The Non-Profit Annual Report Checklist:  A Comprehensive Guide

The Annual Report: An Overview

Your annual report is one of the most important marketing tools your organization can produce. 

At its core, your annual report should be an accounting of the accomplishments your non-profit has achieved over the past year. Additionally, your annual report should showcase the impact of those activities–how well did your organization meet the needs of your primary audience, including customers, members, donors, sponsors, partners, elected officials and other key stakeholders 

While financial metrics (revenue, expenses, earnings, and profits and losses, to name a few) are a key component of any annual report, it is as important to focus on your top-line activities and how well those activities support the needs of your partners. 

“Make sure your annual report builds an emotional connection with your audience.

– Monica Poling, Sounding Line Data

Do I Need an Annual Report

No. You are not legally required to complete a glossy Annual Report.

The IRS simply requires non-profit (501c3) organizations complete Form 990, or the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.

Some states and local jurisdictions also require the filing of some type of annual report. CorpNet has a handy guide to state filing deadlines and frequencies.

The Mission Statement Report Card

Think of your annual report as a report card that measures how well your organization is performing against its mission statement. While your mission statement presents a brief roadmap of the social good your organization plans to achieve, , the s the objectives of your organization in a brief sentence or two, the annual report showcases your mission in action with brilliant visuals, motivating stories, and yes, a liberal dose of graphically presented data. 

Benefits of an Annual Report

Because the annual report is a annual highlight, a statement of “this is where we are,” it is more important to be transparent and honest than it is to lie to showcase successes

  1. Connect the community
  2. Transparent communication
  3. Build trust

Connect the Community/Audience First 

While nonprofits should always remember and stay true to their mission, the more important metric is defining your audience and how you 100 Mission Statements & Planner, Free Download

Build Trust

Whether you choose to craft a one-page report or a 40 page report, It is an opportunity, in a few short pages, to build trust among customers, donors and potential partners while also highlighting. 

Annual Report Planning

  1. Set goals
  2. Create a structure
  3. Decide on a format
  4. Set your budget
  5. Assign roles
  6. Write and edit
  7. Design
  8. Distribute

Annual Report Goals

Annual Report Goals

Before you can start defining the goals of your annual report, you first understand your audience and why they choose to do business with you. 

Annual Report Formats

  1. Print Version
    1. Canva Template, from $19
  2. Electronic Version
    1. Google Slide w/ Budget Tool, from $29.99
  3. Interactive Annual Report 

Elements of an Annual Report

About Us

  1. Mission Statement
  2. Vision Statement
  3. Core Values
  4. CEO Letter


  1. Success Stories
  2. Achievements
  3. Impact
  4. Programs
  5. Products/Services
  6. Financials
  7. Future Plans
  8. Timeline of Activities


  1. Board List
  2. Staff List
  3. Partners/Major Sponsors
  4. Donors

Annual Reports We Love

Aurora Cultural Center

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