Your nonprofit needs to create annual reports — that’s a given. But in the information age, you want to offer people who read the report more than just the numbers. What people want to learn from your annual report is more about what your nonprofit has been doing all year. They want to know about the lives you’ve changed. Sharing this type of information in your annual report has the power to inspire current donors to keep giving and gives prospective donors a reason to get behind your cause.
Use Accomplishments to Engage
You want anyone who gets a copy of your annual report to actually read it. Like any printed marketing materials, people read stuff that captures their attention. You can easily grab their attention by making the first section of the document about what you’ve accomplished during the year.
By accomplishments, you don’t want to include a laundry list of activities your team has participated in throughout the year. For example, instead of documenting that your team participated in six neighborhood trash pickup events in a particular community, you might discuss the impact that had your nonprofit’s participation had on the community. So here, an accomplishment might be that your team inspired the community to take action and fly solo with its beautification efforts.
As you summarize your accomplishments, you might want to remind readers how they relate to your mission. It’s important to make the connection because some of your donors may not remember exactly what your mission is, and certainly, people you’d like to become donors won’t know at all.
Include Compelling Testimonials
Nothing grabs people’s attention quite like personal stories, so try to get as many real people impacted by your nonprofit as possible to share their stories. You can also include profiles of volunteers to inspire those who read your annual report. Their testimonials can have amazing impact on the amount of money you raise, the number of additional volunteers you attract and your nonprofit’s reputation.
The testimonials section of your annual report should include lots of photographs. Consider colorful backgrounds for those pages of the report — think red, green, yellow, orange and blue — and make the best quotes from testimonials appear in large fonts sizes to stand out on the pages. Videos don’t help sell your nonprofit in print, but you might include a writeup about any testimonial videos your create and where online people can find them. If you make your annual report downloadable, it’s a good idea to include hyperlinks to video testimonials in the document.
Get Creative With Your Financials
Full-color publications can be expensive to print. Because financials can take up lots of pages, a little creative thinking can help you share just the right amount of information you need for transparency’s sake. You might consider that not everyone understands financial reports, so their eyes might glaze if you provide too much detail. And, if you do include a full financial report, you might catch the eye of an overly critical person who enjoys scrutinizing the numbers, which you probably don’t want.
To make the section more appealing, consider pulling data from your donor tracking system to present highlights of your financials in the form of charts and graphs. You might also include short paragraphs explaining what the charts and graphs show — how you spent the
money raised for your organization. To keep everyone happy, you can post your full financial report on your website for anyone interested to download and make note of that in document.
Thanks, Plus a Call to Action
Your donors and volunteers are the reason your nonprofit continues to grow, so it’s a good idea to dedicate a section of your annual report specifically to say thanks. In this section, the testimonials of your founders or management team, which include you, have the greatest potential for impact. You want to let the donors know that you can’t do it without them.
You might think about adding your nonprofit’s donor list to your annual report, but that might not be possible if your list is too big. You like your full financial data, you might post your donor list online to download or give it to people upon request.
The final section of your annual report should include calls to action. Your nonprofit always needs money, so like the testimonials section, a call-to-action section asking for donations should have eye-catching images and graphics to inspire people to respond. A list showing your preferred donation amounts, the kinds of credit cards you accept, and whether you accept alternative kinds of donations — like stocks and bonds — work well in this section. In some cases, you may need more volunteers so you might dedicate a page in the annual report that talks about the kinds of volunteer positions available and how to apply.
Your annual report should be as interesting and engaging as any other marketing materials you create to educate people about your nonprofit. If you think of the process of putting together your annual report as creating a magazine, you stand a good chance of growing your donor base, and volunteer base, in the process.