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The Importance of a Unique Annual Report Design in Your Non-Profit Marketing

Ditch the bland! Learn why eye-catching annual report design is the secret ingredient to your non-profit marketing strategy.

If you’re a non-profit organization staff member or marketer, you may already understand the importance of producing a detailed and reliable annual report. But did you realize that how you present information within your report is just as important as what you choose to showcase in your data visualization.

Many non-profit organizations understand the value of providing information that donors and community members want to know. The aspect of strong visual design in annual reports, however, can have an equally strong influence on future donorship.

Keep reading to discover ideas for how to create a unique annual report—using the right brand colors, templates, layouts, and designs that are memorable to donors and captivating enough to encourage future financial support.

The Importance of Your Annual Report

Non-profit organizations have long used annual reports to highlight their mission and vision within a community or sphere of influence. In many ways, the annual report design should communicate why the organization exists and why its existence is crucial to the success or wellbeing of the local community. 

An annual report is also how you can vocalize key messages to donors, board members, community leaders, and stakeholders. As a result, each annual report should include pertinent information that these parties and individuals want to know as they further invest in your non-profit organization's work.

​​Annual Report Design Inspiration: What Key Report Elements to Include Every Year?

Most annual reports offer similar sets of data with updated numbers and statistics from year to year. The elements you include in your report will likely depend on your exact audience and what those individuals need to know in order to continue pledging support.

In general, a good non-profit annual report, particularly focused on annual report design, should include the following pieces of information.

  • A refresher on the mission – Provide a recap of what your organization does and why it exists. This is compelling information for new donors who may not be familiar with your vision and purpose. It’s also helpful for donors who contribute to a wide variety of organizations and need to know what makes yours unique.
  • A recap of the year’s events and activities – Summarize the past year with notable highlights. If you hosted memorable events or experienced big wins, be sure to include them in your report. Tell relevant stories as they relate to the growth of your team or community projects.
  • Demographic data – Draft a high-level overview of your community demographics. For example, if you run a scholarship organization, summarize the age groups of applicants and other socioeconomic data that could be beneficial for donors to understand.
  • Financial information – While your audience may dictate how detailed you are in this section of the report, summarize your organization’s fiscal data from the previous year. This includes an overview of your fundraising efforts, government grants, budgetary needs, expenses, and any deficits or debts.
  • Visual elements – Pictures, imagery, and graphic elements, specifically tailored to the annual report design, add color to your report. Avoid including bland charts, graphs, and numerical data sets without offering something visually appealing for the reader to see.

How Do You Make a Beautiful Annual Report Template?

To make a beautiful annual report design template, focus on producing a professionally designed resource that showcases required information while also prioritizing good aesthetics. 

In practice, what does this actually look like? In its most simplified form, beautiful annual report design is expertly branded according to your organization’s color palette or brand colors, design standards, elements, and visual representation.

While there is no right or wrong way to design your report around your current branding, you should aim to invoke personality, creative illustration, style, and contemporary design standards. Whenever possible, avoid producing your report in a simple word processor or blank document without any visual elements.

Remember—the goal of your annual report design is to showcase your organization in its best, most appealing light. This translates into becoming more memorable in the minds of donors, who may be interested in investing in more than one organization. 

a graphic for a women's right nonprofit organization
Girls Who Code produces an interactive annual report that includes stunning visuals and highly interactive elements. (Source)

Unique Options for Annual Report Designs

As design standards evolve non-profit organizations have more options than ever before when it comes to incorporating unique options into their annual report design strategies.

Depending on your level of resources and your available budget, you can produce highly customized annual reports that are hosted online and include interactive elements. The ideas below can give you a start on creating a report that illustrates the unique work your organization does within the community you serve.

Hosted on a Website (One-page or Landing Page)

Many non-profit organizations opt to publish their annual report designs publicly and online. A website-based annual report makes it extremely easy to share the page (via URL) and to release the information to a broad public audience.

When using a website format, keep in mind that any published information should be safe for public knowledge. In other words, don’t design a website or report a landing page that includes confidential donor data. 

An example of a unique annual report website is, an environmental organization that advocates against fossil fuel infrastructure. The organization’s website recaps its purpose, offers up-to-date demographic information, includes photography from activist campaigns, and presents data in a compelling and visually appealing style.

a graphic for an activist campaign

Video Format

Video annual reports are an excellent option if you want to present your yearly recap in a concise, highly engaging, and interactive style. Although this method requires production capabilities and pre-planning where you’ll need to capture video throughout the year, it’s an incredibly effective way to communicate compelling and emotionally driven information.

You can easily upload and host video reports to social sharing or streaming services like YouTube. A video-style annual report is especially beneficial if you’re presenting information remotely or through a conference format.

a paused youtube video titled ISACA 2019 Annual Report Highlights

Infographic Style Report

An infographic-style annual report is another way to capture the design elements, illustrations, and visuals that make your organization recognizable. An infographic can also serve as a visual summary of a broader, more comprehensive report that’s published through another outlet.

As a general rule, infographics should have more visual elements than text-based elements. This means that these reports should be quick to scan, read, and understand. 

In an infographic, consider placing the most relevant statistics, numbers, and other pieces of data in prominent positions on the report. You can even print and distribute these reports during an annual meeting or event.

Animated infographic for organization Partners in Development Foundation
Animated infographic designed by Acton Circle

Interactive Elements to Add to Your Annual Report

You can easily make your non-profit annual report more interesting by adding interactive elements that engage the reader and inspire curiosity. Some formats naturally lend themselves to interactive portions than others, such as a website or landing page.

On your next annual report, try including the following pieces to distinguish your report from other organizations.

interactive element showing image hover effects

  • Dynamic number counters
interactive element showing dynamic number counters

  • Short video clips

two elderly females sharing a secret at a dinner table

  • Clickable images and photography 
interative element displaying clickable images and photography

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating An Annual Report

Now that you have a few ideas of what to put in your next annual report, including the annual report design itself, there are also a few things that you should avoid when designing. While these may not be total deal-breakers to potential donors, they can put a damper on how well you can market your organization’s results and yearly impact.

  • Failing to find the narrative – An annual report is your platform to announce statistics, data, and relevant financial information. At the same time, it should also showcase your organization’s impact. Find the narrative by working with strong writers and setting the stage for how your organization inspires change.
  • Forgetting to tell a story – Occasionally, non-profit organizations make the mistake of building a report that’s all about the business side of things. While these facts are important, they aren’t the only details that matter. Build a human element by incorporating quotes, interviews, and personal stories.
  • Neglecting non-text elements – By now, it's no secret that good annual report design can set your non-profit marketing apart and encourage better donorship. Make a statement by using bold branding, colors, and graphics that allow your data to stand out.

Although there’s a lot riding on your organization’s annual report design, remember to have fun with the process. Treat the report design process as a way to showcase what you love about the work and mission of your non-profit organization on a daily basis.

Powerful Annual Report Examples

A PDF is the usual format for annual reports that include a collection of data, numbers, and other important information. Your annual report should be both informative and eye-catching. Here are some of the powerful annual report examples that can inspire and guide you in creating your own.

The Pulitzer Center for Crisis 2021 Annual Report

The Pulitzer funds and supports journalists around the world. They are able to demonstrate their mission with a journalistic publishing style in their 2021 annual report through compelling photography, powerful headlines, and white space.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 2021 Annual Report

Climate Centre The Three C’s: Covid, Climate, Conflict Annual Report 2021

The Climate Centre focuses on protecting people from extreme weather and climate events. Their 2021 annual report is connected to real-world action of weather and climate calamities featuring the effects on people, which many may find a challenge when creating annual reports. The photographs taken in real-life, during extreme weather events, combined with important data, helped present each project more clearer.

Climate Centre high-level indicators overview report

FairTrade The Future is Fair 2021 Annual Report

FairTrade supports farmers around the world, spreading knowledge about the global agricultural system; they advocate for global trade that respects human rights and ensures climate resilience. 

Their annual report is heavy on visuals, balancing the text-based information, to make it easier for everyone to understand, whether they are farmers, agricultural experts, or consumers who would like to know where their food comes from.

The Future is Fair FairTrade 2021 Annual Report
FairTrade Key 2020 Figures

World Vision International 2021 Global Annual Report

World Vision supports children's well-being around the world. They managed to present a strong brand identity using their orange and black brand colors—which is important for organizations that rely heavily on donations and fundraising.

Their annual report design perfectly illustrates their advocacy for children's wellness through a lot of children-focused imagery. 

Word Vision International 2021 Annual Report
World Vision International Financial Summary 2021

Put Your Annual Report Design Into Expert Hands

At Acton Circle, we realize that you have many roles and responsibilities to fulfill at your non-profit organization. By partnering with a brand strategist and designer, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having detailed and professional design aspects to everything you produce.

If you’re not sure how to select the right design expert to create your annual report design, now is the time to sign up for our Template Design Subscription, which can help amplify your mission and master your storytelling through stunning visuals, all while controlling costs of high-quality design work.


June 28, 2022