Best Practices for Your Nonprofit Annual Report

Discover the best practices to make your nonprofit annual report an impactful communication tool. It’s an opportunity to celebrate and communicate your impact and mission to donors.


You grow healthier relationships with donors through consistent communications. Use your annual report as a way to give donors a glimpse into the people who are serving and benefitting from your organization’s work.


What’s the balance between being informative without overloading donors with content? There are some essential elements you need to cover while being efficient with your words.


Is your report consistant with your brand and easy on the eyes? There some essential visual elements to consider while designing your report. You want donors engaged before they read a word.


Annual reports can be used all year long. There are at least five ways you can promote your report to make sure you get the most out of your yearly marketing masterpiece.

Essential Content for Your Annual Report

Resist the urge to cram as much content into your report as possible. Instead, focus on being efficient and effective with your words.

Letter from the Leader (1 page)

Donors deserve to hear from the person who is leading the organization. This letter sets the tone for the entire report. They need to hear the achievements and challenges your organization faced over the past year. Make sure you include at least one ambitious goal you have for the year ahead. Conclude it with gratitude for their generosity.

Mission + Metrics (2-4 pages)

Remind donors why you exist. State your mission and then get to the heart of your impact. Share key impact metrics. How many people did you impact? How many places did your organization reach? How many different outcomes can be measured?

Program Overview (4+ pages)

The size of this section depends on the number of programs and services your organization offers. It’s just an overview, not a technical guide. Use this section to highlight what you do and where you do it. Include at least one picture and one key stat with each program.

Impact Story (2 pages)

As important as numbers are, donors need to know the difference you are making in someone’s life. You need a representative impact story. Include a picture of the person if possible and describe how their life is better as a result of the work you are doing.

Financials (2 pages)

You need to present both the income and expenses for the year. You don’t need a line item budget but you do need to show how much money went to programs and how much was required for operations. If expenses exceeded income, make sure you provide a few sentences to provide an explanation. Use this page to highlight your audit or any other third parties who have endorsed your organization.

Testimonial (1 page)

You need someone to speak on your organization’s behalf. It can be a board member, corporate partner, donor, foundation leader, or beneficiary. But you need to include someone’s voice other than your own who can build credibility. A quote will suffice!

Leadership (2 pages)

Who are the key leaders of your organization? You have to include the executive team and board of directors. If your organization is small, you can include the entire staff.

Looking Forward (1 page)

As great as the last year has been, your organization is forward looking. State at least one ambitious goal or challenge for the next year. It will remind your donors why your nonprofit needs their ongoing support.

Design Principles for Your Annual Report

People look at your report before they decide to take the time to read it. The layout should make it easy and inviting to read.

Keep it simple.

People don’t have time. If the report looks long or crowded with content, they’re going to pass on reading it. They want to learn but they don’t want to read a short novel. You’d rather have more empty space than too many words on a single page.

Give it a theme.

You need a template, shape, or component to run through the entire report that ties it all together. For example, if you use a circle on the front cover, use a circle throughout the report. It will make it easy on the eyes if readers aren’t presented with different colors and layouts on every page.

Make people big.

Photos are your best content. If you have good photos of the people you serve, make them bigger than you normally would. It will serve as a subtle reminder that people are the biggest part of your organization.

Get More Out of Your Annual Report

You put a lot of effort into your annual report. Now it’s time to get some mileage out of it. There are ways you can use it all year long.

Print and mail it.

Print your annual report and put it in the mail. It’s a simple and effective way to let your donors know how thankful you are for their partnership.

Transform it into an email series.

You can easily create a series of emails based on the different parts of the annual report.

Email 1: Celebrate achievements

Email 2: Tell your impact story

Email 3: Share your key impact metrics

Email 4: Highlight the testimonial from a donor or board member

Post it to your website.

You don’t have to post your report as a PDF! You can make an entire page out of it and share a link through social media and email.

Repurpose it for social media.

Every stat can become its own social media post. Pull out quotes and publish them on Facebook and Instagram. Create a trickle of posts over the course of weeks from all the content in your report.

Hand it out at meetings.

Every time you meet with a donor or foundation representative, take the annual report with you. Even if they already received it, you can refer to it during your meeting as a way to highlight specific talking points. If you have a banquet or golf tournament, make sure everyone gets a copy.

Roundtree can help your organization write, design, and promote your annual report. Get an instant proposal to learn more about our process.

Tell us a little about your organization and we’ll send a proposal immediately to your inbox!

Nonprofit Annual Report Proposal

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P.O. Box 2541
Chattanooga, TN 37409

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