Annual reports present a great opportunity for not-for-profit organisations to report back to stakeholders about the past year, warts and all.  But the key to a successful report is to create a quality, engaging report to remind stakeholders why they are, or should be, involved with your organisation.

This time of year sees a steady flow of requests to edit and design annual reports for many not-for-profit organisations to report back to stakeholders about the year’s events, milestones and financial performance.

While some people might read the word ‘report’ and their eyes glaze over, a good annual report presents an opportunity to communicate directly with your members, stakeholders and the general public in a meaningful way.

Your annual report should present your organisation’s hard work in a colourful, engaging and (hopefully) entertaining way.

So, how do you go about it? Here are some tips to put together a quality report that people want to read.

How to write a good annual report

  • When it comes to writing your report, think about your objectives—what is it you want to communicate?
  • Who is your audience? If yours is a wide-ranging audience, ensure your delivery reflects this, and use simple, concise language. Paint a picture of the past year, not a complete history.
  • Remind readers of your mission.
  • Introduce key executive members or shareholders, including short, interesting letters from your leaders—avoid empty praise and self-congratulation.
  • Think about your report as a way to tell a story about your organisation, not just share information. Share success stories or team profiles to help your readers connect.
  • Balance big data statistics with personal stories and anecdotes from those benefitting from your organisation’s activities.
  • Include quality, engaging photos and imagery wherever possible. Show readers what you have been doing over the last 12 months, and include short, catchy captions where appropriate.
  • Explore a theme, whether that is a transformation of the organisation, a celebration (such as an anniversary) or significant milestone.
  • Share key accomplishments and achievements for the year, and any ‘thank you’ messages to relevant stakeholders.
  • Be honest and transparent—if you haven’t been able to achieve everything you wanted for the year, be up front about it. Suggest how you will learn from mistakes.
  • Check and double-check all financials.
  • Include a call to action, to encourage readers to continue their involvement with the organisation.

What not to do


  • write too much
  • make it unreadable, whether through use of jargon or small font size
  • write in a boring tone—keep it professional but conversational
  • bombard readers with boring spread sheets and graphs
  • include errors, especially in financials
  • misspell key stakeholder’s names.

Getting it out there

As well as printed copies for your AGM, make your report available for download from your website (at the smallest file size). Creating a digital version also allows you to add interactive multimedia material, such as videos, infographics, animation and audio messages. With this in mind, consider making it available to be read on mobile devices.

If you want experienced, expert help writing, editing or designing your annual report, contact the Armedia team now.

Examples of our work


Screen Australia Annual Report 2012/13


Community Child Care Co-operative (NSW) Annual Report 2013


ACECQA Annual Report

One Response to “Annual reports shouldn’t be boring!”

  1. Marian says:

    Yes, I absolutely agree. We are a small NGO, and our annual report used to look horrible! I used to hate picking it up. We changed the design a few years ago, and it looks good, makes us look good and staff are now proud of it.

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