Annual Report

Make no mistake: an annual report is definitely a marketing document! Nobody wants to read dry, boring annual reports that feel like they were written by an accountant. Annual reports are important marketing tools. In addition to describing the nonprofit’s accomplishments for the year, a good annual report builds investor confidence, lays out future plans, and sells the nonprofit’s mission.

The Mission Statement tells people what your nonprofit does. I put the mission on the front cover of this annual report and then explained it on the next page. I also included a photo and background of one of the animals the sanctuary helped, which puts a face to the mission. Later on, I used a full page to lay out their Core Values and Vision Statement, both of which I helped them to write.
Detailed financial statements will put most readers right to sleep. I presented the P&L as a summary with clear, simple pie charts. I directed people who want to know more to the IRS Form 990, which I put on the sanctuary’s website. Restricted funds can be hard to understand, so I made a separate page explaining them and included descriptions of some major projects.
Nonprofits are all about personal connections, so this Annual Report includes short letters from the Executive Director (which was me at the time) and the Board President. These letters are a great place to address topics that may not fit elsewhere in the document.
The best way to show people quickly what your nonprofit does is through stories and pictures. What could be a more compelling story than a pregnant bison? And it also provided an opportunity for another call to action: supplies and equipment for the baby. On the last page, instead of a dry list of animals (e.g., “we’ve rescued three bears, two wolves, three owls…”), a visual grid puts names and faces to the animals for a much better attention-grabbing display.
If you want your supporters to continue supporting you, thank them. The volunteer page shows where volunteers spent their time, which gives potential new volunteers ideas about how to help. It also calls out by name the top volunteers and shows the threshold (80 hours) to make the list. The donor page not only names the top donors, but gives examples of the impact smaller donations make. Again, recognize the major supporters, but show people what $50 can do.

Making your annual report attractive—and carrying your branding through every single page with fonts, colors, logo, and consistent layout styles—makes it more memorable and turns a simple recital of financials and accomplishments into a sales tool you’ll want to send out to every prospective donor and grantor.

Tools used for this project

  • Microsoft Excel for charts and graphs
  • Microsoft Word for composing and editing text
  • Adobe Photoshop for editing photos, creating graphics, and drawing maps
  • Adobe InDesign for document design and layout
  • Adobe Acrobat for optimizing the final PDF for distribution