Four Tips for Preparing Your Annual Report

Written by Mike Ecclestone

From project proposals to ongoing communication, Mike understands that the success of every project depends on clear expectations and mutual respect. You’ll find him asking questions, keeping you in the loop, and ensuring you’re thrilled with the end result.

March 22, 2022

We know it feels daunting to look ahead at your Annual Report knowing you need to collect content, write copy, choose images and figure out why anyone would want to read it. The thing is, an Annual Report is an amazing way to showcase what you’ve worked so hard on over the previous year. Now is the time to craft a game plan, delegate the work, and get ready to dive in (or hire an agency to do that for you)!

Collect Content

Okay, so you’ve got to start somewhere. Before you can make an Annual Report sound or look good, you need something to work with. A year can feel like a long time in the nonprofit world, especially with funding, staff, and community needs constantly evolving. However, you know what you’ve made happen. Now is the time to sum it up.

This is where your team comes in! Send an email to each department or division of your organization requesting a short summary of the past year. What programs were operating? What initiatives were introduced? What is the team most proud of? Asking questions will give you a better understanding of what to focus on in their section of the Annual Report.

Better yet, if you’re looking ahead to next year’s report: keep this in mind! Start to note when something happens that you think your supporters will want to know about. Received a big grant? Launched a program? Your work has made a difference and your supporters want to hear about it.

Highlight Your Impact

You know your organization has made a difference, but can you prove it? Using statistics and testimonials shows your audience what you’re doing and how their support creates change. Consider what information is worth sharing in your annual report; for example:

  • Number of people supported (through programming, financing, etc.)
  • Number of meals distributed, counselling sessions, overnight stays, etc.
  • Volunteer/staff and client/community member testimonials
  • Revenue and expenses, new grants received, new programs funded

Showcasing this information reminds your audience why their support is important and shows them what is possible if they continue. While most readers likely have a connection with the organization, an Annual Report is also an excellent way to show potential donors and partners why they should get involved. By highlighting your impact through statistics and testimonials, you’re saying “this is the work your support makes possible.”

Craft Compelling Copy

Flipping through photos and colourful infographics is one thing, but crafting compelling copy takes your Annual Report up a notch. It’s more than a list of what you’ve accomplished, but rather a story about why you do the work you do, and why it’s essential to your community.

Consider whether you’re going to write the copy, delegate it by department, or outsource to a copywriter. Making sure the copy is worth reading is essential to an exciting Annual Report, and it’s best not left ‘til last. Start by outlining the sections of your report, followed by bullet points of the key ideas that need to be communicated for each. Then, answer the who, what, where, why and how! If you’ve answered those, you’re in good shape. Keeping copy concise will increase readership and keep folks engaged.

Terrified to jump in? Hiring a local copywriter to work their magic is always worth it. Freelancers tend to be efficient with reasonable rates and have a special way of turning words into compelling stories. Being aware of the strengths of your team and the value provided by bringing in support makes for an excellent return on your investment, and allows you to continue doing what you do best: making a difference.

Choose High-Quality Images

It’s amazing how impactful an Annual Report can be just by adding photography. Images bring colour and life to your report and are essential in keeping your readers engaged.

It’s always a great idea to take photos throughout the year — during programming, events, or day-to-day activities. Already did? Fantastic! Compile these for use in your report, marking any mandatory images vs. any extras available just in case. Be sure to only include high-quality images, as low resolution or blurry images can reduce the potential impact and quality of your report.
For instances where you don’t have in-house images, stock photography is a fantastic option. Check websites like Unsplash, Jopwell*, or Disability:IN* for free images, or consider purchasing a few from somewhere like Adobe Stock. To make the biggest impact, select images that feel relatable, approachable, and reflect the diversity within your community.

*Be sure to credit the source as Jopwell and Disability:IN are free under a Creative Commons license.

Whether you’re building your first Annual Report or have a decade of them under your belt, we want to see you make the most of the opportunity. Next up, we’ll be sharing our Top Five Things to Include in Your Annual Report.

You May Also Like…

Let’s Work Together

This is the fun part! Tell us about your project and we’ll get the conversation started. Any details around your goal, timeline, and budget are especially helpful.

Project Type

Kitestring Marketing Inc. 2021