How to Create an Annual Report for a Nonprofit That Supporters Actually Want to Read
Nonprofits pour their hearts and souls into creating annual reports for their donors and supporters.
But sometimes, it may feel like nobody actually reads it. So why go to the effort of making one?
Other than it being a requirement to display financial information to donors and supporters, nonprofit annual reports can be an exciting thing for your donors to get their hands on.
All you need to do is learn how to create an annual report for a nonprofit that supporters actually want to read!
What is an Annual Report for Nonprofits?
An annual report for nonprofits is a document that showcases the previous year’s accomplishments!
It’s a way to keep an organization’s supporters in the loop with the happenings behind the scenes.
Most organizations include stories, financial statements, and photos to inform readers and acknowledge amazing accomplishments with the help of contributors.
What Does an Annual Report Include?
If you haven’t created an annual report yet, you may be a little stuck on what to include. What do readers want to know? What do they need to know? And what can you leave out so they’re not bogged down with information?
A typical nonprofit annual report includes:
- A welcome letter from the president of the organization or another in a higher position
- An introduction to your organization and the annual report
- Your nonprofit’s mission statement
- Summary of the major highlights of the annual report
- Overview of the major projects over the previous year
- Financial information and statements
- 2-3 stories showcasing accomplishments
- Donor acknowledgement list
One of the major reasons why your organization should prioritize reporting (even if it’s not a beautifully designed report!) is to practice transparency among your donors.
Not to mention, if your nonprofit is tax-exempt through the IRS, then you’ll need to report your financial statements.
Nonprofit Annual Report Formats: How to Choose the Right One for Your Organization
Once upon a time, there was only one way to distribute a nonprofit annual report. That was by the traditional printing and mailing process.
While that’s still an option, there are other options should they work better for your organization and your supporters.
1. Physical Copy of Your Nonprofit’s Annual Report
A physical, paper copy of your nonprofit’s annual report was the sole way to stay transparent among donors.
For some organizations, this is still the best way to report the year’s successes. If your organization’s primary supporters prefer direct mail, then a physical copy of the annual report may still best serve your organization.
2. Digital Copy of Your Nonprofit’s Annual Report
If you’re looking for a budget and environmentally-friendly option, then a digital copy of your nonprofit’s annual report may be a better choice. This format also tends to be better for audiences that are younger or more digitally savvy!
The great thing about digital nonprofit annual reports is that you can create a more engaging experience. Through photos, video, and even clickable links, your readers can interact more with your annual reports, leaving them wanting to read it!
A digital annual report could be:
- A single, long-form video that discusses all of the components of an annual report
- A downloadable PDF that goes straight to your supporters’ inboxes
- An online document on your nonprofit website
- A “mini” site that includes a separate URL
If your curiosity is already piqued, then check out our free training of Yearly: A Digital Annual Report Builder!
Our Top 3 Tips on How to Create an Annual Report That Supporters Actually Want to Read:
No matter what format you choose when you create an annual report, there are a few best practices to always keep in mind.
Here are our top 3 tips on how to create an annual report that keeps your supporters engaged from page one to page done!
1. Use Compelling Imagery Where Possible
The wonderful thing about nonprofit annual reports is that you have the opportunity to tug (gently) on the heartstrings through the use of compelling imagery.
If you’re creating a physical copy of a year-end report, then use powerful photography from your projects.
And if you’re building a digital annual report, then you have more wiggle room with the type of imagery you include. You may decide to continue with still photography. But with certain report builders, like Yearly, you can incorporate nonprofit videos, too! This is a perfect way to repurpose content if you’re already utilizing video marketing to promote your mission.
No matter how you create an annual report, be sure to diversify your images to keep readers’ interest piqued. Showcase a variety of images that align with your mission, including the community you’re serving, staff members, and volunteers.
You can also use infographics to better convey statistics as they pertain to your organization! Those also count as compelling imagery.
2. Weave Stories Throughout Your Nonprofit Annual Report (Not Just Facts!)
Nonprofit storytelling is one of the most powerful skills you can learn if you’re writing any kind of marketing materials for your organization. That includes your nonprofit’s annual report!
Considering you’re highlighting the excitement and progress of your nonprofit from the past year, your annual report is the perfect place to tell stories that connect with your audience.
And how do you do that? Rather than solely telling facts, introduce your readers to real people you’ve helped in the last year. Introduce your readers to their struggles or heartaches.
Then, explain how your nonprofit helped them in any way!
While you can still use facts throughout your annual report, too many facts or infographics can cause readers’ eyes to glaze over. But stories are bound to keep them engaged.
3. Make It About Your Supporters, Not Just Your Organization
For the most part, many of the accomplishments from the previous year wouldn’t be possible without the help of your donors and supporters.
So, while it’s tempting to make the annual report all about how amazing the organization is, try to resist that.
Instead, keep your donors and supporters center stage. Show them what they did to help your nonprofit see the successes it did!
Reframe language so it starts with “you” instead of “we” or “our.” The purpose is to highlight just how much you appreciate the support from your contributors!
It can feel frustrating when you put so much time and effort into building a report. But by determining the best format for your report and using these best tips, you’re sure to create an annual report that your readers can’t wait to get their hands on!
And if you’re researching how to create an annual report for a nonprofit using digital tools, then let us introduce you to Yearly!