Designing an Effective Nonprofit Annual Report

January 13, 2022

Designing an Annual Report

To all the non-profits, local schools, and international ministries: Congratulations!

You pulled off amazing things in 2021: more donors added to your cause, more volunteers joined the frontlines, more inspiring events that brought awareness of your mission, and more impactful projects that changed people’s lives. And you did it all by staying within your budget! Again, you have pulled off the seemingly impossible and now it’s time to look back and celebrate in 2022.

What is the best way to celebrate the wins and share them with your loyal donor base?


Traditionally the best way to summarize the previous year’s amazing stories has been through an Annual Report. But what comes to mind when you heard the words, “Annual Report”? Do you picture boring bar and pie graphs highlighting your revenue and expenses for the year? What about a line-by-line breakdown of your financial ins and outs?

Financial Transparency? Check!
Storytelling? Nope!

Your financial milestones are only a small part of your story.

Although financial transparency is one of the cornerstones of your success, your current donors, mobilizers, volunteers, and church members care about IMPACT.

Designing an Annual Report Example

So for 2022, if your organization has relied heavily upon FINANCIAL reports, maybe it’s time to start telling stories too.

Annual Report Ideas to Embrace in 2022:

  • Identify 5 key highlights from 2021 and create a 1-page infographic (digital or print)
  • Record a 1-minute recap video from your Executive Director, CEO, or Lead Pastor highlighting 2021 wins
  • Design a print postcard showcasing a testimonial and how your organization has impacted them

Embrace Empathy & Vulnerability:

What if you’re an organization that has ditched the old-school Financial Report model and has already been telling stories for the last couple of years?

Do you feel like you’re not telling the right stories or things are getting a bit stale? Do you think your Annual Reports are starting to slowly miss the mark?

Don’t worry! There’s still potential for improvement.

It’s not so much about polished presentations as it is about letting your supporters get into the trenches with you to see how challenging, yet rewarding your mission is.

If in 2021 we had to be authentic storytellers, in 2022 we have to be vulnerable storytellers.
Vulnerability leads you closer to building bridges of true empathy with the people you are trying to serve.

Real empathy leads you into a symbiotic relationship with your constituents. In this relationship, they learn to understand your true intentions and your genuine struggles for your causes. This is where they open up to you and let you in.

This is how your non-profit brand will persevere and flourish in 2022.

Top 3 Tips for Your Next Annual Report:

1. Balance Heart and Mind

First, don’t be afraid to embrace both the heart and mind of storytelling. Measurable impact combined with vulnerable and authentic personal stories will have the most reach.

If empathy and credibility fall out of balance, eventually your audience will start to ask one of two questions:

  • “Can I trust this organization?”
  • “Do they care?”

Use a strategic blend of heart and mind. Flex your credibility muscles when you need to with statistics and quantifiable impact. However, make sure that the quantifiable impact has context within people’s lives.

Always speak human.

2. Use Print Design Wisely

The most popular way to share an Annual Report has traditionally been through print. This method clearly works, but with the boom of digital mediums, is print dead?

No. It’s just evolving like everything else.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re already implementing a multimedia strategy and still have some sort of a print budget.

Print still works. It just works differently than it used to.

Ditch the 60-page reports and consider using print pieces that are strategically thought out rather than just listing information. And don’t forget to carry the reader through a story…your story.

Annual Report inside example

Annual Report front example

If you’re a regional organization like a church or advocacy group, consider a smaller print piece to get the word out about your Annual Report.

If you’re a national or international organization, spend those print dollars wisely and decide if a small postcard mailer will be more cost-effective for you.

So, in conjunction with print, where should the majority of your Annual Report live? In 2022, the rising popularity of microsites and videos will allow you to comprehensively tell your story.

3. Speak to Next Year’s Goals

Now that you have successfully crafted your Annual Report, with all of the past year’s highlights, is that it?

Do you want your key stakeholders to simply read your report, with admiration, and stop there?

When planning your next Annual Report, it’s important to strategically think about what you want your readers to do next. Consider your organization’s goals for the following year and make sure they’re communicated with clear call-to-actions, in your report.

Open Eyes

open eyes annual report

After teaming with Rethink Creative to do a full rebrand, Open Eyes was ready to showcase their new name and fresh look in their 2021 report.

The goal of this project was to cleanly and succinctly capture everything they had accomplished in 2021. It was important for them to highlight key statistics like their impact numbers, but also special projects, powerful stories, and testimonials.

They chose both a printed booklet and a digital version to broaden their accessibility.

Open Eyes Annual Report Mobile Version

Although a successful year, the work wasn’t done yet and Open Eyes had goals they still needed to reach. For them, they needed to raise $250,000, in donations, to equip and send 100 mobile messengers into the field.

The solution? They asked.

Open Eyes Annual Report Call to Action

They visualized the ask and offered full transparency to where the funds would be allocated to. With clear call-to-actions for the next steps to donate, they capitalized on the opportunity to reach their already invested supporters.

Celebrate your wins. Cast your vision.

If you’ve been wondering whether Annual Reports are right for you, keep this in mind: anytime you use storytelling, you are casting a vision about your organization.

You are directly or indirectly telling others whether or not to trust you and whether or not they should care about what you do.

If you’ve been doing Annual Reports for a while, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself if you are telling the right stories in the right ways.

Whatever you decide, remember you have a cause that matters deeply to many people out there.

Show vulnerability. Share stories. Celebrate your wins.

If you need some help getting the ball rolling for your brand-new Annual Report, we are here for you.

Plan a Project with us today!

2022 will be an amazing year ahead for your calling and mission. We’re praying and hoping for it.

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