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Why the 60 Page Report is the NFP Sector’s Biggest Problem

28 May 2015 at 10:45 am
Lina Caneva
There’s an unpopular truth in the Not for Profit sector that activists don’t like to talk about. That truth is, that no matter what that report is about, or how much work went into producing it, people aren’t going to read it.

Lina Caneva | 28 May 2015 at 10:45 am


Why the 60 Page Report is the NFP Sector’s Biggest Problem
28 May 2015 at 10:45 am

There’s an unpopular truth in the Not for Profit sector that activists don’t like to talk about. That truth is, that no matter what that report is about, or how much work went into producing it, people aren’t going to read it.

The curse of the 8-second attention span

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the average attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds. And that’s really bad news when followed up with the fact a goldfish has a nine second attention span. This new reality requires a paradigm shift in approach to communication, and a rethink of how to best influence the audience. It’s true; people won’t read that 60-page report any more. And it’s likely they won’t read that 1500 word article either. That’s the bad news. The good news is, there are new and exciting ways to tell stories, and these innovative formats are a perfect fit for the Not for Profit sector that has the most powerful stories of any sector to tell.

Don’t generate reports. Tell stories.

The Not for Profit sector has powerful stories to tell. Whether these stories are ones of heartbreak or ones of hope, they are the keys to connecting with an audience. Stories have the ability to establish an emotional connection with people and move them towards an action for the greater good. Stories give us hope.

Show, don’t tell: Visual content is your most powerful tool.

Innovation has played a key role in the way we tell stories. The evolution of information design into user-friendly and compelling content formats like infographics are a perfect fit for the new attention span. Combining the skills of journalism, analysis and design, infographics enable people to grasp complex stories quickly. It’s about educating, not overwhelming people.

Good infographics work on the premise that simple is beautiful, but it can be complex to get there, requiring insight and clever design. Often the key to a great infographic is a compelling set of data. For a sector known for making strong arguments based on data, infographics should be the number one story telling tool to engage people. Results matter in the Not for Profit sector – people want to see how their money is being spent, what is the ROI to the community – that data story is best told through an infographic.

Create a connection. Move people into action

Motion graphics are another form of visual content increasingly used to help people feel something about your message or brand.  By using elements of film, animation, graphic design and sound, motion graphics combine an emotional response and narrative information – and that’s powerful, because a strong emotion can create a personal connection between your content and your audience. Motion graphics are more cost-effective to produce than live action video, and younger audiences love engaging with these content formats. That 60-page report is far more powerful as a 90-second motion graphic with music. Given audience engagement peaks at 2.25 minutes, if you can tell your story in under 90 seconds, more people will watch it, and if it resonates, share it.

Data Visualisation: The Final and Most Incredible Frontier of All.

Data Visualisation as a story-telling tool began to gain mainstream attention around 2001 when prestige media outlets like the New York Times and The Guardian began using the format to tell stories. Journalists, designers, developers and data scientists began to work together, bringing data stories to life, then making them interactive, so more than one story angle could be told in a single visualisation (known as interactive data visualisation today).

An interactive data visualisation is one of the most compelling data story-telling formats available, and leaves a lasting impression based on two reasons: The ability to discover and the freedom to choose. By allowing the audience to interact with data, it brings them closer to the action – or the core purpose of your story. Audiences are able to educate themselves in the structure and values within a dataset. By giving your audience the interface to change what the data looks like, you’ve empowering them to choose their own journey through your data and hopefully, enabling them to absorb more than one chapter in your compelling story. Data visualisations can be as simple as geographical heat maps, or as complex as this Animated Data Visualisation

Move people by telling stories in a million different ways, fast!

A common thread uniting activists and people who work in the Not for Profit sector is time. Or lack of it. Every moment wasted has consequences. The ability to present a persuasive argument to move people to action quickly is the challenge for today. Today’s Millennials and Gen Ys are the future philanthropists  – and they have attention spans less than a goldfish. They need to be captivated and compelled to act, fast. Visual content is the format for the job.

And the story doesn’t end here

One of the exciting things about the Not for Profit sector is the sector’s reputation as an early adopter. Without the resources and budgets of corporates, the sector is forced to ‘think smart’ and look for new and effective ways of doing things. In my own experience leading a content agency, it was the Not for Profit sector that came first asking for visual content like infographics and motion graphics.

People with amazing skills are banding together to create these new and innovative story formats in the shared hope of helping make the world a better place. These forms of visual content will continue to evolve, and become even more powerful in their ability to galvanise people into action.

Reach out to Curated Content to find out more about our full suite of written and visual content products and services including content strategy and content amplification and distribution. You can email us at or visit our website at

About the author: Cath Pope is the co-founder of Curated Content, a content marketing agency and Datalabs, a bespoke data visualisation agency with offices in Melbourne and Sydney. Connect with Cath and follow Curated Content on LinkedIn to keep across great work and innovations in the visual content space.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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