How To Write Your Nonprofit's Annual Report

Here are some tips for leaders responsible for writing an effective annual report for their nonprofit organization.

Consider making these objectives for your report:
  • To demonstrate accomplishments (not activities) (results and how you did it).
  • To recognize important people (volunteers, donors, major funders, partners).
  • To provide an account of your organization's work for the past year.
  • To share your mission with a wide audience.
  • To generate new donations, retain donors and grow partnerships.
Consider these audience sectors when writing your report:
  • Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Community leaders
  • Future board members
  • Supporters (in-kind)
  • Elected officials 
  • Potential partners, grant funding entities
Allow three to four months to prepare your report:
  • Create and outline
  • Gather an organize content
  • Engage your management team
  • Design
  • Review/Proof
  • Print
  • Distribute
Consider packaging your report with a theme, such as one of these:
  • Transformation
  • Day in the life
  • Milestones
  • Critical issues
  • Progress toward the future
  • New undertakings
  • Milestone anniversary
Present your financials with:
  • Pie charts and bar charts (use five or less elements in your pie charts)
  • Numbers and percentages
  • Explanations about where your revenue comes from and how the money is spent
Include at least these sections and elements in your report:
  • Executive Director letter
  • Accomplishments/Achievements
  • Financials
  • Donor list
  • Board of Directors list
  • Call to action
  • Lots of photos
  • Stories (profiles) to highlight your successes

And before you start preparing your next report, use this checklist:
  • Who will help prepare the report?
  • Do we need to engage an external freelancer (writing and/or design)?
  • Who will write the Executive Director letter?
  • Are we gathering photos all year long so we have enough come time to prepare our report?
  • Is our donor list accurate and up-to-date?
  • What will be our annual report's theme?
  • Will we distribute in print and/or online?
  • What are our best stories to tell?
  • What time of year will we release our report?
  • What are our three major accomplishments/achievements for the past year?
  • Who will double and triple check our reported financials and donor list for accuracy?
  • Where will we tell our key messages in different ways (Executive Director letter, photo captions, etc.)?
  • What calls to action will we include?


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