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How to Write an Effective Annual Report

What’s a nonprofit without its annual report? In the nonprofit world, the annual report is a staple. It’s a way to really...

Written by James Burke · 2 min read >

What’s a nonprofit without its annual report? In the nonprofit world, the annual report is a staple. It’s a way to really illustrate your impact in a visual and engaging way. It’s a way to look back on the amazing wins of your past year, to highlight the people and places you helped serve, and to give thanks to your amazing supporters. 

But, what good is an annual report if no one reads it? That’s why it’s important that your annual report be engaging, sharable, and accessible, motivating users to not only read your report but to share it with others as well. We know an annual report can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some key pieces of advice for creating an effective, engaging annual report.

Focus on Impact and Results

We live in a fast-paced world. Communications these days are quick and to the point. While you shouldn’t treat your annual report like a text message or an email, you should keep in mind that the more concise and direct you keep your report, the more likely it is that readers will stay engaged. Highlight key events, stats, and results.

Before you start writing, outline out all the most important things you want to tell your supporters, and build your report around those key items. Resist the urge to delve into internal updates, like office renovations or updated supplies. 

Keep Results Mission-Based

Yes, fundraising is a huge accomplishment, and your donors deserve to be thanked for all of their support. However, we recommend spending less time highlight fundraising results and more time focusing on the results of your mission-based work. Donors want to see the tangible impact their dollars are making, so be sure to highlight the impact over the amount of money raised.

Visualize Your Data

Good news — colorful graphs are in. Instead of writing out your key impact numbers, consider using charts or graphs to illustrate the progress you’ve made. Visuals like this help break up blocks of text and draw the readers’ eyes to information that might have otherwise been overlooked.

Use Ample Imagery 

We live in an age when most cellphones come with high-quality cameras built right in. This is good news for nonprofits who might have previously needed to hire dedicated photographers to ensure that events and projects were well-documented. Regardless of whether or not you hire a professional photographer or simply use your phone to snap photos, make sure you’re documenting key progress and events through the year so that you can include these photos in your annual report.

Imagery not only adds an engaging visual element to the design of your annual report, it also showcases your impact in a way words cannot. You know the tired but true cliche: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Make your report accessible 

The world has gone digital. That means your annual report must too.  Make your report as accessible as possible through digitalization. While it may still be beneficial to create a physical version of your nonprofit’s annual report, chances are most people will be accessing it online. By converting your report into a PDF, you’re ensuring that it will not only be available to read on your website, but that readers will also be able to share the link with others. 

Try to Avoid Errors

Yes, listing out hundreds of donor names is tedious. Double-checking to make sure those names are correct is even more tedious. Keep in mind that these very donors are the people that make your work possible. Taking the time to ensure that you’ve included every donor and spelled their name correctly is a sure-fire way to show your supporters you care.

Invite Your Readers to Get Involved

You’ve just wowed your readers by showing them all the amazing work you did over the past year. Now is the perfect time to tell them how they can continue to support your mission. Make sure your annual report includes information on all the different ways people can support you. Include a direct link to your online donation page, and make sure you’re including links to your social platforms as well. Write a quick recap on all the ways people can donate funds or volunteer their time.

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