Annual reports for nonprofits are evolving to be more reader-friendly and engaging. While not all organizations are required to complete an annual report, they can be excellent tools for increasing awareness of a cause, encouraging fundraising, demonstrating results, and displaying gratitude for the many donors that have given in the past year. There are several key elements nonprofits should focus on when compiling their annual reports, not the least of which is creativity.

Infographic reporting

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide reviewed a recent annual report that was released in the form of an infographic. Originally, the Poudre River Public Library District had a 32-page report detailing the funds they raised and the growth they saw over the span of the previous year. The problem with this type of written report is that not many people plan on reading 32 pages of facts and figures. The infographic created instead of a wordy document featured colorful pie charts, digestible numbers, and short letters from the executive director and president of the board of trustees. The imagery made the library’s report more engaging, especially as the organization was able to post it on social media sites and receive feedback.

Digital reporting

In the same vein as an infographic, Nonprofit Marketing Guide noted that digitized versions of annual reports lend more flexibility to nonprofits. Compiling facts and creating content becomes less urgent and edits to the finished product could be made up until the day before releasing the report live. It’s also possible to use Web analytics to determine how users are discovering the report online and how much time they spend reading it. With paper reports, there is no way of knowing whether or not donors and potential contributors actually take the time to read the information presented. However, printed items that are physically held may have a stronger emotional impact on a reader. If this aspect is important to an organization, sending out postcards featuring snippets of the infographic or site details is a great way to keep donors involved and aware.

Focus on accomplishments

Every great annual report, no matter the platform or format, must convey the accomplishments of a nonprofit during the year covered. First Nonprofit Foundation pointed out that readers can’t automatically infer how activities led to accomplishments. Rather than simply listing the actions taken by an organization, focus on the outcomes and the results. Think about the reason and meaning behind the work completed over the course of a year. If possible, harness the power provided by real testimonials from those that have been affected by the organization directly. These stories are more powerful than listing events hosted.

Call to action

Remember that this annual report is still a fundraising tool. Make sure calls to action are present and readers learn how they can participate and make a difference in the lives of others. Do not forget to offer thanks and extensive gratitude for those that have already given their time, energy, and funds to the cause.