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Your 2021 Nonprofit Online Annual Report

As we head into the summer months, it’s the right time to start thinking about your 2021 nonprofit online annual report. While sometimes seen as a necessary task amidst other priorities, your annual report is both the moment to tell your nonprofit’s story of impact over the last year and a major opportunity to increase engagement and excitement in your mission for years to come. 

At this point in time, nearly all mission-driven organizations produce a digital version of their annual report. In some cases, it has replaced the more traditional print version altogether, while in others, it complements a hardcopy report that is either provided as a downloadable resource or sent as a printed hardcopy to target audiences, such as members, funders, supporters, and advocates. 

As you dig into your nonprofit’s 2021 annual report planning process, here’s some inspiration from three different mission-driven organizations who’ve each taken slightly different and highly-effective approaches.

  • The State of Babies Yearbook 2021
  • The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Index
  • The 2020 Girls Who Code Annual Report

The State of Babies Yearbook 2021

This annual report combines a digital interactive experience with a hard-copy report. To boot, the PDF version of the report recently won a 2021 Vega Awards Winner for Branded Content.

Online Annual Report

The 2021 State of Babies Yearbook is a resource that educates public and political leaders about the unique developmental needs of babies and toddlers, advances policy solutions designed to support and strengthen families, and promotes action in America. Created by ZERO TO THREE as an initiative of Think Babies™, they identify issues regarding paid leave, access to education, and healthcare across the nation.

To complement the yearbook’s interactive web platform, where users can filter and dig through national and state data, Forum One worked with the ZERO TO THREE team to design a downloadable PDF version for audiences to hone in on key findings, takeaways, and messaging. As a 153-page PDF, the PDF version also includes 24 key data visualizations and graphics that highlight important indicators that contribute to the development of and outcomes for millions of babies.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Index 

This is an example of a digital-only approach to report on complex datasets that are then updated year-over-year.

Online Annual Report

The Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Index evaluates and grades the annual impact of U.S. government policies, leadership, and global health funding on global SRHR Issues like HIV/AIDS, family planning, and maternal and child health. The Index is managed by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), and is an effective resource for policy makers and media alike to extract and analyze the annual results.

As an online-only report solution, the Index effectively presents detailed data and annual grades for multiple actors in this aid space using a dedicated custom-built web platform that can be updated each year. In this sense, it is a living annual report. Using a back-end WordPress CMS with a front-end JavaScript application written using React and node.js, the Index balances a friendly user experience with an efficient internal editing experience. 

Girls Who Code

This is an example of a longform annual report that brings audiences through its content as they scroll down. 

Online Annual Report

Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science by equipping young women with the necessary computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. (Disclaimer: Forum One did not work on this annual report, we just love what they’ve done!)

Using a longform approach, the Girls Who Code Annual Report is a web-based report that puts storytelling at its core to capture audiences’ attention and guide them through the challenges the organization faced the year, and what they did to tackle those challenges. It’s a seamless and clean experience—and similar to the State of Babies Yearbook example, it offers a concise PDF version at the bottom (once the user has scrolled through the full online report) to download and explore in detail.

What approach makes sense for your nonprofit?

Your annual report is, understandably, a major endeavor no matter which approach you take. It requires coordination with multiple departments and stakeholders, and extensive research and writing. It’s also one of the most important ways for you to tell your organization’s story to those who want to understand your impact and credibility. 

Key considerations as you get started:

  • Your story: Using your organization’s brand and mission as your North star, what story are you trying to tell about 2021? Is it one that is rooted in deep and complex datasets? Is it one that is about personal stories of change and impact? Your story will guide you in developing the right format and framework for your report.
  • Your resources: Understanding what time, budget, and both internal and external resources you have at your disposal for your annual report will influence the approach you take—whether that’s to develop a dedicated custom platform, to integrate content into your existing site, or to create a downloadable PDF report.
  • Your existing traffic: How much traffic do your main digital channels (e.g., social media, website, email, etc.) have, and how prominent is your brand and website in search results? If, for example, your traffic and website SEO are strong, your annual report may be best suited to  live within your main site.
  • Your audiences: Do you have a strong email list and an effective outreach strategy that creates engagement with your existing database of contacts? How can you leverage advertising, partnerships, and special events to communicate your annual report to reach new audiences?

No matter the approach or platform, above all, remember that an effective annual report brings together the stories and data that ultimately help your target audiences see how you are making a difference in the world and puts them in a better position to further support you in the future.

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