|10 Tips for Writing a Great Annual Report | |By Kivi Leroux Miller | |Even though nonprofit organizations aren’t required to produce annual reports like publicly traded companies are, most nonprofit | |managers recognize the value of producing one. Annual reports can help you demonstrate your accomplishments to current and future | |donors, cultivate new partnerships, and recognize important people. |But since annual reports aren’t legally required, nonprofits often struggle with what should be included in an annual report and | |what should be left out. The following ten tips will help you craft an outstanding nonprofit annual report. | |Focus on accomplishments, not activities. | |We want to know what you did, but more importantly, we want to know why you did it. What were the results? Why did you spend your | |time and money the way you did? What difference did it make? Connect the everyday activities of your organization to your mission | |statement.
Don’t assume that readers will automatically understand how your activities help you achieve your mission. Connect the | |dots for them. | |Jettison the administrative minutiae. | |Getting a high-speed connection in the office and new accounting software may be big accomplishments from where you sit at your | |desk, but they have nothing to do with your mission. Inspire donors with accomplishments related to your mission in your annual | |report and leave all the administrative items for your board report. | |Don’t over-emphasize fundraising accomplishments. |Donors expect you to raise money, but fundraising accomplishments should not be celebrated in your annual report on the same level| |as your mission-related accomplishments. Readers are more interested in what you did with the money than how you raised it. While | |it is appropriate to include information on how well your fundraising efforts are going, it’s best to place this information in | |the financial section of your report, rather than front and center. | |Include photos. | |Yes, photos really are worth a thousand words. Many of the people reading your annual report won’t actually read it.
Show them | |what you’ve been doing with photos. If you don’t have a digital camera, get one now. It’s also fine to use stock photography to | |illustrate your work. Type “royalty free stock photos” in your favorite search engine and you’ll find numerous sites. | |Write captions that tell your story. | |Now that you’ve got them looking at the photos, tell a story with your captions. Don’t just state what’s in the photo. Connect the| |photo to an accomplishment. If people read nothing but the captions in your annual report, they should still get a sense for the | |good work you did last year. |Include personal profiles. | |Donors will be more impressed with real stories about real people than general summaries of your work. Explain what you have | |accomplished overall, then humanize your statistics with some personal profiles. Highlight how your work helped a specific | |individual. Share a volunteer’s story of how they made a positive difference. | |Explain your financials. | |Many of your donors won’t know how to read a financial statement or won’t take the time to read it. Include a paragraph or two | |that explains in plain English what the tables say.
Where does your money come from and how do you spend it? What are your main | |fundraising strategies? Did you implement any cost-savings measures this year? | |If you need space, trim the donor lists. | |Nonprofits need to strike a balance between using the space in their annual reports to discuss their accomplishments and using it | |to recognize donors. If as much as half of your annual report is donor lists, you should consider scaling the lists back to make | |more room for text and photos. Smaller donors can be recognized in other ways, such as lists in newsletters. |Triple-check your donor lists. | |There’s no better way to sabotage a future donation than to spell the donor’s name wrong in your annual report. If you are | |uncertain about a name, don’t guess. Check it with the donor. Also carefully check the names of government agencies and | |foundations that gave you grants. The names people call these organizations in conversation are often short-hand for the full | |legal names that belong in your annual report. | |Tell donors how they can help. |Never leave a potential supporter hanging, wondering how they can help you. Once you’ve inspired them with the good works in your | |annual report, close by telling them how they can help you do more. How can they support you with their money or time? Do you | |offer planned giving options, for example? Will you accept gifts of stock? Can they use a credit card? Be clear about the best | |ways to help. | |You can find more tips and training and sign up for Kivi’s free monthly e-newsletter, Nonprofit Annual Reports Insider, at | |NonprofitAnnualReports. et | |This About. com page has been optimized for print. To view this page in it’s original form, please visit: | |http://nonprofit. about. com/od/nonprofitpromotion/a/annualreps. htm | |©2007 About, Inc. , a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved. | | |