Skip to content

Mastering the Art of the Nonprofit Annual Report


Marketing Strategies for Success

Putting together a nonprofit annual report can be overwhelming. You know you’ve got to do it, but you find yourself procrastinating each year because putting it together is a big lift that strains your team’s capacity. And we don’t blame you. But what if you could get ahead of the game?

Whether you just completed and published your annual report, are still wondering what else to do with it, are held up waiting for your team’s various contributions to roll in, or looking for strategies to improve next year’s process, this blog will help.

Keep reading to review what elements a nonprofit annual report should have and how to set yourself up for success when the next report hits your to-do list.

What is a Nonprofit Annual Report?

A nonprofit annual report is an external-facing resource highlighting your organization’s journey over the past year. It’s your chance to showcase all the amazing work you’ve done, from the groundbreaking projects you’ve launched to the lives you’ve touched along the way.

But wait, there’s more! It’s not just about patting yourselves on the back (although you totally deserve it). Your annual report serves a bigger purpose. It’s an opportunity to showcase transparency and accountability to your funders because they want to know their hard-earned dollars had an impact. 

Not only does an annual report validate the contributions of your existing donors, but it can also help you acquire new ones.

Essential Components of an Annual Report

Annual reports typically follow a similar format across all sorts of nonprofits. Here are the basic elements it should include:

  • Table of Contents: This element doesn’t need much of an explanation, but don’t skip it, as it helps readers navigate through your report. 
  • Letter from Leadership: An opening letter from leadership is your chance to give a TL;DR version of your report. The letter is essentially an executive summary that summarizes the content and offers a message of inspiration, gratitude, and vision. 
  • Mission and Impact Statement: Before you dig into the year’s accomplishments, remind readers why your nonprofit exists in the first place. What’s your mission and vision? What high-level impact have you had? This is your chance to shout it from the rooftops (or, you know, the pages in this case).
  • Present Data Visually: Before transitioning to narrative descriptions of program highlights, event recaps, or success stories, include one page visually demonstrating the year’s impact. Use infographics, data visualization, and visual impact statistics that are easy for the reader to digest. Check out this example for some inspo.  
  • Program Highlights and Success Stories: Your program highlights and success stories are the heart and soul of your annual report. This section is where you showcase the real impact you’ve made in the lives of those you serve. Share heartwarming success stories, impressive stats, testimonials, infographics, and more to enhance the storytelling of your annual report. 
  • Future Goals and Vision: What’s next for your nonprofit? What big dreams are you chasing? Your annual report is the perfect platform to share your vision for the future and rally your supporters around your cause.
  • Financial Overview: Your financial overview is like the roadmap of your nonprofit’s financial journey over the past year. Where did the money come from? Where did it go? If you want more donors in the future, transparency is key!
  • Acknowledgment of Supporters and Donors: Your supporters and donors are the unsung heroes behind your nonprofit’s success, and it’s time to give them the recognition they deserve. Whether it’s a heartfelt thank-you letter or a shout-out in your annual report, make sure they know how much you appreciate them. 

You could also include sections focusing on organizational media mentions, leadership and staff shout-outs, special events, or publications and research you produced. Tailor the essential elements to what makes the most sense for your organization. 

Logistical Considerations

Depending on your organization’s capacity, developing an annual report can take 6-12 weeks (or more if you’re a small team). Planning for those 6-12 weeks can tack on even more time because you need to have clear plans for all the moving parts, some of which include: 

  • Developing a production schedule
  • Identifying team roles and responsibilities
  • Setting objectives for the annual report
  • Outlining key elements and required collateral
  • Collecting and synthesizing stories, testimonials, and data
  • Organizing financial statements 
  • Designing and publishing the report

And if you’ve already submitted your nonprofit’s annual report for this year, reflect on how the process went. If it was a hot mess, perhaps consider outsourcing the hardest parts next time. 

Level Up Your Nonprofit Annual Report: Hire a Nonprofit Marketing Agency

Working with a nonprofit marketing agency can lessen the load your team carries, breathe new life into how you approach design, and elevate the narratives you write to tell impactful stories. 

And while it may seem counterintuitive, investing in outsourced support can actually save you money in the long run. By streamlining your content development process and maximizing efficiency, you can reduce overhead costs and allocate resources more strategically. This means your team can dedicate more time and energy to the projects that drive your mission forward. 

Hiring a nonprofit marketing agency also opens doors to new ideas and innovative strategies. An agency can inject fresh creativity into your design elements and experiment with storytelling techniques to help your nonprofit stand out. Together, you can create annual reports that inform and inspire, fostering deeper connections with your donors, supporters, and, most importantly, those you serve. 

If you’re ready to level up your nonprofit’s annual report, book a call with us today. And be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for more clever tips and tricks to elevate your nonprofit’s marketing strategies.