How To Write A Nonprofit 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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