Annual reports are a great opportunity for your nonprofit to share wins from the last year with your community and increase transparency. When done well, annual reports can be a useful and effective communications tool for audience engagement. But we know as well as you do that actually creating a nonprofit annual report takes time and resources. In addition to writing all the copy, gathering financial figures, and getting images, you also have to do the layout—a major headache. Add on the back and forth of edits and approvals, and sometimes getting your annual report out the door feels like a miracle.
All that being said, we’re convinced that there are easier ways to create an annual report for your nonprofit! Today we’re breaking down the process and sharing some awesome tools for annual report layout and design.
Getting Organized Before Designing Your Report
Sometimes it’s tempting to go full steam ahead and try to do #AllTheThings at once with your annual report. Meaning... trying to do the design while you’re still finalizing the copy for the report. That’s a big no-no, nonprofit friend! Create your nonprofit’s annual report by getting get organized before you dive into the design work. It'll save you a lot of time and headaches in the end. (Trust us.)
We’ve created a simple checklist to help you gather all the important pieces right from the start.
- Create an outline of all the articles/reports you’ll include in your annual report
- Work with relevant staff and volunteers to gather the articles/reports
- Finalize and approve all articles/reports
- Gather photos from the last year that you may want to include (Pro-tip: gather more than you think you’ll need and make sure you get a mix of horizontal and vertical layouts.)
- Get your simplified year-end financial statements
- Create any graphics, charts, or graphs
- Pull information for donors you'd like to recognize, if you're including a donor recognition list
This is a pretty straightforward list of what to collect before you dive into designing your annual report. It’s also worth mentioning that before you start creating your annual report, figure out who gets to be a cook in the kitchen—who has feedback and approval power. You don't need every single staff member to sign off on the annual report before it goes to print, so it’s helpful to have clarity about who needs to be involved.
Easy Ways to Design a Nonprofit Annual Report
Now that you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to build the layout and design of your annual report. Is this the part you dread the most? You're “not a designer”? We want to let you in on a secret: that’s A-OK! There're tons of tools and templates that make designing your annual report way easier than it it used to be, so put down that InDesign manual and get ready for some easier options.
Yearly is a tool solely dedicated to helping you create your annual report with a minimum of mess and stress and a maximum of fun and time savings. You know how your annual report is a real pain, but you absolutely need it for your board and your supporters and ugh, it's just gotta get done? Yeah, Yearly knows that feeling. And they've got templates, tools, and help so that you can make a gorgeous, engaging, impactful annual report.
For context, here are a few examples of yearly.report annual reports:
- The National Gaucher Foundation hits all the must-have annual report elements, as well as a variety of engaging video content featuring case studies, expert opinions, and even comedy!
- Operation Lifesaver, Inc's 2018 annual report, created with Yearly, is colorful, personal, and wide-ranging in its content, displaying statistics and photographs. This report also includes a call-to-action for volunteer support.
Canva is a cloud-based design program chock full of amazing templates that you can use as a starting point for your annual report. Explore the full library of Canva templates or just look at the annual report templates. With Canva’s templates, you get to customize the colors to match your nonprofit’s brand, easily copy or add new pages, and drag and drop images right into the layout.
Looking for an alternative to a multi-page annual report? Canva also has infographic templates that you could use to create an annual report in infographic form.
Did you know there are a million-and-one uses for PowerPoint beyond creating slide decks? If you already know the ins and outs of PowerPoint, try using the format of a PowerPoint slide to create a nonprofit annual report. You might find it's a piece o' cake. Use image and text boxes to create your layout, customize colors, and more.
If you want a little extra help with the layout of your annual report, there are numerous services online that sell premade annual report templates for a small fee.
Ready to take your annual report digital? Heck Yes! Adobe Spark might be the tool for you this year. It allows you to create a web page (called a Spark Page) that becomes your interactive, digital annual report. Upload images, videos, graphics, infographics, and text to create your report.
Pro-Tip for pro-tips: Looking for pro-tips for Adobe Spark annual reports? We found this tutorial from Adobe helpful.
If your nonprofit has a past annual report that you were pleased as punch with, don’t reinvent the wheel! Consider using the old report as a template for your new annual report. Open up the original design file and save as a copy to create a new document that you can play around with. Going this route could save you a lot of time and resources.
And for you overachievers (or if you intend to work now and be lazy later, like us), consider making this year’s annual report a template for you to use in future years. Future you will give your past self a major gold star.
Even better, hand the task over to a pro designer who can iterate on your best work and make a masterpiece template you can use year after year. The best start isn't always a fresh start, and you *can* begin in the middle.
This leads us to....
Hire a designer
This may seem antithetical to the rest of this "You go, friend!" advice, but consider the resources you're about to spend: hours creating your masterpiece and money on programs to make it possible.
Need more annual report resources? Check it out!
- Nonprofit Annual Report Must-Have Elements
- Awesome Nonprofit Annual Report Examples and What You Can Learn from Them
- The Best Way for Your Nonprofit to Do an Annual Review of Your Fundraising Program
- 8 Must-Have Fundraising Reports Every Nonprofit Needs
Designing and creating your annual report really can be easier this year. By doing the prep work before you start designing and using one of the four tools we shared in this article, you’ll be on your way to designing an awesome annual report your supporters will actually want to read!