Nonprofits are expected to provide the public with an annual report. This gives donors, volunteers, members of the community and others information about the organization’s accomplishments and growth over the past year. The report includes details about projects, success metrics, and more. The report serves several purposes, including recruiting volunteers, providing donors with an organizational vision, garnering community support and proving that the organization has kept records as they should.
By writing an effective report, you can help ensure that your nonprofit has the support it needs in the year to come. In other words, this might be one of the most important things you do each year. Successful nonprofits work hard to make their annual reports attractive, engaging, informative and accessible. What was once a typewritten report that only piqued the interest of a few people has certainly evolved. The annual report now comes in the form of interactive web pages, presentations and full-color brochures.
Should you choose to present your report, it should be accurate. Be sure to focus on your organization’s accomplishments, inspire people to get involved, share stories of the people you help and include all of the information mandated by law. Here are some tips on how to create an annual report that works for your organization.
1. Remember: compliance is important
Remember that this is also a compliance document. There are things you’re required to include in order to retain your nonprofit status. Creativity, appeal and other factors are important, but you must make sure you’re doing what’s required of you.
2. Identify what you want to accomplish
Rickie Ellis, head of marketing at Top Writers Review says, “Your report is going to cover what your organization has done over the past 12 months, but it will impact what happens in the future. So, you’ve got to have a clear idea of what you want your report to accomplish.”
What’s your call to action? If somebody with political pull, funds to donate or time to give reads your report, what do you want them to do next? How can your report help you accomplish your goals for the coming year?
3. Focus on your donors and volunteers
Let your volunteers and donors be the star of the annual report show. When you highlight your accomplishments, frame them as your donors’ and volunteers’ accomplishments. For example, if you were able to provide summer camp scholarships for 200 more kids than last year, it should say something like:
“Thanks to donations in excess of $50K earmarked for our summer camp fund, and the tireless efforts of more than 100 volunteers, we were able to send 200 more kids to Camp Roundabout last summer.”
4. Be honest (even if the picture isn’t rosy)
It can be disappointing or even devastating when your nonprofit organization doesn’t accomplish what you wanted it to. Still, it’s imperative that you lay out the truth in your annual report. Remember that one of your goals is to garner support, and you can do that by establishing need. If you aren’t meeting your goals, then clearly the need exists.
If you’ve had a disappointing year overall, or have just faced a few disappointments, be honest about it. People will be much more likely to support a competently run organization that’s struggling than one that covers up its shortcomings.
5. Be clear about what people can do to help
Your report is also a statement of need, even if things are going well. As you write about your efforts and successes over the past year, consider what you could have used to do even better. Then, think about the next year. What will you need in terms of funding, support and volunteerism to continue to serve the people you do and accomplish your objectives? Share your future plans and be explicit in stating your needs.
6. Make your report engaging
At the same time, this is also a marketing document. It has to be interesting enough to get people to read and keep them engaged throughout. You can do this by using quality images, telling stories that connect with people and prioritizing production value.
You might also consider different ways to present your report depending on your audience. Yes, some people will prefer a standard word document that they can read or distribute, but others might prefer a slide show presentation, interactive web pages, infographics or other content.
7. Profile your top supporters
People buy from people, and they donate to people. Show the human side of your organization by highlighting your top contributors. This includes your staff members, volunteers and donors. Let people get to know their stories, passions and efforts connect with people who may be helping your non-profit in the future.