It’s annual report season for many nonprofits. Here are my top seven tips for writing a nonprofit annual report.

1. Focus on accomplishments, not activities. We want to know what you did, but more importantly, we want to know why you did it. What were the results? Why did you spend your time the way you did? What difference did it make?

2. Jettison the administrative minutiae. Getting a high-speed connection in the office and new accounting software may be big accomplishments from where you sit at your desk, but they have nothing to do with your mission. Inspire donors with accomplishments related to your mission in your annual report and leave all the administrative items for your board report.

3. Include photos. Yes, photos really are worth a thousand words. Many of the people reading your annual report won’t actually read it. Show them what you’ve been doing with photos. If you don’t have a digital camera, get on over to Amazon or eBay and get one now. It’s also fine to use stock photography to illustrate your work. Istockphoto is my favorite site for cheap royalty-free stock photos.

4. Write captions that tell your story. Now that you’ve got them looking at the photos, tell a story with your captions. Don’t just state what’s in the photo. Connect the photo to an accomplishment. If people read nothing but the captions in your annual report, they should still get a sense for the good work you did last year.

5. Explain your financials. Many of your donors won’t know how to read a financial statement or won’t take the time to read it. Include a paragraph or two that explains in plain English what the tables say. Where does your money come from and how do you spend it?

6. Triple-check your donor lists. There’s no better way to sabotage a future donation than to spell the donor’s name wrong in your annual report.

7. Tell donors how they can help. Never leave a potential supporter hanging, wondering how they can help you. Once you’ve inspired them with the good works in your annual report, close by telling them how they can help you do more. How can they support you with their money or time? Do you offer planned giving options, for example? Will you accept gifts of stock? Can they use a credit card? Be clear about the best ways to help.

If you want more in-depth advice, check out my new site, I’ll still include annual report information on, but most of the new information on annual reports will go on

Published On: April 5, 2006|Categories: Fundraising|