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What to Include in Your Nonprofit Annual Report


Have you started thinking about your organization’s annual report yet? In the midst of planning GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising campaigns—plus all your day-to-day responsibilities—it’s probably not at the top of your to-do list.

But don’t fret! We have a slew of tips PLUS three outstanding examples to help you put together a stellar annual report and give your year-end fundraising a boost.

What’s the purpose of an annual report?

Before we dive into how to develop an annual report, let’s first explore the purpose of them and the benefits they serve for nonprofits. Generally speaking, a nonprofit annual report is designed to accomplish the following four objectives:

  • Showcase your organization’s impact on the community
  • Provide transparent financial data
  • Express gratitude to your supporters, donors, and volunteers
  • Outline your initiatives for the coming year

In other words, an annual report sheds light on the financial aspects of your operations. It is a detailed set of documents that provides your audience with a recap of what you have done over the past year and gives them a glimpse of your plans for next year.

What should you include in an annual report?

The scope and length of your annual report will vary based on the size of your organization, how much money you have raised, and various other factors. That said, virtually every annual report should include the following details:

  • Your mission statement
  • A list of accomplishments and successful initiatives
  • Detailed financial reports
  • Volunteer and donor spotlights

By incorporating these components in your annual report, you can engage with your audience, demonstrate transparency, and showcase the impact your organization has made over the past year.

And now for a few examples… 

With the “why” and the “what” out of the way, here are three examples to help you gain a better understanding of what the final product should entail.

  1. The 2021 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) annual report superbly demonstrates how to blend quantifiable data with real-world stories to elicit powerful emotions from its  readers. In its annual report, the BBBSA provides information about the children it helps and emphasizes the critical role that “Bigs,” or adult mentors, play in the lives of its program participants.
  2. American Leprosy Missions’ 2021 annual report is much more concise than the BBBSA’s, but it’s still packed with extremely valuable information. What’s more, it uses an infographic-style format to make all of its content easy to digest. The organization also includes a detailed breakdown of its revenue, expenses, and liabilities, which exhibits the sort of transparency that is very appealing to donors.
  3. The Desert Botanical Gardens adopted a storytelling approach when creating its annual report. Each page of the report pairs powerful visuals with a few fast facts that provide quantifiable information about the organization’s work over the past year. Pairing volunteer spotlights with measurable data is a great way to make supporters feel valued while also conveying timely and relevant information to the reader.

Want to make your annual report stand out?

While detailed financial documents are the foundation of any annual report, most donors and supporters will focus on your accomplishments and successful initiatives. With that in mind, there is still time to plan an year-end giving campaign that can be featured in your annual report.

To learn more about creating a successful year-end fundraising campaign that propels your nonprofit toward its goals, download our comprehensive year-end fundraising toolbox and check out our 8 Weeks of Year-End Fundraising Resources.

Questions?We’d love to help.

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