle to position your organization, to build stakeholder pride, and—indirectly but powerfully—to make the case for next year’s commitment.
The 2016-17 annual report/gift report that Kelsh Wilson developed for The Masters School, a top independent boarding and day school outside New York City, works to accomplish all these goals. Its theme is “Masters at this Moment.” Over a five-page narrative section, in a series of brief vignettes, the piece informs readers that Masters is…. “Strong and Thriving,” “Committed to Opportunity,” “Competing Strongly,” “Looking to the Future with Bold Ambition,” and more.
The stories provide ample fuel for pride. (Admissions metrics make clear Masters is a school of choice, increasingly selective. Stories on arts, academics, athletics, and service programs all show strength and growth as well.)
Perhaps most important, these stories connect the school’s success to donor support. A piece on the theme of “opportunity,” celebrates the impact of financial aid—and of a gala fundraiser supporting it. A piece themed “United and Inspired” focuses on the many ways members of the community contribute to its vitality, including record levels of annual giving participation.
Of course, it helps to impress donors (and everyone else) when you have the kind of impressive evidence that Masters can muster. However, in planning your annual report, the goals are the same whether you’ve had a record-breaking year or not: first, to put your best foot forward, spotlighting your institution at its proudest; second to make clear the part your donors have played in writing your story of success.