Editors note: Want the latest? See our article about the Best Nonprofit Annual Reports of 2019 here.
I admit, when I first set out to write a blog on nonprofit annual reports, I was not excited. But then I started digging into some recent annual reports from organizations I care about and found them to be quite compelling.
What made these annual reports so interesting? It varied from one to the next, but the best of the bunch I reviewed told great stories, were easy to read and is beautifully designed. And most importantly, they encouraged the reader to become deeply invested in the organization’s mission. Great annual reports really can prompt donors to invest in an organization, or encourage volunteers to spend their time there.
While many of this year’s nonprofit annual reports are still in the works, here are some early examples of great 2017 annual reports:
I love this annual report because it is so much fun to look at. It’s the epitome of the phrase: “show, don’t tell.” There are big, digestible statistics in colorful infographics. There are photos of students having a great time learning about the cosmos and viewing last year’s rare, historic eclipse.
This annual report is short and sweet, weighing in at just five skimmable pages. It demonstrates Adler’s impact on education for local Chicago students and the science community as a whole in a way that’s playful and not at all stuffy.
Adler shows that science is both important and fun, and its 2017 annual report proves that you can make a strong case about organization’s impact to your supporters without inundating them with information about the nitty gritty specifics of your programs..@adlerplanet's 2017 annual report shows their impact on education for local Chicago students and the science community as a whole in a way that's playful and not at all stuffy. Click To Tweet
Even Adler’s financial statistics are presented in graphics that are bold, colorful and easy to digest.
View the Adler Planetarium 2017 annual report here.
While Adler Planetarium’s report is a study in brevity, Planned Parenthood’s is an example of a nonprofit annual report that never skips an opportunity to reinforce the organization’s impact. At 40 pages long, there is a lot of ground covered, but every page matters.
The report opens with a powerful quote from Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards that immediately pulls you in: “We are here today to thank generations of organizers, troublemakers, and hell-raisers who formed secret sisterhoods, who opened Planned Parenthood health centers in their communities, and demanded the right to control their own bodies.” Immediately, even if you somehow didn’t already know about Planned Parenthood, you now understand their mission.
Source: Planned Parenthood
The annual report features multiple high-impact photos of women enthusiastically participating in protests for their rights (including the Women’s March), as well as direct quotes from women the organization has helped across the country.
The bulk of the report talks about the wide range of programs Planned Parenthood provides to women across the country and the broad impact of each. These program sections emphasize new services offered in 2017 to benefit more women, including transgender healthcare and online services.
Most importantly, Planned Parenthood’s 2017 annual report demonstrates the organization’s positive impact despite being embattled with controversy over the last year. The organization shows that the support of its contributors makes a far greater impact than some would like you to believe.
View the Planned Parenthood 2016-2017 annual report here..@PPFA's 2017 annual report demonstrates the organization's positive impact despite being embattled with controversy over the last year. Click To Tweet
Oxfam’s 2017 annual report is interesting because it doesn’t highlight the organization itself, but instead focuses exclusively on the problem it seeks to solve. Oxfam has released these global inequality reports every year since 2013, and every year, they garner attention.
After its release, the 2017 report stirred controversy online because many saw it as anti-capitalist, and felt it didn’t actually present actionable solutions beyond wealth redistribution. But sometimes, some public controversy can help spread the word about a cause to potential supporters.
The report features several quotes from experts on the topic of global poverty and inequality and graphics to help illustrate the problem. So while the report is wordy, you can skim and get a full understanding of the challenge Oxfam faces in achieving their mission.
While controversial, the fact that this 2017 annual report started a conversation and attracted media attention for the organization is huge. The piece tells a story about a problem that affects the majority of the world and drives readers to action. With the traction this report has received, many people who may not have been previously aware of the problem of global inequality understand there is work to be done and may choose to support Oxfam’s mission: “to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice.”
View the Oxfam 2017 global inequality report here..@oxfam's 2017 global inequality report tells a story about a problem that affects the majority of the world and drives readers to action. Click To Tweet
The Guardian US’s 2017 annual report is a digital, interactive and animated thank you letter to its supporters at a dangerous time in history for journalists.
The report opens with a message from The Guardian US’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief, that includes the quote: “At this critical moment, when independent, fact-based reporting is under assault, your support is strengthening the Guardian’s distinctive voice in America, and helping us hold power to account.”
While other major, bipartisan media outlets only offer a limited number of stories per month before they’re blocked by a paywall for non-subscribers, the Guardian remains free and open to everyone. The 2017 annual report reminds readers why that is so important.
The final thing that makes the Guardian US’s annual report so great is the clear call-to-action at the end. So, after readers understand the importance of contributing, they have the opportunity to do so immediately. We’re all for making it as easy as possible for readers to become supporters and removing all potential barriers to making a donation.
View the Guardian US annual report here..@GuardianUS's 2017 annual report reminds readers why free and open journalism is so important. Click To Tweet
If you’re working on your organization’s annual report and have questions about how to tell your story, whether you should go print or digital or how to create a compelling call to action at the end of your report, reach out! We’d be happy to talk to you about how we might work together to help you craft a strong piece and use it to drive action.
Are annual reports part of your nonprofit’s marketing plan?
Download our nonprofit marketing plan template to get started building a calendar for your marketing team to follow throughout the year. With this template, you can map out the time you’ll need to build your next annual report.“