CHECKLIST: How To Create A Nonprofit Annual Report That Will Make Your Supporters Cheer

What should you include in your nonprofit annual report? Refer to this helpful checklist to make sure you’re covering the basics and inspiring your supporters.


A well-done annual report serves more than one function.

It summarizes your annual progress toward meeting your mission. It celebrates your accomplishments, amplifies voices from your community, and expresses gratitude to your donors. It previews your goals for the year ahead. Over time, your annual reports form a historical record of your organization’s evolution.

Annual reports come in many forms—and yours should reflect your unique nonprofit! Annual reports can be narrative, focusing on storytelling, or center on charts, tables, and percentages—or some combination of both. They can be five pages or 15. (In fact, the nonprofit Literacy Volunteers of Bangor fit their report on a single postcard.)

Whether you are getting ready to start your first annual report, or you are looking for ways to improve next year’s annual report, this checklist covers the basics of how to create a nonprofit annual report that accurately and expertly shows your organization’s impact to the world:

Give yourself ample time to develop your annual report.

Developing an annual report takes more than a day, a week, or even a few months. You should really think about how to capture your impact year-round. Read on for more details.

Don’t overlook small, but important details.

The year of the report and the name of your organization should be easy to spot.☺

Include the fundamentals.

Standard annual reports include a mission statement or an “about us” section, along with a review of your major accomplishments during the year at hand and a summary of your finances.

Summarize your finances.

Make sure you keep a detailed financial record throughout the year and record how much you spent on each project, event, and overall operational expenses. [Learn more about how to create a strong financial record.] The financial summary in your annual report won’t list it all, but rather is a snapshot that gives the reader insight into your funding sources and how much you spent to achieve your mission.

Showcase impact figures.

Remember to accurately track how many community members attend each event, the outcomes, and the activities of each event. This will help you provide an accurate summary of your projects’ overall impact results for the year.

Offer multiple perspectives on your work.

Consider including a message from one or more of the following individuals:

Your executive director: A reflection from a leader in your organization is a great way to give the reader a high-level overview of the organization’s accomplishments, obstacles, and strategies over the past year. They can also outline your organization’s approach to the upcoming year!
Your board chair: What made your chair proud to be part of your organization in the past year?
Someone from your community of service: Invite them to share an impact story. It doesn’t have to be long. Quotes, short testimonials, or brief success stories work well.

Show rather than tell.

Words aren’t enough! In fact, too many words can make your annual report hard to follow or uninteresting. Your nonprofit is surely made up of a passionate staff working with an excellent community. Photos of your nonprofit in action (or infographics) make your mission and impact more real to your supporters and are an essential part of making your annual report unique to your organization. For a detailed guide to choosing photos, check out GlobalGiving’s photography tips.

Get creative.

There are countless options and shifting expectations for annual reports in the digital age. Learn more in three non-traditional report styles in this bloomerang article.

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