is no mean feat. Particularly for a non-profit. Here are three small tweaks that, I find, make an annual report easier to read and leave the reader feeling ‘Oh! this organisation has had such a huge impact with our investment’ or ‘I’d like to contribute to this cause in some way’.

Using sensory words

Throwing in a word or two that evokes an image, or a feeling, sparks the readers’ imagination and gently draws them in. For e.g. the initial reaction to the programme was lukewarm. But over time our outreach efforts resonated within the community and drew a sharp rise in their engagement.

Although annual reports are a legal document and need to sound professional, they don’t have to be a dry narrative. While writing or editing an annual report – even through the many rounds of edits – I try to bear in mind that there will be a person at the end of the line. A consummate professional. But a person, nonetheless.

Captioning images

There is already a lot of debate and parody surrounding the imagery employed by the non-profit sector in their fundraising efforts. I’m sure you know. However, although visuals now happily encourage empowerment rather than entice sympathy, the images used often lack context. Particularly in print. Inserting a caption under the image of say – a smiling mother and child, adds legitimacy, context and gives the text surrounding it a whole new layer.

Telling a tale

Human-interest stories often get left out of annual reports. Perhaps, because it is such a formal document. But adding a small box with a story of how a particular project changed someone’s life for the better does not detract from the validity and legitimacy of the document. It doesn’t have to be a tall tale. And don’t the in-depth accounts, statistics and other elements do a good job of adding the necessary gravitas to the report? So, if you have a story – why not squeeze it in?


“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them”

– The American Notebooks 1848 by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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