After a successful year of fundraising, gaining new supporters, and enacting change within your community, it’s time to sit down and present your accomplishments to the public. Your annual report updates your supporters on your mission and growth over the last year, the status of your major projects, any new statistics related to your cause, and more.
This annual report is vital to the health of your nonprofit because it lets current supporters know the impacts of their gifts and encourages potential donors to join your cause. A successful report will set you up for success over the next year, so you want to be very thoughtful when creating this document.
Unsure of where to start? Your friends from iWave are here to help you craft this vital report.
As with any fundraising undertaking, the first step in drafting an annual report is to craft a firm plan. Bring together different departments in your nonprofit to ensure all the necessary information is being included and that everyone is on the same page.
To start, you’ll need to develop a clear purpose for the annual report, including a solid determination on who your target audience should be. Typically, your audience should be current supporters as well as any prospective donors, sponsors, and foundations.
The main goal of your report is to encourage future support; however, you may also want to establish a few secondary objectives. For example, do you want to attract more local attention or start a new project in the next year? You can get the ball rolling by setting up future objectives in your annual report.
With these goals in mind, some of the other strategies you may want to implement include:
Be strategic and selective in which programs and campaigns you’re highlighting to further your nonprofit’s goals. If you’ve been running multiple local campaigns that have been successful for years but want to expand your cross-country ventures, spend more time discussing successful non-local strategies.
Center your accomplishments around three to five core themes and you’ll keep your report and your audience focused on the key objective!
In order to create the most successful annual report possible, try reading the reports of other likeminded organizations as well (if you can access them). In doing so, you can identify valuable common trends across similar nonprofits. While you want to be creative with your report to engage your audience, you also need to include the vital information all nonprofits report on, including:
Your accomplishments are bound to change every year, but your underlying report structure should stay the same. No matter how your nonprofit has evolved over the last 12 months, such changes should stand upon the same firm foundation.
Your annual report is the perfect opportunity to provide your valued donors with the recognition they deserve!
Instead of centering your report solely around the organization’s achievements, give your donors an equal share of the praise. Not only should the language of your report address your donors directly, it should also emphasize how your successes were accomplished as a direct result of your supporters.
Record statements from volunteers and donors, display images of your volunteers in action, and present your list of major donors. As you talk about the various projects donors have supported, you can pepper in some knowledge about all the good they have done. Let your audience know how gifts were received and who specifically made the largest impacts.
By emphasizing how vital your community and supporters are, you’re making your donors feel important—potentially leading to continued or annual support. Even the most altruistic of donors appreciate a bit of recognition from time to time!
When you hear the word “report,” you may be transported back to your school days. In other words, you’re thinking dry, academic writing and walls of text.
When it comes to your nonprofit’s annual report, however, you’re free to get as creative as you want—in fact, color and creativity is a must. Annual reports typically span 10 pages, and you want to maintain the reader’s attention throughout. Nothing grabs attention or expresses personality like vibrant visuals.
These visuals are useful in the following areas:
If your report is being presented on the web, you can even experiment with interactive elements such as links and videos. You want supporters to have an enjoyable experience and walk away with a stronger understanding of how effective your nonprofit was over the last year. Visuals can help make that happen.
In fundraising, there are little surprises around every corner. No matter how organized and well-planned your team may be, you’re sure to encounter speed bumps along the way. It’s important to understand that this is a normal part of the process and not something that needs to be hidden from your supporters.
If your report isn’t fully honest or omits data simply because it wasn’t as positive as you would like, supporters may grow wary. Instead, briefly mention any missteps you encountered and how you plan on preventing them from occurring again in the future. This will show donors how adaptable and transparent your organization is.
In your report, address changes you’ll be making in the future based on new data, supporter feedback, and the lessons learned from the year’s setbacks or hurdles. There’s no need to go too in-depth with this data, but it should still be briefly addressed.
After reading your report, you want donors to ask themselves, “what’s next?” Since the end goal of your annual report is to garner continuing support for your cause, make sure you’re guiding readers in the right direction.
Some of the ways you can encourage readers to get involved include:
The more opportunities and events you mention, the more likely you are to have a reader find one that fits their specific interests and level of donation capability.
You may be wondering how iWave and our next-generation platform can help with crafting your annual report. If a major donor has made an appearance on a likeminded organization’s annual reports, you might consider it a key philanthropic indicator. You can then reach out to these potential donors with your report in hand.