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Nonprofit management 

How to create your nonprofit annual report(s) + template [2024]

March 26, 2024

A nonprofit annual report is like an elevator pitch for a year of fundraising efforts.

Nonprofits work hard year-round to run campaigns and accept donations to fund their missions, but how can people see the impact that funding makes? Annual reports offer a clear and concise summary of fundraising outcomes for donors, partners, and stakeholders to engage with.

Nonprofit annual reports are different from the Form 990 required by the IRS. These year-end and impact reports are more creative and can truly reflect a nonprofit's personality.

Whether you're a nonprofit creating an annual report or someone looking to find one, keep reading to learn:

What is a nonprofit annual report?

A nonprofit annual report is a physical document or digital asset that summarizes a year. Organizations typically use these reports to highlight their most significant accomplishments, campaign highlights, and impactful moments.

An annual report can serve various purposes and appeal to multiple audiences simultaneously. Many nonprofits focus their reports on building relationships with new and existing donors, stakeholders, board members, volunteers, and sponsors.

An annual or impact report differs from the IRS requirement for 501c3 nonprofits to file a Form 990. Having a less formal outlet to share with stakeholders in addition to standard financial disclosures can build more confidence in your mission and inspire readers to support it.

The value of a nonprofit annual report

A nonprofit annual report adds a lot of value for charitable organizations. It also offers stakeholders, board members, and potential collaborators who are curious to learn more simply to get the most essential information in one place.

Nonprofit annual reports provide readers with the following:

Nonprofit annual reports help nonprofits:

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Nonprofit Annual Report Best Practices

The first step to creating an impactful nonprofit annual report is to clarify your primary goal and audience. Your report's audience might include current community members, prospective supporters and advocates, or both.

It’s helpful to start by reflecting on your annual fundraising strategy to clarify the goal(s) a report can align well to. For example, you might want to reach more potential corporate sponsors and use this report to pitch collaboration ideas.

As you dive into what makes a strong nonprofit annual report and the options you have to customize it below, your goal will help guide decisions along the way.

What to include in a nonprofit annual report

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How to choose a format for your nonprofit annual report

Choosing your nonprofit annual report format is about your audience and how they are most likely to engage with important information. Don’t be afraid to have fun with a few versions as you explore what resonates each year. 

Common nonprofit annual report formats include:

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Nonprofit annual report template [free download]

A nonprofit annual report template gives you an easy way to remember everything you need to include and keep things concise. We put one together to showcase how different layout, visuals, and branding can work together to bring your report to life.

Download your annual report template for free

Nonprofit annual report examples we love 

Tommy’s Pantry: Versatile impact report example

Tommy's Pantry welcomes readers to explore its 2023 impact report right from the nonprofit's website. The embedded PDF is the first menu item under "Learn About Us" in the main navigation, where visitors can arrive at a clean and engaging report to celebrate 2023 outcomes.

Here's what we love:

Tommy’s Pantry uses its impact report to honor an incredible year of change-making. So far, the organization has raised $79,277 on Zeffy and saved $4,000 in fees.

See more results from your fundraising efforts with Zeffy

Bee University NYC: Online impact report example

Curious visitors and loyal community members can click "Impact & Data" to find Bee University NYC's online annual report. From there, they arrive at a beautifully-branded landing page to view the 2023 impact.

The web page highlights impressive fundraising results from 2023 when Bee University NYC raised $6,261 and saved $313 in fees with Zeffy.

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Here's what we love:

Dear Future, Inc.: PDF year-end report example

Dear Future, Inc. put together a PDF version of their 2023 year-end report that allows readers to view it online or print it out. The organization also keeps recent year-end reports available to website visitors through the main menu.

Here's what we love:

The Dear Future Inc. year-end report celebrates a meaningful year as the organization raised $4,801 and saved $240 in fees with Zeffy's fundraising platform.

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Quick tips and free tools to create your annual report

The best practices and examples above can help get your wheels turning. When you consider that every nonprofit will likely have some form of an annual report, the tips and tools below ensure yours stand apart. 

6 quick nonprofit annual report tips to take with you

  1. Start early and plan ahead to stay calm in the busy giving seasons.
  2. Show more than you tell through visuals and numbers accompanying short, supportive text.
  3. Consider the modern reader who likes to skim and access 60-second video clips as you find ways to trim down the information you're sharing and the format you'll use.
  4. Stay transparent about your wins and challenges to build a trusting relationship with your readers and let them know where they can help.
  5. Always give readers a way to continue learning about your organization at the end of your report to encourage their enthusiasm.
  6. Get donors involved by collecting feedback throughout the year about what they are most curious about to create your most valuable report yet.

Free tools to create your annual report

36 free software tools for nonprofits in 2024

FAQs

What is needed in an annual report for a nonprofit?

An annual report for a nonprofit should include:

-> Start with a free nonprofit annual report template

Is an annual report the same as a 990?

An annual report is different from a Form 990, which the IRS requires nonprofits to disclose their financial standings as tax-exempt organizations.

A nonprofit annual report is an optional resource that can be created to accompany financial disclosures. These reports are often more creative and flexible in formatting.

Do all nonprofits have to file 990?

Nonprofits must file a Form 990 if their annual revenue meets or exceeds $500,000. Additionally, nonprofits with unrelated business income must file Form 990-T

Are nonprofit annual reports public?

Not all nonprofit annual reports are public. Form 990 financial disclosures must be public, however. 

Organizations can share any supplemental annual or impact reports based on their preference. It may depend on their goal, format, and desired audience.

Create your most impactful year with Zeffy

Zeffy is the only 100% free (zero fees) fundraising software for nonprofits. We focus on providing nonprofits with the tools they need to create the most impact from their fundraising efforts and expand communities with experiences donors enjoy.