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Knight Foundation Annual Report Undergoes Major Transformation

Foundation annual reports are a lot like the weather. You hear a lot of complaints, but everyone seems powerless to change them.

That’s not the case, however, at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Its 2006 annual report shows what happens when the decision is made to undertake a major shift in design and presentation.

This year, in addition to its traditional print version (although smaller than in the past), the foundation produced a digital – and available only online – version that tells the story of the past year using video, sound and some text.

According to Larry (Bud) Meyer, the foundation’s vice president of communications, the changes to the annual report also parallel changes to Knight’s program practice – from a print to a digital media focus in journalism, and from charity to social investing in community giving.

Says Meyer, who also serves as Communications Network vice chair, “We have to walk the walk for Internet-savvy producers, providers and purveyors we support through our program work and who use new media to convey news and information.” The new approach, adds Meyer, “also grows out of a recognition that we and other foundations compete for our audiences’ limited – and shrinking – time and attention. And multimedia provides a quick, digestible, appealing storytelling format for the growing audiences who prefer to get their news and information online.”

Myer says the foundation’s 2006 online presentation “complements and cross-promotes the print version of the annual report. A key element is the multimedia presentation, which uses the versatility of the Internet to bring life and context to the basics you’ve come to expect in an annual report – the name of the grantee, the size and purpose of the grant.”

Most of what Knight calls “Stories of Transformation” depict foundation-funded initiatives where it believe a big transformation has occurred. Others highlight the development of a “compelling, potentially transformational idea,” adds Meyer.

Another feature of Knight’s online report is the ability for readers to leave comments – a way to bring Web 2.0 functionality to otherwise (and what used to be) the most traditional of foundation communications products.


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