So a very long time ago, I made an annual report. It was… special. I showed it to a board member and she actually burst out laughing. I showed it to a friend of mine and she smirked and said, “nice annual report Mazarine.” I was so proud of it. I said, “You see, I used stamps as design elements!” “Ye-ess” she hesitated. “Why didn’t you say “Stamp out domestic violence or something?” “Oh” I said. “I hadn’t thought of that.

In fact, the whole annual report had a lot of beautiful stamps I’d found all over the internet. But stamps had nothing to do with our cause. And I didn’t even make a metaphorical leap to help them make sense. Nope. Just a bunch of stamps… distracting from our mission. Oh, what a mess. It was so obvious we did not hire a designer. But my boss just said, “Make it” she didn’t give me any instruction, I didn’t know what to do. So I made a bad one.

Here you can see the cover.

What is wrong with this first annual report cover that I made?

  1. The colors are muddy.
  2. That brown? Straight out of Microsoft Publisher. YUCK.
  3. I actually took our brochure cover and made it part of the front cover, which just didn’t work.
  4. There’s too much text
  5. The picture doesn’t really show what the nonprofit does (help survivors of domestic violence)
  6. The margins are messy
  7. There is a stamp as a design element for absolutely no reason at all-and yes, the brochure is in the center of the stamp.
  8. The fonts are not consistent
  9. However it is good for a laugh



Here’s the second annual report cover that I made. Why is it better than the first one?

  1. There’s one main image
  2. It’s actually a good photograph, and there’s a full bleed, which looks more professional
  3. The image shows some of the people that the nonprofit helps
  4. There is a more interesting, distressed font
  5. The logo is big and recognizable and does not detract from the design
  6. You can read it from far away
  7. There are very few words on the front cover


Now go and take a look at your last annual report cover. Did you make some of the mistakes I made?

What could you do better next time?

If you’d like to learn not just how to improve your annual report cover, but your entire annual report, then you might want to join us for our three part annual report master class series on June 7th, 9th and 13th!

Annual Report Masterclass header

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!

Also, we’ll talk about how to make your annual report look good online as well as offline!

Get the masterclass series and make your next annual report sparkle!

If you can’t make our masterclass, check out our Advanced Annual Reports for Fundraising e-course!