How to Create a Compelling Annual Nonprofit Report This New Year

By Ilia Jones | January 2022


Now that we have welcomed in the new year, it may be time for your nonprofit organization to start planning and strategizing your annual report. 

Every year, nonprofits and for-profit businesses alike create reports for their board members or shareholders to showcase their performance over the past year. An annual report is, at its essence, a snapshot and year in review rolled into one document. It can illustrate the progress made in key areas as well as the total impact of an organization in the last twelve months. These reports contain essential financial information and data and the progress of other initiatives such as environmental impact or the number of people served and their demographics.

So, with all of these significant but potentially dry numbers and data to present, how can you keep things exciting and inspiring? 

Add Visual Interest with Inspiring Images

Add a selection of inspiring images from the past year to break up all the charts, graphs, and data points. Use pictures and photographs that tell the story of your nonprofit to remind the board of what you are working toward. 

Try a variety of page layouts and formats to keep things visually interesting, such as using large photographs alongside a page of charts or smaller images interspersed through a more text-heavy section. 

Choose images and other visual elements that highlight or signify the information on the page. For example, if you're presenting data on your environmental efforts, use pictures of the outdoors or the people you serve enjoying nature. 

Leverage Your Brand Identity for a Cohesive Look and Feel

As with any other material created by your organization, your annual report should reflect your brand identity. The color scheme, typeface, logo, and brand voice should all be reflected in your annual report. The annual report should serve as a penultimate example of your nonprofit's brand!

To pull out all the stops, ensure that you use your brand colors for all of the charts and graphs and weave in other visual elements of your brand throughout the report. To keep things interesting, you could use a watermark of your logo to add depth to an otherwise text-filled page. Or, when selecting photographs and other images to go alongside the report's content, choose those that include your brand colors. 

Consider Going Hybrid with Print and Digital Annual Reports

It is customary to present your board with a high-quality printed annual report. The heft of the report in their hands, the texture of the paper, and the visual pop of your brand colors work together to create a document that conveys authority and expertise. Today, there are many options for printing and print finishing that can help you make a special printed annual report. 

However, since your team is putting so much effort and work into the annual report, why not share it more broadly in a digital format? 

A high-resolution PDF can be made available for download on your website, shared in your email newsletter to your donor base, or can even be promoted on social media. In an age when authenticity and integrity are everything, why not take this opportunity to allow potential donors to get to know you better?

Going digital with your annual report also allows you to add interactivity and navigation within the document to make it easier and more enjoyable for the readers. At a minimum, add links to the table of contents to allow readers to hop to the content they are most interested in. 

Don't Forget to Tell the Story

Your annual report is a chance to explain how the year went for your nonprofit organization. It's an opportunity to tell the story of obstacles that were overcome, goals that were achieved, and the wins, big and small, that should be celebrated. 

Using story and data together to illustrate the past year can be incredibly impactful. It can, especially when paired with the right images, quite literally bring what you've done to life! 

Rather than focusing on just the data, remember to describe how those numbers directly impacted your cause. Include first-person accounts, quotes, or other descriptions to illustrate the positive effect you've had at the individual level as well as on the whole. 

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Create a Unique Annual Report

All of the information above can help you create an annual report that this compelling and inspiring. But, are you looking for a little something that will make it stand out even more? Check out these tips and tricks to add a surprising element to your annual report. 

Create a Digital Version with An On-Paper Experience 

Platforms such as Issu, FlippingBook, or Flipsnack allow you to publish a digital version of your annual report that simulates the experience of reading a printed page. These platforms use elegant design and intuitive tools to allow readers to flip pages and see the gorgeous layouts you've created side-by-side, the way you intended for the print version. 

Build Your Report Into Your Website  

Building an interactive version of your annual report can create a unique experience for site visitors and those interested in learning more about your nonprofit. While it may take some extra effort to code, it takes something that is relevant for a brief moment in time and transforms it into evergreen content. 

Use Simple Equations to Prove Value

Rather than presenting charts and graphs and expecting your audience to intuit how those numbers translate to real-world impact, create an equation that does it for them. Prove the value of your contributions by walking through the formula from fundraised dollars to direct impact. For example, X + Y = Z; we raised X dollars, which combined with Y volunteers, led to Z impact on the community. 

Add VIsual Elements for a Skimmable Report

We understand that you want all your hard work and effort to be read and digested with as much care as you put into creating it. However, people have short attention spans! So, try sprinkling your report with little data bites, pull quotes, or other easy-to-understand bits of information. These bite-sized nuggets of information will get your point across to even those who can't be bothered to read every word. 

Creating Your Annual Nonprofit Report

Hopefully, we've given you plenty of ideas to help you create a compelling annual report for your nonprofit. It is possible to keep things exciting and inspiring even with so many dry numbers and data to present. 

Topics: Nonprofit Help

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