Whether your brand is a local nonprofit or a global business, an annual report is an incredible way to tell the story of your organization.
If you’re not already aware, an annual report is a comprehensive document that summarizes the finances and activities that occurred in your company over the past fiscal year. While annual reports are most often provided to shareholders and other investors to give them a detailed look at their investment, the report is also an excellent tool for attracting new audiences to your organization as well.
TIP: Already mastered the basics of an annual report? Take yours to the next level by learning “How to Make Your Nonprofit’s Annual Report Stand Out,” then discover the top “Annual Report Design Trends for 2022.”
Not sure how to get started? Here are five essential elements that should be included in your annual report:
1. A Statement or Letter from the CEO/President
All good annual reports start with a statement from an important leader in the company. While this letter would ideally come from the CEO, President, or other head of your organization, a statement from a Board Chair or someone with a similar position is also acceptable. This letter should offer a candid, approachable introduction to how the previous year went — including where your organization succeeded, any struggles you may have faced, and the direction your company is heading in the future.
DESIGN TIP: In addition to the letter, you should also include a headshot of the person the letter is attributed to. Remember that while those receiving your annual report are likely familiar with your organization, they may not be aware of the key personnel working “behind the scenes.” For even more flair, consider adding a few action shots that show the person’s involvement in some of the key initiatives discussed in the letter.
2. Detailed Financial Information
While it can be nerve-wracking to disclose your organization’s financial details in such a public manner, accurate and detailed financial information is the foundation upon which a successful annual report is built. This includes (but is not limited to):
- income statements
- balance statements
- P&L (profit and loss) statements
- cash flow statements
- statements about changes in equity
Providing accurate financial information about your organization is vital because current and prospective investors will use this data to make educated decisions about how and where to invest in the future.
DESIGN TIP: Utilize visuals to help key financial information stand out. For example, a pie graph is an excellent, easy-to-understand way to show how funds have been allocated over a given year.
3. Annual Highlights
In addition to providing the necessary financial information, an annual report is also an excellent opportunity to show the mission of your company in action and humanize your organization beyond numbers on a piece of paper. With that in mind, utilize photos that put the people of your organization (including employees and anyone your organization may serve) front and center.
Did your company launch any new programs or initiatives that you want to showcase? Were there any fundraising events held throughout the year? The annual report is the place to show them off, which helps to tell your investors why they should care about and continue contributing to your organization.
4. A Future Forecast
Regardless of whether your organization had a profitable year or not, it’s important to end your annual report by letting your audiences know what’s on the horizon. Clearly outline the goals your company will be working toward in the following year, and let supporters know how they can help you reach them. Offering a roadmap of where your organization is going can go a long way toward making key audiences feel more connected to your cause.
5. A “Thank You”
Before you wrap up your annual report, you should take the time to thank those who have taken the time to read the report, as well as those who have contributed to your organization over the past year. If you’re completing an annual report for a nonprofit, including a list of donors from the past year can be an excellent way to show gratitude. You can even consider including a closing statement from the same executive who opened the report to help tie things together.
Ultimately, while creating an annual report is a very time-consuming task, it is also a great way to “yearbook” your successes — and telling the comprehensive story of your organization means it is time well-spent.
In need of additional inspiration? Click here to see several award-winning annual reports created by the Scooter Media team!