white male board meetingAre you starting to write your annual report?

Do you want to know how to write a better letter from your director?

What makes a good letter from a director in your annual report? Well, here’s a letter from the board chair in the first annual report I made, in 2007. Let’s take a critical look at it.

Here’s a letter from the board chair in my first annual report. He wrote:

“Who pays for domestic violence?

When we hear stories of domestic and family violence we know survivors pay a huge price. The isolation, humiliation, disbelief, and depression that a woman experiences can be painful beyond our understanding. Yet, while she suffers directly, there are also hidden costs to our communities.

A significant social cost is paid by family and friends of the survivor. Social and family associations can be cut off without any explanation. Employment and neighbor relationships may suffer as the need to start over drives some survivors to new communities.

Domestic violence also has a significant financial impact on businesses. Seventy percent of employed family violence survivors reported being harassed at work last year. Increased health care utilization, absenteeism, loss of productivity, and retraining needs are a few examples of the additional cost of domestic violence to business.

Who pays the biggest cost for family violence? My own personal belief is the children! Certainly friends, family and employment relationship suffer, but it’s the children who have no choice or defense. Without intervention, children often carry the scars of domestic and family violence for a lifetime.

One out of eight women will be abused this year by an intimate partner! Children, family members, coworkers, friends…. there are many who are affected by family violence. This ripple effect extends throughout the community the more we keep silent about it. If one person speaks up, then more will add their voices.

Yes, we all pay for domestic violence.

Here’s how you can help:

Talk about domestic violence: break the silence!
Check on your friends with compassionate questions
Write a check to this nonprofit.

So… there are a few problematic things about this letter.

  1. There’s no clear audience. Is it business owners? Is it a community member?
  2. There’s a lot of statistics but no story.
  3. There was no graphic to go with the statistics.
  4. It’s at a distance from domestic violence.



How could this letter be improved?

1. Make a conglomerate story from several people that the board chair interacted with.

2. Decide who the audience is and work to make something they can identify with. If it’s for business leaders, talk about the cost of DV for business, and

3. Share a business leader’s story with their employee.

4. If you’re going to quote statistics, SOURCE THEM. Are these national statistics? Regional? City statistics? You’re much more believable when you say where you’re pulling your numbers from.

5. Figure out what action you want people to take and make that the one thing you focus on. Don’t give people a menu of things to do. One thing is a good thing.


Let’s try again.

My next annual report I did had not one but TWO letters from the board chair AND from the CEO. They were also problematic. I won’t quote them in full, but look how the board chair’s letter starts.

Here’s the first sentence from the board chair:

“During 2007, X nonprofit continued to build upon the community support and financial strengths that have become hallmarks of the organization”

Can you say YAWN?

What would have been better? How could we have improved it?

Grade level.

The grade level of just this sentence is 15th grade level. It should be a 6th grade reading level.


It could have been a story from the board chair about his time in the army and why it taught him the need for our nonprofit. It could have been a story about why he got involved. It could have even been his interaction with someone from our tutoring programs, sharing what the nonprofit’s program had done for her. Even sharing her smile as she showed him a report card with an A on it for the first time. But instead it was all corporate speak. Speaking of which,

Avoid Jargon

This sentence just said a lot of things without really saying anything. And the rest of the letter was no better.

If you can’t make those days, you might want to check out my full e-course, Advanced Annual Reports for Fundraising! Click here by June 18th, 2015 to get $20 off!

annual report nonprofit


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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!