All nonprofits should publish an annual report

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By Kivi Leroux Miller

“Do we really need an annual report?”

I hear this question nearly every time I teach a workshop on nonprofit annual report writing.

My answer is always the same: Every nonprofit, no matter how big or small, old or new, should publish an annual report.

Your tax status affords you certain benefits, and with those come public accountability.

Even though annual reports aren’t required by law, they are considered a best practice by the leading nonprofit associations and charity watchdogs.

For an executive director or staff member who has never written an annual report, the task can be formidable.

Boiling down everything that happened last year into a few pages, pulling together accurate financial information and donor lists, and telling a compelling story that excites your supporters can be time-consuming, challenging work.

But it’s well worth the effort.

A well-written, nicely designed annual report will communicate your accomplishments for the year, emphasizing the steps you have taken to implement your mission statement and make the world a better place.

It will show your supporters that the time, talent, and dollars they provided to you were well spent and will encourage them to continue giving.

An annual report can also educate community leaders, influential decision-makers and the media about your work on important issues, while recognizing special volunteers, clients and donors.

Your annual report need not be a glossy, full-color, 20-page production.

A two-page or four-page newsletter format or online-only version can work just as well for first-time annual-report publishers.

Just be sure to use the space wisely.

Don’t simply list your activities for the year.

Instead, explain what you accomplished by pursuing those activities.

We want to know what you did but, more importantly, we want to know why you did it.

It’s better to start small, simple and straightforward than to ignore the responsibility entirely.

Kivi Leroux Miller is a consultant, trainer and freelance writer/editor who specializes in working with nonprofit organizations to communicate with donors, members, volunteers, and other supporters. Visit

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