Talking to Ourselves? A Critical Look at Annual Reports in Foundation Communications

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Communications matters more than ever before for foundations, and to be strategic means making the best use of all your resources and in ways that advance programs, goals, and missions.

Annual reports deserve credit from earlier times for helping foundations be more transparent. But over the years they seem to have been saddled with an unrealistic expectation that they can also serve larger strategic communication goals. It’s likely that the work annual reports are expected to do might be better accomplished in other more effective, and perhaps less costly and time-consuming ways.

This report was co-produced by the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative, the Williams Group, and the Communications Network, and grew out of a very lively session held during our 2008 annual conference in Chicago. The session was organized around questions such as:

  • Are traditional foundation annual reports a thing of the past? Or do they still serve a purpose, and if so, what?
  • Isn’t there a better way to communicate about a foundation’s work?

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