Writing an annual report is an important component of doing business as a nonprofit organization. When it is well written and visually pleasing, it can inspire potential donors to jump on board and donate money, initiate major gifts from corporations and foundations, and ensure that those who already donate to your organization keep on giving.
Whether you are new to writing annual reports or would like to improve the reports you already send out each year, we have created a step-by-step guide to help you write an annual report that is full of inspiration and a vision for the future.
- Brainstorm and create an outline
- Compile all of the information for your annual report
- Lay out your annual report so that it’s visually appealing
- Review and edit your annual report
- Distribute your annual report
1. Brainstorm and create an outline.
Before diving in and actually getting to work on writing your organization’s annual report, brainstorm and create an outline so that you and your team can organize all of your thoughts and ideas. Annual reports are packed full of information, and you want to ensure that all of the information flows in a pleasing and logical manner for the reader.
Your annual report should educate potential new donors to give money to your organization for the first time as well as inspire established donors to give more. When creating your outline, be sure to include plenty of feel-good success stories as well as a detailed explanation on how donations benefit the community you’re serving. Your annual report should be full of colorful pictures and pleasing graphics to hold the attention of the reader.
2. Compile all of the information for your annual report.
Now that you have brainstormed and created a basic outline of what to include on your annual report, it’s time to compile all of the data and graphics to include in the document. Gather information about your financials, what projects and initiatives their donations funded, how many people in the community were served, and what the goals and objectives are for the future.
Within your annual report, you should also include data and statistics about specific fundraising events and campaigns, highlighting how successful they were. Also, be sure to include personal stories from community members your nonprofit served.
3. Lay out your annual report so that it is visually appealing.
If your nonprofit doesn’t have a well-established public relations and marketing department with designers who can create a template for you, there are many templates you can download online for free or for a nominal fee. An annual report does not need to be book-length, but should at least contain a few pages, so you have enough space to include all of the pertinent information. Brochures and booklet size publications are ideal for annual reports.
Create a captivating cover page for your annual report so that everyone on your report’s distribution list has a clear understanding of what you are sending them. The first page of the report should be reserved for a letter by the CEO of your organization to donors and community members discussing the achievements, challenges, and visions for the future. The following pages should contain the “meat” of your annual report, which includes photos, stories, statistics, and graphs.
4. Review and edit your annual report.
After drafting your annual report, be sure to look it over with a fine-tooth-comb to ensure all of the data, information, and statistics are accurate. Consider assigning the editing task to someone on your team who did not help write the report for a fresh perspective. The drafted report should also be reviewed by the leadership executives of your nonprofit for approval before the report is distributed to stakeholders and the community. Once the editing process is complete, you can fine-tune the layout and get the report ready for final copy.
5. Distribute your annual report.
The final step of creating your organization’s annual report is to distribute it to your community. You can use your nonprofit’s CRM database to make this an easy and efficient task. First, determine who you are going to directly send the report to, whether it be corporate and major gift donors, donors who contribute “X” amount or more to your organization each year, or if you are going to send it to the entire community.
Distribute your annual report in a multitude of different ways, including by way of email, posting it to your organization’s website, and sending copies via direct mail. Use the bulk email function within your CRM software to send out electronic copies of the report.
Where can I find annual report templates and examples?
You can find plenty of templates and examples online that will help guide you through the process of writing an engaging annual report. For example, the Council of Nonprofits has an entire library of resources and templates to assist you with many topics regarding nonprofit business management.
An annual report is an essential business tool of any nonprofit, and it helps paint a picture of the mission of your organization. Not only does the annual report highlight how donor dollars were utilized throughout the year, but it also showcases your organization’s vision for the future. When done well, it can inspire community members to donate more and help you grow and create more of an impact well into the future.
Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.