Designing Action-Focused Annual Reports in Digital and Print

  • November 09, 2022
  • 3 Min Read

Creating an effective and well written annual report for a nonprofit is challenging. It takes time and resources. However, an annual report can be a powerful tool to communicate your impact and engage your current and potential donors by showing them who and how they are helping.

Not so long ago, annual reports used to be just collections of figures and very long essays that left readers exhausted. Today, these reports are more concise and engaging summaries of the past year that can offer more than just mere information.

So if you decide to take this opportunity and create one for your nonprofit, here are a few ideas and pieces of advice to consider.

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First and foremost, take your time to put one together.

You'll likely need to collect content from different departments, then edit until you are happy with the outcome. Understandably, you may initially try to share everything that your organization accomplished over the past year, however presenting only crucial information is more effective. It’s a time-consuming process to edit it down, but worth it. Pencils of Promise’s Annual Report from 2018 is a great example of how annual reports can be concise and straight to the point.

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Think about how people should receive your report: physically or digitally.

If you are thinking about ways to reduce costs, be more transparent, reach a wider audience, or be more measurable, you should consider going digital. These annual reports use digital storytelling and interactive web design techniques to interlace testimonials and client stories with analytics and data. Dig Deep’s Annual Report from 2020 shows how reports can be beautifully designed with all the necessary information included. However, if you still feel that your audience would react better to a tangible, book-like annual report, you should go for it. Nis's Annual Report is an example of how you can explore different materials and printing techniques in order to create an outstanding experience for your reader.

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Invest in photos and/or illustrations.

High quality and authentic photography determines the look and feel of annual reports. Together with interesting captions you can win your readers’ attention and hearts. One particularly fun example of an annual report with outstanding photography is the Boston University Annual Report, where the photos provide a lot of energy. If you decide to use illustration, think about a style that aligns with your original branding but also enriches it. For example, MailChimp’s Annual Report is a wonderful, illustrative, and animated journey that agrees with the company's branding in an interesting way, but also lives its own unique life.

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Think of ways to genuinely engage your audience.

Instead of simply reporting facts, try changing your readers’ perspectives. What is the most surprising client story you can share? Which photo is strong and evokes emotions? How can you make the reader feel like an insider?

Hope you'll find these tips useful, and if you’re looking for help with creating your nonprofit's annual report, feel free to reach out!

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