7 best nonprofit annual reports with ideas to steal for 2017

Nonprofit annual reports play an important role as we head into the giving season. Although they are not an IRS requirement, compelling annual reports can sway potential donors and show current donors how their money is helping your organization to make an impact. In our data culture, we suggest your nonprofit takes the time to put one together as a means of showing your organization’s transparency — and bragging about your success in the past year.

However, throwing a million charts and graphs together or writing a 10,000-word essay on why your nonprofit is the best isn’t going to be so effective (or worth anyone’s time). Your annual report should communicate the success of your organization and its financials in a concise, visual way. It can be tough to find the right balance between information and overload. We’ve gathered seven of the best nonprofit annual reports that strike this balance. We hope they give you inspiration for your own nonprofit’s annual report.

  1. DREAM (formerly Harlem RBI)

    DREAM’s annual report is doing everything right: beautiful images, student stories, and (of course) thanking their donors. We especially love how they paired a full-page image of a student with key stats that support the organization’s overall mission, a mix of showing and telling. Moreover, the image is focused on an individual which allows the reader to empathize with the child and imagine him succeeding — and the key stats about the DREAM community suggest he will! DREAM also hosts its annual report on Issu, a great third-party platform for a well-designed digital reading experience.

    DREAM-Harlem RBI annual report

  2. ICA Fund Good Jobs

    There are two fundamental things we love about ICA Fund Good Job’s annual report: The table of contents and the colors. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the table of contents, many reports treat them as an afterthought. However, you want the reader to know what they can find inside the report. We like that this particular report’s table of contents is interactive, allowing readers to skip ahead to the sections they are most interested in. We also love the colors, another seemingly small detail that sets a major tone. Here, they are vivid and engaging, inviting you into the report like a fun party instead of a scary performance review.  

    Fund Good Jobs annual report

  3. Girls Who Code

    It shouldn’t be surprising that a nonprofit focusing on closing the gender gap in technology has a beautifully-coded annual report built right into its website. The influx of nonprofits building annual reports into their websites offers two huge advantages: 1) It takes transparency to the next level if the report is a living, breathing section of the website. 2) It makes it easier for the user to interact with the report, which can save space and help keep things concise. We love how Girls Who Code built an interactive map of the U.S. that allows readers to change years and see how their program market has increased over time. In a traditional PDF, this would take 5 separate charts and even then we wouldn’t get the same effect of watching this program grow on a national level. That said, Girls Who Code does have an option to download the whole report as a PDF for those who still like the old-school version.

    Girls Who Code annual report

  4. Charity: Water

    Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. Charity: Water’s annual report is the perfect example of keeping it simple, but effective. The nonprofit lets the impact stand on its own on certain pages – no pictures, very little language, and lots of white space. We love how they showed the lineage of that $25.1 million: we raised X which equaled Y and resulted in Z. This is an easy to follow “formula” that your nonprofit could use as well.

    Charity Water annual report

  5. Places for Bikes

    Places for Bikes’s annual report is another example of keeping it simple to sophisticated effect. While the coding it took to develop the page may be more complex than it seems on the front-end, we love that you get one key impact metric at a time as you scroll down the page. However, if a reader is particularly interested in one key metric, Places for Bikes gives the user an option to dive deeper into a topic with just one click,thereby  successfully navigating the tricky balance between information and overload.

    Places for bikes annual report

  6. 350.org

    The annual report from 350.org combines a lot of the elements we love from the reports above: Fun colors to keep the reader engaged, interactiveness, and a sticky table of contents that follows the reader as they scroll down the page. A unique element to this report that we don’t see very often: video. The grassroots climate justice advocates at 350.org integrated videos throughout the report so readers can get more information about two of their campaigns — Exxon Knew and Break Free — all while keeping the word count down. We think that’s a win-win!

    350.org annual report

  7. DoSomething.org

    DoSomething.org breaks free from the traditional annual report by putting together Quarterly Dashboards. This is a great way to keep donors engaged with your nonprofit on a more frequent basis with “more of less.” We love how the dashboard matches the nonprofit’s personality and millennial audience through the use of emojis and hashtags and by getting personal in tone and content. The dashboard not only gives financial updates and tells member stories, but it also allows the reader to get to know the staff by highlighting work anniversaries and new hires.

    Dosomething.org annual report

We hope these nonprofit annual reports gave you some inspiration for your own nonprofit’s annual report — and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Do you have any favorites that we missed? Please share them with us on Twitter with the hashtag #WhaledIt! We’d love to see what reports are sparking your creativity.