13 Best Nonprofit Annual Reports: Great Digital & Small Examples & How You Can Learn From Them
Nonprofit annual reports. A useful community engagement communications piece, or a complete time suck that takes your organization months to produce? Nonprofit annual reports are a standard communications piece nonprofits produce every year and we often view them as an obligation. Something we have to do, as opposed to other, more inspiring, creative communications pieces in your portfolio. We’re here to say that creating annual reports does not have to stink!
In fact, we think it’s time that you let go of the boring, uninspired annual report and set a new standard. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite nonprofit annual report examples and shared key takeaways you can apply to your nonprofit’s next annual report.
Nonprofit annual report comparison chart
What are the best nonprofit annual reports? Here’s our top 5 list:
These are some of the best nonprofit annual report examples of the last few years. They're engaging, gorgeous, and most of all, they clearly describe their nonprofit's impact. Read on to discover a why they stand out and which annual report makers were used to create these masterpieces.
1. National Parks Foundation nonprofit annual report (Best Use of Photos)
Let your photos shine in your nonprofit reports
Because of the nature of their work (see what we did there?), the National Parks Foundation has a lot of photo ops for their nonprofit reports. Their use of photos throughout their report showcases impact locales through beautiful photos. What a way to bring the work directly to your supporters! Photography might be a “nice to have” investment for your nonprofit, but consider the mileage you can get out of a set of really good photos: social media posts, annual report graphics, website photos, and so on.
2. UNHCR annual report (Clearest Summary and Data)
Develop a summary of highlights
Given how in-depth this report is, we think it’s a super smart idea to provide a summary of the report highlights at the outset. After all, not everyone is going to read the report cover to cover. Giving them a summary of the highlights is a great way to make sure readers get the essential information.
Bring data to life
We’ve all "read" those great annual reports that are chock full of numbers and stats. Sometimes they are literally presented in a laundry list format. It’s 2-thousand-something, nonprofit friend, so let’s get a little more creative with how we present data. The UNHCR has a wealth of data and they’ve smartly found ways to bring that data to life through infographics, charts, and other illustrations.
3. Calgary Zoo annual report (Great Use of Social Media)
This annual report is a few years old, but we think it offers some pretty interesting innovations when it comes to digital annual reports. For starters, it has a standalone Instagram account that uses the platform the deliver and share the annual report. Talk about an interesting way to rethink using a digital platform! Here's a key takeaway you can apply to your nonprofit’s annual report.
Rethink digital engagement
While your nonprofit may still want to produce a hardcopy or PDF version of your annual report, how could you repurpose your annual report to encourage digital engagement? You may not need to open up a separate Instagram account, but we’re willing to bet that you’ve got some creativity waiting to be unleashed.
4. Operation Lifesavers, Inc. annual report (Top Annual Report Journey)
Regulate the journey
5. Best Friends Annual Society annual report (Can’t-Click-Away Report)
Keep ‘em scrolling
The full version of the Best Friends Animal Society report lives on a web page, which creates a problem that most digital assets must deal with: keeping people’s attention all the way to the end. This report solves that problem by keeping things visually interesting. As you scroll, text placement, font size, and images are changing, which makes you want to see what’s next. You can apply a similar principle to hardcopy annual reports by making them visually interesting in a way that keeps eyes scanning.
And while it sounds like we're encouraging shorter reports, there's something to be said for longer reports that keep the super engaging info rolling along. Would you rather read a 3-page report with dense blocks of text or an 8-page report that breaks up the text with pictures, infographics, and clickable resources?
Play up your best assets
It’s kind of a no-brainer that people love pics of dogs and cats. Best Friends Animal Society uses that to their advantage in their annual report by integrating a ton of adorable animal photos. They give the people what they want! Your nonprofit can do this too, even if you don’t work with dogs and cats. Chances are, there's some aspect of your nonprofit’s work that gets your community and supporters revved up and excited. Whatever that thing is, play it up in your report.
Bonus: The best nonprofit annual report
Small nonprofit annual report examples
Just because you're a smaller nonprofit doesn't mean that you can't have an annual report with big personality! These small nonprofit annual report examples will show you just what you can do with a bit of time, creativity, and a great nonprofit annual report maker.
The People Concern may not be a huge nonprofit, but their annual report humanizes the data in a way that shows the enormous capacity of their impact. The smiling faces, personal messages and stories, and custom branding all bring us on a journey instead of shoving numbers in our faces.
Make it personal
When you look at this annual report nonprofit example, what's the first thing you notice? The people. The images and stories that go along with them have a distinctly moving effect on a normally dry annual report. Your takeaway? Bring the smiles and the love.
This annual report is consistent, from the font to the image styles, to the copy. No matter which page you flip to, you can tell that it's part of Encircle's annual report.
Keep it on the level
Staying consistent with your imagery is almost as important as keeping your message consistent. At the end of the day, your goal is to provide transformational value to the people or community who need your services—even when you're building an annual report.
Check it out! Zoe Empowers gives a by-country breakdown in this colorful annual report. Combined with joyful, playful photos, this annual report celebrates the growth and impact in each country.
Break it down
It's common to break out annual reports by different programs, but this example shows growth and adoption by country. Find common threads among your programs and constituents and mix up your measurement methodology!
The Phoenix is one of our favorite nonprofits for the out-of-the-box way they're tackling addiction recovery. Their annual report works as hard as they do, and relies on community in the same way.
Never underestimate the power of testimonials
Yeah, community pulls the weight in this annual report! Get your supporters, clients, and staff involved: quotes keep your amazing data grounded while action photos emphasize the effort required to make change.
Best digital annual reports
Digital annual reports make it easy to keep your donors and supporters updated on your nonprofit's impact. Cost-effective, eco-friendly, and shareable, the best digital annual reports use technology to keep their message engaging, organized, and motivating so that supporters become donors and donors spread the love.
Honestly, what can we even say about DIGDEEP? This annual report is so cool, so fun, so impactful, so... digital! The colorful waves are reminiscent of water, the section organization is engaging, the dedication is heart-wrenching, and the impact is growing.
Make it reflect where you're going
The #1 best thing about DIGDEEP's annual report isn't the exciting images or insightful words, it's the focus on what's happening next. Not just a look back at the year in review, this annual report dives in hard to upcoming projects, provides links to all the relevant resources, and ends with an ask.
Code 2040 took a page from their fundraising campaign sites and built a website just for their annual report. Don't worry, they created an annual report pdf as well, but their site is the real masterpiece.
Go with what you know
Don't be afraid to use the tools that you know work for you—this standalone annual report website pulls in recognizable and familiar tools like impact cards, tables and graphs, and moving background and images.
Find yourself a nonprofit annual report tool
As important as annual reports are to nonprofits, not all of us have been blessed with report-building skills, so find a nonprofit annual report maker program software thingy and follow the template or instructions or whatever. Everyone will think you're a data-designing, impact-exhibiting, storytelling annual report master. (Don't worry, your secret's safe with us.)
More nonprofit report resources
- Nonprofit Annual Report Tools: Make an Impressive Report with Ease
- The Best Way for Your Nonprofit to Do an Annual Review of Your Fundraising Program
- 8 Must-Have Fundraising Reports Every Nonprofit Needs
There are lots of ways your nonprofit can jazz up its annual report this year. By looking at awesome examples of nonprofit annual reports, we hope you’re feeling inspired and ready to roll up your sleeves.