Along with year-end fundraising, accounting, and celebrations, the end of the year often means the beginning of the rush to put together your organization’s annual report. We know getting your annual report to the presses can be an intense process. Collecting and compiling data, verifying outcomes and financials, and building the report itself can seem like a daunting task.
You might be tempted to dial back your expectations and settle for reporting the bare minimum to meet compliance standards putting your focus on next year’s goals. STOP. It’s important to keep in mind that a great annual report can do what dozens of fundraising and reporting documents struggle to accomplish: effectively communicate your value to a wide range of stakeholders (including those all-important donors).
From the data compilation to the graphic design process, compiling an annual report can spark important and useful conversations about your organization’s identity, strategy, direction, and purpose. The best nonprofit annual reports synthesize the breadth and depth of your entire organization in a single, tightly crafted document (or webpage). And, once it’s done, a great annual report becomes the foundation for all of your PR and fundraising materials, not to mention grant applications and reports.
Keeping that information in mind, here are our top 5 picks from some of our customers who have created their own exceptional nonprofit annual reports. If you need help with yours, download our Nonprofit Annual Report Template.
1. Family League of Baltimore
Family League of Baltimore’s 2015 annual report uses a very clean, well-designed layout. By using a horizontal design instead of a vertical one, it allows them toinclude more space and make the template feel less crowded. The imagery is consistently on the left side, followed by a more detailed explanation of the content on the left.
One commonly overlooked feature when building an annual report is the table of contents. This is important because it let’s the reader know what to expect later on in your report, and where they can find specific information if they are interested in a specific element. To help with consistency, each page has a clear header that matches the subject listed out in the table of contents.
On page 11, Family League of Baltimore uses a unique map of Baltimore to demonstrate their investments in 2015. This map is just one example of how certain charts and graphs—when used correctly—can jump off the page at people. Consider finding a way to work in a heat map of your own, or a well-designed chart or graphic that will catch the reader’s eye.
2. Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland 2014 annual report does several things well to personalize their report and help the reader connect with the mission of the organization. From the cover page to the final page, Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland use large images of the children they work with day in and day out. These are not stock photos, but instead pictures of the actual students they serve.
This approach helps stakeholders and donors see where their money is going, and who is actually being served. In addition to using authentic photos to get the readers attention, quotes from individuals are used alongside their pictures. These quotes help give the photos some context, and can provide a powerful and inspirational message to the reader. It shows the impact that Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland has through the words of their students.
3. Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)
LAYC’s annual report from 2012 emphasizes the importance of formatting.There are several advantages to using a webpage to display your nonprofit’s annual report. The first being that it is indexable by Google and other search engines. This means that every time you use your organizations name, board member names, or any other key search phrases, you are increasing your nonprofit’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Another benefit to hosting your annual report on a dedicated webpage is that the reader doesn’t need to scroll though pages. The site can be set up with different sections, just as LAYC has done with the ribbons below their cover image. This helps the reader easily navigate the content, and choose where they want to visit. Websites are also easier to share with staff, colleagues, stakeholders, and anyone else who would like to see the annual report.
4. Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center
The primary focus of the 2015 annual report from Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center is the data itself. When positioned correctly, data can be a powerful way to tell your story. Large sums of data can be used to show the magnitude of the work that your nonprofit does, and just how many lives are affected.
To paint a picture of their participant demographics, the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center shows the data for the age, gender, and ethnicity of their participants. In addition to this visual representation for the readers, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center summarizes the most common type of victim they serve, and the most common type of alleged offender. Using data this way can truly give the reader a behind the scenes look at how much your organization does, who it serves, and why continued donations are important.
5. Healthy Families/Thriving Communities
One of the most underrated aspects of creating a great annual report is the color scheme. In the 2012 annual report by Healthy Families/Thriving Communities, they do an excellent job segmenting their annual report with design and color choice. You can begin to see the central color scheme unveil on page 7, where they use different colors to show how there are five Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives that operate across the District of Columbia.
The same blue, green, orange, and yellow colors can be seen throughout this annual report. This makes it easy for Healthy Families/Thriving Communities to separate categories like “Family Development Credentialing,” “Professional Development Training,” and more, all while on the same page. At the same time, they use these colors to differentiate the demographic information captured on their intake form on page 14.
Hopefully these examples of annual reports from several high-performing nonprofits have inspired and energized you! How do you keep track of all the data you use in your annual report? Pen and paper? Excel? Third-party software? To learn a little more about what exactly nonprofit software is and what it can do for your organization, visit our website, or continue reading how you can begin measuring your nonprofit’s impact.