How to Create an Inspirational Annual Report

Posted by Ayanna Rutherford on 1.9.2020

silhouette of man standing on high ground under red and blue skies

Annual reports are great marketing and fundraising tools for organizations. They help you tell your story from a programmatic and financial perspective. Annual reports should also be forward-thinking and inspirational, creating a buzz for the next year. Here are some important sections to include in your annual report.

Revisit your mission

Take some time to revisit and restate your mission. Give your audience a review of who you are and why you do what you do. Creating a historic timeline that outlines the history of your organization and its growth over the years is another way to keep your supporters connected to your work. This section will help set the tone for your accomplishments and programmatic impact. Be clear and concise in your messaging.

Highlight programmatic accomplishments

Donors want to know how effective your programming has been when it comes to your mission. If your participants had a stellar year, you should highlight those accomplishments. Articulating your accomplishments through storytelling in one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your program’s impact. Include stories about your clients and services. For example, if you operate a dog shelter and you have a story about a successful placement write about it and include pictures!

Feature stories about your team members

Getting donors to know about your success stories is helpful but so is learning about the people that do the work. Including a story about the team member who has an incredible year helps supporters get familiar with the work from another perspective. This section can help show the passion of the people who are committed to your mission.

Review your financials

Providing financial statements is an important part of your annual report but explaining the numbers is critical. Your supporters should be able to understand how your organization performed from a financial perspective without having an accounting degree, so including charts as well as a paragraph or two explaining the numbers will offer clarity. The paragraph will allow you to illustrate and highlight successes and explain challenges.

Return on investment

Tangibly breaking down your program cost for your audience is another way to show impact. For example, if you run an after-school program, calculating the cost per participant can help demonstrate the effectiveness of your program and help your audience further understand how their contribution helped.

Acknowledge donors

Donor recognition is a huge part of fundraising and is a key part of your annual report. Including a list of donors who have contributed to your organization not only is a great way to recognize contributions, it also shows the strength of your donor base. You can list your donors by gift size or alphabetically. Once you create your donor acknowledgment list, double-check to make sure that you have spelled their names correctly.

Final call to action

Your annual report should be inspiring, laying the foundation for the next year. Once your supporters have read the report, they should have a clear path on how they continue to support your cause. The call to action should include how to donate money, how to volunteer, and how to promote your cause to their network. Your goal should be to keep your supporters engaged and ready for the next year.  

Photo credit: Benjamin Davis

Topics: Donor Retention, Outcomes, Annual Report