Ever had a makeover? Want to see a drastic makeover that really paid off?


What a drastic makeover! Whoa.

No, not this one. Read on.

Most of us are like that duck on the surface of the water. Calm on the outside, but paddling like hell underneath!

We’ve got 5 people’s jobs, and we’re supposed to do them all in a mere 70 hour work week.

And most of us never got trained in graphic design, messaging or marketing for our nonprofits, yet we’re expected to know exactly how to make our programs shine in 10 pages or less!

Let’s just stop a minute and thank all of those hard-working fundraising staff, the office of one CAN make a difference, all of you nonprofits with 2 staff, you executive directors that don’t have a graphic designer on staff, who still want to show the impact of your programs and make your nonprofit look better and better to donors, and highlight the incredible donors you have.

A big shout-out to Emma Gray, new Executive Director at Marathon Education Partners, who took an annual report webinar with me and went right back to work on Monday and changed her entire annual report and made it better! Here’s the before (2010’s annual report) and below is the after. I’m going to break it down for you, why one is better than the other. I’d love to get your comments as well.

Here’s the Before:

marathon-before-cover marathon-before1 marathon-before-infographic


Why does this need improvement?

1. The statistics are written, instead of put into an easily skimmable infographic

2. The description of the programs is a wall of text

3. It’s all US, We, Our, instead of a donor focus, with You, thank You, etc.

4. The cover seems confused, the 3 floating heads at the bottom contrast with the photo in the middle,

5. The name of the nonprofit is very small, the quote doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of what the nonprofit does.


Here’s the After our Annual Report Webinar!

marathon-after-cover marathon-after3marathon-after-infographic











Why is this annual report better?

1. It looks much more kid-focused. The infographic is a chalk-board.

2. The statistics are put into an easily skimmable infographic

3. The goal of Marathon Education Partners is clearer from the cover, to get more people to graduate middle school, high school, and college.

4. The use of a distressed font makes the annual report more visually interesting

5. They highlight donors and why they give, along with the kids they partner with. It feels more personal, like a letter from a friend.

6. The notebook paper and doodles make it feel more like an organization for kids, which it is.

Good job Marathon Education Partners! Way to take the ball and run with it!

What do you think makes a good annual report?

If you’d like to learn not just how to improve your letter to the director, but your entire annual report, you might want to check out my full e-course, Advanced Annual Reports for Fundraising!

annual report nonprofit

This course will help you make an annual report that has readers ready to take action, instead of falling asleep!

You won’t just learn how to write a better annual report, but how to design it too! Good design makes donors trust you more. You’ll learn about how to create infographics, how to use free online tools and no expensive software to make your annual report look gorgeous!