4 Ways to Improve Your Annual Report

We have the privilege of creating annual reports for our clients and have learned to improve them over the years. If you want to improve your organization’s annual report, here are 4 things to consider:


The first way to improve your annual report is to not call it an annual report. Donors have little time and a lot of information coming at them. Choose a name that sticks out from the rest and that reminds people of the importance of your work.

For example, if your organization provides clean water around the world, instead of labeling it as an annual report, call it “The Flow: Our 2021 Impact Report.” Whether your organization works with kids after school or serves refugees, use the title of your annual report to remind people of the importance of the work you do.

Here are some other generic alternatives to the phrase “annual report” worth considering:

  • Impact Report
  • Gratitude Guide
  • Stories to Celebrate
  • Transformation Digest

The annual report is an over-used title that doesn’t entice people to read. Give your report a title unique to your organization that will make it stand out and compel consideration. 


Donors give because they want to positively impact others. It is easy to talk about your organization at a high level: “thanks to your help, we were able to serve over 4,000 teenagers last year.” It is more compelling to make the impact personal: “Thanks to your generosity, we were able to serve teenagers like Monica.” Focus on the impact your organization has had on specific individuals (even if you need to talk about them under a pseudonym).  You will have the opportunity to emphasize numbers along the way: “and 4,000 teenagers just like her.”

There are other ways to make it personal:

  1. Share the story of one volunteer and why they invest their time in the organization.
  2. Describe the background of a board member that led them to this leadership role.
  3. Talk about a specific donor and why they choose to give money.
  4. Introduce readers to a staff member and their passion about your organization’s mission. 

The temptation is to merely talk about headlines and numbers. You don’t need to avoid those things. Put a face on your organization and its work!


Most annual reports follow a sequence: 

  • President’s letter
  • Program overview
  • Impact metrics
  • Financial overview
  • Leadership profile 

In addition to this sequence, consider building your report around a theme. Connect each section to the theme to give the report a unifying narrative. 

Imagine you are a pregnancy care center. You choose a theme: Her Journey. Here’s how you can incorporate it:

  • The president’s letter talks about how a pregnancy is a journey and how the organization supports women on this journey every step of the way.
  • The section on services can be called  the “milestones” along the journey: testing, prenatal care, ultrasound, and any other forms of support.
  • The impact metrics can be visualized like progress on a trail.
  • The financial overview and leadership profile can be jointly called “The Outfitters.”

Every year, you can pick a different theme that helps people grasp the larger story of what your organization is doing. 


The annual report can have more uses than as a single mailing or a document you post online. Here’s a few ways to get the most mileage out of your annual report:

  • Send it as a dedicated piece of direct mail.
  • Create a special email sequence with five different emails, each featuring content from different sections of the report.
  • Hand it out at meetings with donors or special events.
  • Create multiple social media posts featuring content from the report.
  • Feature it and link to it throughout your website. 

You may create it in the first quarter of the year, but you can use it for the rest of the year. Let us know if you need help crafting your donor communications!



P.O. Box 2541
Chattanooga, TN 37409

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