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According to an article in Funraise, a good nonprofit annual report contains several must-have elements. To illustrate their points, I thought it would be helpful to use a report that I designed for The Foundation for Delaware County. Below, I take you through these elements one-by-one:

1. Demonstrate Vision

The first key element is “Demonstrate Vision.” According to the article, “Give readers a taste of the year ahead by demonstrating a future vision as reflected in your director’s or board chair’s message.” This letter from Board Chair Robert N. Speare, Jr., Esq. and President Frances M. Sheehan does just that. For example, it tells readers to stay tuned for a new program. The program will provide management training, business development and peer support to the county’s nonprofits. Sure enough, within months, the foundation launched The Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

2. Top Level Financial Information

Second, financials are essential in a nonprofit annual report. “You should disclose top-level financial information, including revenue and expenses for the last year. Most nonprofits also provide a breakdown of their major revenue and expense categories.” Additionally, this report includes comments from the chairs of the investment committee. There is also a chart showing investment asset allocation.

3. Highlight Key Progress in a Way That’s Honest

“In addition to giving an account of the past year, your annual report is a way to celebrate the progress your nonprofit’s made towards its mission and vision.” This spread describes the challenges, goals and achievements of the foundation’s Women and Children’s programs.

4. Donor-Centered Impact Stories

“Find one or two awesome impact stories to include in your annual report and up the ante by telling the stories in a way that’s donor-centered, meaning bringing the donor into the story in an important role.” DONE!

5. Share Your Most Important Stats

“Pick a handful of the most important or interesting metrics to share with your audience, then put ’em into graphic form to make them more visually interesting.” These graphics illustrate key data about the county’s residents.

6. Put Your Best Faces Forward

We did that right on the cover.

7. Triple Check Your Lists of People

We checked our lists too many times to count. Tip: hire a really, really good proofreader.

8. Include a Call to Action

The report includes several calls to action. However, I thought I’d share these six on the back cover.

There are other factors that I think add to the quality of a nonprofit annual report:

  • Use professional photography.
  • Write with a clear and consistent voice.
  • Consider the flow from page to page.
  • Think about what your audiences want to hear. Not just what you want to tell them all about you.
  • Give your visuals space on the page to do their job. Bigger images. Fewer words.

If you’d like to talk about your annual report, please get in touch!