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The Best Nonprofit Annual Reports Have These 4 Things in Common

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The Best Nonprofit Annual Reports Have These 4 Things in Common

The best nonprofit annual reports have these things in common. A woman with glasses, wearing a black suit, smiles at her computer screen, pen in hand.


Nonprofit annual reports may not be required by the IRS, but there are lots of good reasons to consider compiling one at the end of the year.

Annual reports are a way for your nonprofit to communicate with transparency about your programs and finances... All while bragging a little bit about the amazing work you've done in your community!

And while they can come in many different shapes and sizes, the best nonprofit annual reports have these four things in common.

They Use Visuals Well

Traditionally, annual reports are printed behemoths – thick, glossy booklets with beautiful photos and eye-catching design.

But those kinds of reports are expensive and may be totally unrealistic for many organizations. You can definitely opt for a much simpler printed brochure or skip paper altogether; digital reports like infographics or full-length PDFs, virtual presentations, or even interactive websites have gained in popularity in recent years.

But there are two things those traditional annual reports get right that you absolutely cannot do without: beautiful photos and eye-catching design.

Few people will sit down to read your annual report if it isn't presented well. Your message, your impact data, and all of those heartwarming stories will be lost on your reader if they aren't accompanied by compelling visuals. 

Include high-quality photographs, infographics, charts, and other design elements that reflect your nonprofit's brand. 

Check NPO Centric's blog for information on defining your nonprofit's brand! >>

They Include Compelling Stories

The best way to communicate your impact is through story.

Think of the people at the center of your organization’s accomplishments this year. Who were the community members or staffers intimately involved with those successful initiatives?

Give those folks a call! Sit them down and invite them to tell their stories, from their perspective. Make it clear you'd like to use their words for your organization's marketing materials, and get their written consent to do so. 

Using the words of people who have been directly and positively impacted by your organization is how you'll get the stories that will hook your donors and communicate the worth of your work.

They Make Their Financials Interesting

Simplify  your organization's financials in a clear, concise, and transparent way. You'll want to address your revenue streams – where does your money come from? Name your biggest funders, sponsors, and donors.

Address your expenses, too. Take this time to explain how you spend your money and just what all of those donations have made possible. Be specific!

This isn't a section where you want to skip the graphics and charts, either! If you want to drive home your impact, make it not only digestible but appealing, too. Colorful, easy-to-understand visuals are important here.

They Show Gratitude for Donors and Supporters

Annual reports are ideal places to show gratitude. Include lists of staff, board, volunteers, funders, sponsors, and individual donors.

If you're a larger organization with a long list of any of those things, you may need to make some decisions around who to include. Maybe you name only executive or key staff, long-time volunteers or those with a certain number of hours logged, or donors above a particular level. Alternatively, you may choose to direct readers to a page on your website where all names can be found. 

Aside from including names, you'll want to find every opportunity to say “thank you.” Make sure it's clear that their donations, time, and energy are appreciated – that you know you couldn't do this work without them!

The Best Nonprofit Annual Reports Are Celebrations

…And they feel that way to readers, too! 

Showcase your organization’s accomplishments, and highlight the role your donors, volunteers, and supporters have played.

Keep it warm and authentic, and reflect on your success this year!


Join NPO Centric’s Membership programs for more resources like this one! >>