Does your Organization Need an Annual Report?

Photo by Eric (aka Herve) via Flickr

Nonprofit organizations are not required to produce an annual report, but I believe your organization will benefit by having one.

The main purpose of an annual report is to highlight your organization’s accomplishments. You don’t need a glossy 20 page document. In fact, if you are a small organization, that would not be a good use of your resources. Instead you can produce, a short (four to six pages), simple piece to send to your supporters. Here are a few things to include in your annual report.

  • Your accomplishments. Don’t overwhelm your readers with a lot of text and statistics. Use pictures, short stories, and quotes. If you run an afterschool program, a couple of pictures showing kids engaged in activities can emphasize the work you are doing. Be sure to show results, too.
  •  Your financials. Include your revenue and expenses, and break them down by department (program, administration, etc.). Keep it simple and use a pie chart or bar graph. 
  •  A donor list. You may want to just list your major donors in the printed piece and include all donors on your website. Generally, organizations will group donors by giving level. 
  • Say thank you. In the brief introduction by the Executive Director and Board Chair and in the donor section, be sure to thank all your supporters. 

You don’t need to mail your annual report to all your supporters. You may want to mail it just to your major donors. Put your annual report on your website, and then let everyone know it’s available. You could send out a special e-mail announcement or include something about your annual report in your newsletter. Of course, you should make a hard copy available to anyone who wants one. You should also have hard copies available for potential funders and other supporters.

If you choose not to produce an annual report, you should still have a list of accomplishments readily available. You often need these for grant proposals, anyway. I recommend keeping a running list, so you are not scrambling to put something together when it’s time to do your annual report or a grant proposal. This can also help you get your annual report out earlier in the new year.

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