During my time at Uni, I volunteered at a medium-sized not-for-profit organisation. My role included making coffee, handling post office errands and doing research here and there. It was a pretty cruisey way to earn a uni credit, and everyone in the organisation was smart, kind and generally relaxed… until the dreaded Annual Report was due.
And buzzing mania in the office ensued. The phone didn’t stop ringing, papers flew everywhere, and last-minute photoshoots started propping up in hallways and meeting rooms! Luckily, the Annual Report was far too important a job for a once-a-week, first-year Uni Student like me to be involved in (although I did make a lot of coffee to keep everyone going).
By the time I graduated, and started working as the Communications lead for a different non-profit, I knew the dreaded task of ‘Annual Report’ would one day land on my desk. It lingered deep in the back of my mind, creeping up late at night. ‘How am I going to fit a year’s worth of content into one report?’ ‘What do I include?!’ ‘How do I make it interesting?!’
But when the time finally came, and I had to sit down and tackle it, I realised – ‘Hey, I’ve got this.’
And yes, really, I did. I already had everything I needed to make the Annual Report.
Well, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the little angel who was my predecessor. She had the brilliant idea of implementing a staff blog for this non-profit where everyone, from social workers to the CEO, was required to write a blog once a year. And by the time I arrived, the staff blog was a well-oiled story mill and a great way for me, the newbie, to learn about the work on the ground. It was amazing to see the different stories we’d come up with, from feedback about new programs, an inspiring client, or a new partnership in the community, to new realisations about their purpose and great mission.
And this blog paid off big time.
Come the Annual Report, all I had to do what put it together. I imagined myself as a magazine editor, chopping and changing the bits to fit the Annual Report style while keeping some of the blogs as they were. It was important for this non-profit to make sure everyone felt seen and heard. Which through the blogs we were more than able to do. When I re-read through everything the team had written and reviewed our social media from the year, it made me stop and feel really proud of all we’ve accomplished and excited for the world to see and read our stories.
Annual Reports don’t just have to be an obligation and this dreaded end-of-year scramble, they are an opportunity to share your organisation’s power and heart. By regularly checking in with team members, and documenting, storing and publishing stories you can ensure that you will not only have a glowing Annual Report, but a thriving organisation where everyone is feeling see and heard.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT A STAFF BLOG
It goes a bit like this: once a year, a staff member and I meet up for a 15-30-minute ‘blog prep call’, and come up with an idea for a story together. It’s important to note here, that the staff blog is a place for strengths-based stories*, not opinion pieces. Setting up the blog prep call with the intention to share a story (with a beginning, a middle and an end) will help the staff member see their own personal experience as not only valuable to the organisation but something to be shared.
After the meeting, the staff member gets about 1 to 2 weeks to write it. This way they can sink into the story and have some fun with it while
also feeling the pressure of a deadline. Once it’s back in my hands, I edit and publish.
If the staff member isn’t comfortable with writing, I write it for them and we review it together. This is a collaborative process and a great way to give a voice to people who don’t often get the opportunity to see their words on paper.
When working in the not-for-profit space, the intensity and stress of the job often leave staff feeling burnt out and exhausted. But I find these blog prep calls are a great way to remind us of our purpose. It’s special and one of the best parts of the job, not to mention the added Annual Report benefits…
*Strengths-based doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be a positive or happy story, but a story that focuses, despite adversity and difficulty, on strengths. Strengths-based practice is a social work practice theory that emphasises resilience, self-determination and strengths and can be
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