6 Annual reports to inspire your organization
Annual reports are a staple of nonprofit life. They’re a powerful tool for communicating your impact, but what makes an annual report effective? It helps if they’re easy to understand, shareable, and engaging across a broad audience. To save money, time, and effort while putting together your annual report, we’ve compiled nonprofit annual report examples to help give your organization inspiration and a comprehensive guide to get you started.
Annual report essentials
Before we look at our exemplary annual reports, let’s go over some annual report necessities. To have an effective annual report, you’ll need to make sure it’s informative, emotionally moving, and empowering. You can achieve this by including these elements:
- Table of contents
- Your nonprofit’s branding
- Lots of photos/interactive elements (shouldn’t just be a PDF)
- Your story, mission, and vision statements
- Data that is presented in a visually appealing way
- Quotes from those you serve and/or your supporters
- List of tiered donors
- Highlights of events and milestones throughout the year
- Financial statements
- A letter from the president/board chair
You don’t have to jam all of these components into your annual report if they don’t reflect your goals. In fact, you can customize your annual report to only include the information relevant to what your donors and prospective supporters want to know. Before drafting your first annual report, be sure to extensively plan with your team and board so you cover all of your desired information.
1. Pathfinder International
Pathfinder International’s annual report combines thoughtful web design, powerful graphics, individual stories, and gorgeous portraits to vividly showcase their beneficiaries. While they use visually appealing graphics to highlight their data points, they never overshadow the focal points of the report: the people at the center of the organization.
One of our favorite parts is their “Pushing Impact” section. It communicates how primary health services have been strengthened in the wake of COVID-19. Additionally, they detail how their post-abortion care program in Tanzania has impacted health facilities as a whole in the region.
The page combines clean data visualization and concise, bulleted information on how Pathfinder responded and made an impact while still giving those served the spotlight on the page. It’s a clear and simple way to show their accomplishments while keeping the focus on the people keeping their programs alive.
While many nonprofits present their annual reviews in a static PDF format, there are more hands-on options that you can pursue. For instance, the WNET group’s “Year In Review” series uses viewer interaction to create a dynamic story beyond attractive web design. The most notable feature of this report is the viewer’s ability to expand the information they want to learn more about. It allows more engagement beyond simply scrolling on a PDF, making it more likely supporters will absorb the information.
3. The Humane Society
The Humane Society’s annual report has so much to love, and they make this clear with appeals to emotion on every page. Showing photos of a wide array of animals demonstrate how their programs benefit hundreds of species across the country. Readers will likely see their favorite animals featured, which strikes an emotional chord and endears the Humane Society to them.
Besides their impactful graphics, they provide clear and concise information about the year’s progress alongside compelling copy and analytics. Throughout the report, they keep the focus on their beneficiaries while still highlighting the organization’s important updates.
4. The American Kidney Fund
The American Kidney Fund uses eye-catching graphic design, but what they do best is centering the donor’s impact. This impact summary page speaks directly to supporters and gives them credit for changing lives instead of the organization alone. It also summarizes 2021 metrics and milestones by combining colorful illustrations and bolded statistics. By using the second person paired with impactful analytics, the American Kidney Fund offers donors valuable reasons to give again in the future while presenting their impressive impact statistics.
5. Broadway Cares
Broadway Cares demonstrates the importance of consistency while creating annual reports. To boost user-friendliness, it’s imperative to make sure readers can easily access the information they’re looking for. By hosting the information directly on their website (without downloads and with a convenient drop-down menu selection) patrons can track their impact over the years, no matter how long they’ve been donating.
6. Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution annual report is comprehensive. One of its best features is how it weaves the narrative of “Rising to the Challenges in Two Years of Crisis” throughout the report to combine storytelling with data-informed impact. Brookings also contextualizes their report with current events such as the pandemic and social justice movements regarding racial disparities and injustices in public life. This highlights how, in spite of a challenging period, they remained committed to producing a high volume of real-time, thoughtful analysis and practical policy recommendations.
While there are numerous elements that all annual reports share, the report should be unequivocally yours. Your annual report should always be written so your supporters can tell who your organization is, what your purpose is, and how you’re creating an impact. With unique brand language and content that you structure around your goals and how you reached them, your organization can make sure your annual report is an effective, personal, and inspiring tool for connecting with existing and future supporters.