Annual Reports for Nonprofits

What Is An Annual Report?

An annual report is a publication sent to a nonprofit’s donor base letting them know how the organization has grown and changed over the past year. Annual reports can be physical paper reports sent by direct mail or they can be updates shared using email, photo galleries, infographics, videos, or even via a conference call.

How Do Nonprofits Use Annual Reports?

The best annual reports effectively communicate information regarding the previous year in hopes of building accountability and trustworthiness with their audience. In order to do this, organizations must use their annual reports for more than a recap of the year’s biggest events and fundraising campaigns. Nonprofits should use annual reports to share their accomplishments, thank donors for their contributions, give viewers an intimate look into their organization and the impact they’re making, and generally reiterate why the cause is worthy of support.

Best Nonprofit Annual Report Examples

charity: water

charity: water’s 2018 annual report is the definition of “less is more.” charity: water prioritizes readability by keeping things clean, concise, and leaving plenty of white space to give readers’ eyes a break every few pages. They remind their audience of their mission, quickly review financials, and then move onto highlighting specific groups who have benefited from their support, giving the report a personal touch. The color scheme, layout, and photos fit together seamlessly, leading to an easy and enjoyable reading experience.

best nonprofit annual report example - charity: water

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DREAM Charter Schools

DREAM Charter Schools thinks outside the box by turning their annual report into a virtual magazine using a third party platform called Issuu. DREAM does a mix of showing and telling by including photos, graphs, and infographics on almost every page. After a short letter from the board and a reiteration of their mission, DREAM details their impact to date and highlights specific students from their program. They make sure to thank all of their donors, give a look at what’s next for their organization, and close out with a list of ways their supporters can continue to actively support their mission. DREAM covers all of the bases of an effective annual report and keeps readers active and engaged by leaving it to them to flip the pages of the virtual magazine.

best nonprofit annual report example - dream virtual magazine

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Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code provides supporters with an interactive experience in their 2018 annual report, which is built directly into their website. Every page features animation that keeps readers engaged and interested. On one page they even allow you to choose which group you’re most interested in reading about. These interactive features, along with the inviting color scheme and valuable content (impact to date, current programs, student testimonials, and more), make this annual report both unique and impactful.


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How To Make Your Own Annual Report

Your annual report communicates important information about your nonprofit. Unlike many of the other reports you run, your annual report will be read by many stakeholders: your board of directors, major givers, partners, volunteers, and other supporters. That’s why it’s important it’s both accurate and well-designed.

You can use a word processing application like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, but the downside is these applications are designed to share information, not make it look good. There’s also professional design software like Adobe InDesign, but unless you have someone who is skilled in graphic design, it won’t be worth the investment.

The good news is, even if you don’t have the resources for a professional graphic designer, there are affordable and free options you can take advantage of. Online design software makes it easy for you to take your information from a Word document to a well-designed report.

We recommend that you take a look at these online design services, each with special nonprofit discounts to make your investment worth it:

Bottom Line

Annual reports are an important part of any donor-organization relationship. Annual reports are used to brief supporters on the impact the organization is having and ultimately remind readers of the importance of their mission.

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