3 Quick Tips to Make Your Nonprofit Annual Report Stand Out

3 Quick Tips to Make Your Nonprofit Annual Report Stand Out

An annual report is a document compiled every year that details a nonprofit’s biggest accomplishments. It’s designed to thank readers for their contributions—donations, volunteer hours, fundraising event attendance, and more—and inspire them to continue to give in the future.  

But designing your nonprofit’s annual report is often easier said than done. After all, it’s more than a bulleted list of achievements. Additionally, almost every nonprofit publishes an annual report, so how can you be sure that your supporters will be truly impacted by yours? 

It all starts with having the right strategies on your side. When you take the right approach to compiling and refining your annual report, it can be a powerful marketing and fundraising tool that compels readers to take action for your cause.

In this short guide, we’ll get you started by covering three quick tips to help your nonprofit annual report stand out. They’ll empower you to take your next annual report from good to great. Let’s dive in!

Why Your Annual Report is Worth Getting Right 

First, let’s take a closer look at the “why” behind creating a strong annual report. 

Of course, the ultimate purpose of an annual report is to help you retain your current supporters and attract new ones. But to help you accomplish this overarching goal, your annual report should: 

  • Provide concrete evidence of the progress you’ve made toward accomplishing your mission
  • Help you stay accountable to your community by including information about your financial performance and governance practices 
  • Thank your donors, volunteers, board members, and sponsors for their support 
  • Encourage further action to help you accomplish more for your cause  

Ensure that your annual report serves these purposes by designing it as an outward-focused asset, rather than a pat on the back for your internal team. In other words, keep your report’s audience top of mind as you create it, considering the information they want and need to know to feel inspired to continue contributing to your work. 

Now, let’s dive into our three tips for taking your annual report to the next level. 

1. Include the essential elements. 

While there are a number of options for how you present your annual report, from a traditional bound book or brochure to an online PDF or interactive report, there are certain elements that you should include no matter what. 

Incorporating these essential elements into your annual report will help you transform it into a marketing and fundraising tool: 

  • Mission statement: Not everyone who encounters your annual report will be a dedicated supporter of your cause, so include your mission statement and an introduction to what your organization is all about. Provide this information at the beginning of your report so readers will be able to connect all that your organization does back to your cause. 
  • Major achievements: This is where you celebrate all that your organization has done in the last 12 months. For example, you could discuss the new facility you opened, specific services you delivered, or how successful your charity auction was. If possible, share specific metrics. You might include the total number of hours your volunteers worked in the last year, or how much you raised during your annual campaign.
  • Account of major contributions: List out the names of your major contributors, including major donors, staff members, board members, and volunteers, and thank them for all they’ve done. 

When you include these elements in your annual report, you can rest assured that your report includes something for everyone, from the donor who has been giving to your organization for decades to the supporter who recently followed you on social media and is considering whether to volunteer. 

2. Incorporate compelling visuals. 

Annual reports contain a lot of information, which naturally makes them quite dense to read. That’s where visuals come in handy. They can engage your audience by breaking up heavy blocks of text, making complex data easy to understand, and helping readers visualize the impact your organization has had over the last year. 

Here are some tips for incorporating visuals into your annual report: 

  • Use your brand. According to Kwala, your brand is everything that makes your nonprofit stand out from other nonprofits. Use it to your advantage in your annual report to catch current supporters’ eyes and pique the interest of new supporters. Make sure to include your logo and slogan and keep everything consistent with your other branded assets (like your website or social media profiles) by using your brand’s set colors and fonts. 
  • Include images of real people in action. While it may be useful to include some illustrations or graphic icons in your report, prioritize using images of real people. These images will help your readers identify with your mission as they put themselves in the shoes of your beneficiaries, volunteers, and other groups you feature. 
  • Leverage infographics to communicate data. Infographics make complex data and statistics more accessible and memorable. For example, you might use an infographic to communicate the growth and impact of your organization’s legacy gift program
  • Create a video. If you’re presenting your annual report in a digital format, you could include a video as part of it. The video could sum up your entire annual report, highlight your organization’s most significant accomplishment this year, or share the story of a beneficiary whose life was changed by your services. 

While compelling visuals are essential for making your annual report stand out, remember not to overdo it. Include plenty of negative space in your annual report to provide a little visual breathing room for your audience. This will also help your report appear more professional and polished. 

3. Encourage further action. 

When a reader reaches the end of your nonprofit’s annual report, you want them to feel inspired to take some sort of immediate action to start or continue to support your cause. After all, while your report celebrates past accomplishments, what really matters is securing support for your work today and down the line. 

Use these ideas to inspire further action in your annual report readers: 

  • Highlight specific individuals’ contributions. Sharing specific examples of people who have contributed to furthering your mission can help your readers picture themselves making a difference. It can be helpful to include real pictures of and quotes from these individuals (with their permission, of course). 
  • List specific ways readers can get involved. Educate your readers about the many ways they can get involved. You could create a list of upcoming volunteer opportunities, include a how-to guide on corporate matching gift programs, or link out to your online donation form or social media profiles. According to DonorSearch, offering a variety of involvement opportunities is especially critical for donor stewardship, but this can also be a great way for new supporters to see how they can take their first steps toward making a difference. 
  • Direct your readers to resources for learning more about your work. The best annual reports will get readers excited about exploring other aspects of your organization’s work. Point your readers in the direction of the educational resources on your website, such as your blog, podcast, or recorded webinars. 

The language you use in your annual report will also be important for encouraging your readers to act. Write specific and concise calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your report, such as “Be a hero today—give your own donation now!” or “Volunteer in the fight to end cancer.” If your report is digital and can include links, you can create CTA buttons that lead to action pages on your website. 

Your nonprofit’s annual report doesn’t have to be another run-of-the-mill document. Instead, by using these three tips, you can create a report that stands out and helps you with your larger marketing and fundraising goals. You’ve got this!

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