The Nonprofit Annual Report: 6 ways to use infographics to show your work

Reports of the infographic’s death are greatly exaggerated. Despite claims that infographics are just a passing fad, they’ve managed to stick around.

And why wouldn’t they? Infographics are great for engaging and educating audiences, especially on social media platforms. If you’re trying to explain something complex, infographics are a non-intimidating way to walk your audiences through an explanation, step by step. If you want to highlight facts and figures in a report, a sidebar of infographics is a great way to give those stats their day in the sun.

The nonprofit annual report is the perfect place for a nonprofit to harness the power of infographics. Here are six examples of infographics adding depth and nuance to annual reports, from simple stats to complex data.

6 ways infographics can light up your nonprofit annual report.

Psst – Are you on Pinterest? You know what to do!


charity: water

Ever the example of successful nonprofit marketing, charity: water’s annual reports are remarkably direct. Take their 2015 annual report (PDF link), for example — rather than writing a series of lengthy project profiles, the report simply presents the numbers.

charity: water's nonprofit annual report infographics

Just the facts, ma’am.


charity: water's nonprofit annual report infographics

All 45 pages of the report are like this; a compelling photo, a couple of statistics, and no fluff whatsoever.

I think this approach works well for two reasons. First, it’s in keeping with charity: water’s identity as a no-nonsense, fully transparent organization. Their messaging is consistently simple and direct, and their marketing is wholly unelaborate (in a good way), so this fits perfectly.

Second, this approach positions the annual report as a jumping-off point. If you wanted to learn more about the 866 projects in Cambodia, for example, you would do so on charity: water’s main site, rather than a static report, giving the organization a chance to engage you as a potential donor.


Wholesome Wave

Wholesome Wave makes healthy, fresh produce affordable for under-served consumers in the US, particularly those on food stamps. Their 2015 annual report (PDF link) features a few pages of infographics describe the organization’s impact while maintaining the overall look and feel of the report.

Wholesome Wave's nonprofit annual report infographics

The infographic above, for example, is really just a bunch of statistics and a few illustrations over a colorful backdrop. But it works. It’s totally in line with the rest of their report, and the bright, cheery photo maintains the feeling of freshness and optimism.

I would also like to point out their financials page:

Excerpt from Wholesome Wave's nonprofit annual report infographics

Typically, a nonprofit’s financials are presented in the annual report as a giant table of numbers. It gets the job done, sure, but it’s… boring. Here, Wholesome Wave has opted to make the financials a little more interesting by turning them into clean, simple graphs. This ends up making the organization even more transparent; by illustrating the financials, they ensure that people will read and understand them — far more than they would have with just a table.

For some, this may seem like dangerous territory — what if our financials weren’t so great last year? Ultimately it’s your decision, but consider your audiences: donors and potential funders want to know where their money is going. If you’re open about how you receive and use funding (and yes, even your losses), you’ll be that much more trustworthy in their eyes. And if you do have some financial shortcomings, a brief sidebar on the page explaining your year’s challenges is a great way of addressing the issue head-on.

For those concerned that these graphs don’t offer enough financial detail, remember that your annual report is typically paired with a financial summary document. Check your country’s reporting requirements; you may be able to pare down the data table to just the stuff your potential supporters want to see.



Speaking of food security, OzHarvest is an Australian charity that delivers meals to hungry families and operates supermarkets — all using “rescued food” that was deemed imperfect or otherwise unsellable in regular stores.

OzHarvest’s annual reports echo the charity’s bold, playful style and distinct graphic identity:

OzHarvest's nonprofit annual report infographics

OzHarvest's nonprofit annual report infographics

Both of these pages use relatively simple stats and graphics, with one unusual feature: by having the text stats “interact” with a photo, it makes the whole presentation more dynamic and playful, in keeping with OzHarvest’s fun, cheeky spirit.


Springboard for the Arts

With a name like Springboard for the Arts, you know design is going to be a consideration. Springboard for the Arts provides resources and support for independent artists in Minnesota.

Here is their entire 2015 annual report:

Springboard for the Arts' nonprofit annual report infographics

As with years past, the report was accompanied by the organization’s financial statement and 990 tax form, but otherwise this is it. It’s obviously in keeping with Springboard for the Arts’ mission to support local artists, and it’s totally engaging — imagine this floating through your Twitter feed! It’s also clearly made for its target audiences, who are likely young people living in St. Paul with an appreciation for local art.

Admittedly, this style isn’t for everyone, but consider this: how much of this report did you read, and how does that compare to traditional reports?


ISTE — International Society for Technology in Education

ISTE advocates, educates, and sets international standards for the use technology in education. It makes sense, then, that their annual report takes a more modern approach. Like Springboard for the Arts, ISTE has opted to present their annual reports as single-page infographics, sometimes accompanied by a few other pages of mission, vision, and leadership statements; sometimes not.

ISTE annual report infographics

View the full version here.

Because the infographic is arranged as blocks of content, ISTE can get even more mileage by using the blocks as social media graphics. Depending on how they choose to split the piece, they could easily get 10-15 social media cards out of the same report. Those social media posts can then link back to the full version, inviting readers to get the full story back on the ISTE website.


Feltron Annual Report

Of course, any list of annual report infographics would be incomplete without the granddaddy of them all: the Feltron Annual Report.

From 2005-2014, Nicholas Feltron chronicled the nuances of his daily life. He recorded personal interactions, time spent at work, miles walked, beverages consumed, and other minutia, then wove these data into fantastic works of data visualization.

Feltron isn’t a nonprofit, but his work is a great example of the power of infographics — what began as an unnecessarily complex year-end review for family and friends turned into something of a data phenomenon and landed his work in MoMA’s permanent collections. Not bad at all.


What are your favorite nonprofit infographics?

Did we miss one? Which nonprofits make the best use of infographics in their annual report? Tell us in the comments below!

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