Writing a Nonprofit Annual Report
by Kivi Leroux Miller
Seven Quick Tips
If you've been asked to write an annual report for a nonprofit organization, here are seven tips to get you on your way.
- 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?
- 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.
- Include photos. Yes, photos really are worth a thousand words. Many of the people reading your annual report wonít actually read it. Show them what youíve been doing with photos. If you donít have a digital camera, get one now, as basic models are very inexpensive. Itís also fine to use stock photography to illustrate your work.
- Write captions that tell your story. Now that youíve got them looking at the photos, tell a story with your captions. Donít just state whatís 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.
- Explain your financials. Many of your donors wonít know how to read a financial statement or wonít 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?
- Triple-check your donor lists. Thereís no better way to sabotage a future donation than to spell the donorís name wrong in your annual report.
- Tell donors how they can help. Never leave a potential supporter hanging, wondering how they can help you. Once youíve 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.
About the Author:
Kivi Leroux Miller is the president of http://www.NonprofitAnnualReports.net, which offers tipsheets on writing an annual report, an online course, and a free monthly newsletter, the Annual Reports Insider.
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