The nonprofit annual report can be one of your best donor communications tools. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits use it to tell uninteresting stories about themselves instead of positioning the reader (the donor) as the most interesting topic.

Wait … isn’t an annual report supposed to be about the nonprofit and what it accomplished in the previous year?

In short, no. Let’s answer that question by proposing a different question: who is the target audience for the annual report? Who is actually reading the annual report?

For most organizations, the donor is the target audience. For most organizations, I propose the major donors (donors with financial capacity) are the ones who actually read an annual report.

If the donors with capacity are the ones consuming the information in the annual report, why are you telling stories about your IT systems upgrade or new HVAC system? Why are you telling stories bragging about how awesome your organization is and not mentioning the donors that make it possible?

Great nonprofit annual reports — ones from Magnetic Nonprofit organizations — tell the story of your nonprofit from the previous year from the viewpoint of the donor.

These nonprofit annual reports are from a variety of years, but they all have something in common: these annual reports attract donors, volunteers, and staff.

1. Girls Who Code (View This Annual Report)

Girls Who Code consistently makes lists of great nonprofit annual reports as they don’t simply rely on posting a PDF.

What I enjoy about this annual report is how it helps people in the tribe who support this cause feel connected to the cause. It has beautiful design, great stories, and hits on the important things donors contributed in the previous year.

2. Lifewater (View This Annual Report)

Lifewater’s annual report tells great stories of families impacted by clean water. It is a great example of an organization that makes good use of testimony in the communications.

Lifewater also includes donor stories in their annual report. This helps the potential donor see themselves in the shoes of someone who gives. Another excellent section in the Lifewater annual report is the one that looks towards the future. Use your annual report to tell the story of what’s to come. When you do, a donor will trust that your organization will have tenure in the space. Donors like to give to organizations they think will be around in the future.

3. Habitat for Humanity (View This Annual Report)

The Habitat for Humanity annual report tells great stories of beneficiaries, donors, and volunteers. The use of vivid photography and magazine style layout set this annual report apart.

The annual report is a great example of a non-PDF annual report. Instead of simply producing a PDF or flip book, Habitat for Humanity takes the time to build a truly exceptional annual report.

4. History Colorado (View This Annual Report)

If your nonprofit has volunteers, the annual report is a fabulous tool for promoting their great work. You can use the annual report to tell stories of volunteers, describe their work. and explain the impact these volunteers made. Using your annual report to tell stories of volunteers will help promote volunteer opportunities at your nonprofit.

There are multiple impacts on telling the stories of volunteers through your annual report. First, it makes volunteers feel good about their work. When they feel good, they will want to volunteer again. Second, it reinforces the tribe feeling among supporters. People want to feel like they belong to something. When you have a core group of volunteers, it helps to build a sense of community when they see how other people are volunteering. Third, it builds feelings of trust with donors. If someone is willing to commit their time, they must believe in the mission.

In History Colorado’s annual report, they tell the impact of volunteers on the beneficiaries. Showing the economic impact of volunteerism on the nonprofit helps demonstrate the organization invests wisely.

Creating a great annual report that showcases your donors and volunteers will help define your organization as a Magnetic Nonprofit.