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Nonprofit organizations produce annual reports that help drive support and awareness. Learn how to design your report with the right report template and design elements.
If you’re a nonprofit 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 nonprofit 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.
Nonprofit 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 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 organization’s work.
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 nonprofit annual report should include the following pieces of information.
To make a beautiful annual report template or design, 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, a beautiful annual report 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 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.
As design standards evolve nonprofit groups have more options than ever before when it comes to incorporating unique options into their annual report 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.
Many nonprofit organizations opt to publish their annual reports 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 an annual report website is 350.org, 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.
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.
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.
You can easily make your nonprofit 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.
Now that you have a few ideas of what to include in your next annual report, 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.
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 nonprofit on a daily basis.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
At Acton Circle, we realize that you have many roles and responsibilities to fulfill at your nonprofit 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.
We’re Acton Circle, a boutique design agency helping purpose-driven organizations increase their impact. Led by Founder and CEO, Olivia Wheeler, Acton Circle has helped countless change-makers leverage the power of design for social good.Learn more