Annual Report – It’s Not Too Early to Start

This year is winding down quickly!  We want to encourage you to think of your next annual report and make note of your accomplishments this past year while they’re fresh in your mind.  The financial component of your report is a given, but your story elements are essential to capture.

Below we have 5 key elements every thriving nonprofit incorporates into their annual report.  Your story helps insure your report connects with the heart of your reader.  This connection is powerful as it affirms your supporters in their role within your story and extends and invitation for others to join with you.

Take a look and see if you can find some new inspiration for your next annual report:

1.  Mission Statement
I realize this seems obvious, however the information provided in your annual report needs to point back to how you’ve fulfilled your mission/vision.  You want to make sure your mission statement is clearly communicated and woven throughout your report.  Be sure to prominently show your statement within the first few pages to provide your reader with the right lens from which to view your accomplishments through.

2.  Accomplishments
You may be tempted to summarize all you have done in the past year, but be sure to focus on your accomplishments rather than just listing activities.  Accomplishments speak to how you’ve fulfilled your mission and made an impact on the lives of those you serve. When talking of accomplishments, be sure to add meaning by providing the detail on how these efforts came about.  Don’t assume your donors know the work and effort that goes into what you do.  Take this opportunity to let them know how their hard earned dollars and time has been skillfully used to fulfill your mission.

3.  Volunteer & Donor Testimonials
When you include personal testimonials you allow your most raving fans to champion your cause from the passion of their hearts.  They are your biggest supporters!  Let their words do the heavy lifting and explain why they have chosen to partner with your organization with their time and/or money.   Personal testimonies are incredibly effective in stirring hearts and evoking the kind of emotion you want to convey.

4.  Layout and Design
Layout and design are critical in creating a captivating report.  Key elements used by successful nonprofits are:

Pictures: You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  It’s true.  Go back through the pictures you’ve captured of over this past year and select your best!  Stock photos are okay; however, using photos of your own is much more meaningful and effective.

Engaging Elements: World Vision’s annual report has some great examples of how to use engaging elements to connect your reader with your accomplishments and mission.



  • The first thing you’ll notice it their dramatic use of photographs to connect you with their mission and cause
  • The mission statement is blocked out and given prominent placement alongsidethe President’s letter
  • Information is laid out in such a way your eyes can easily scan the page and capture its content
  • When the page has a lot of text, bolded text conveys its key points


For further design inspiration do a simple Google image search for, “annual report design” and you will have inspiration for days.  Likewise, pull up the annual reports of some of your favorite nonprofits and see how they approached their report.


5.  Call to Action
Take advantage of all the inspiration you have put into your annual report and give people the opportunity to join your story.  Let them know how they can support you with their time and/or a recurring donation.  Be clear about volunteer needs and how they can get involved.  Don’t let this beautiful opportunity pass without providing the opportunity for people to get involved and engage with your mission.


Remember, your organization’s story is as valuable as the story of those you serve.  As 2014 comes to an end, may the full weight of your organization’s story be felt by all who are connected with it.  Be bold as you incorporate who you are into your annual report and strive to make a sincere and deep impact within its pages.