What’s in My Mailbox | This Nonprofit Gratitude Report Shines

July 28, 2021

It’s been said that “victory comes from finding opportunities in problems” (Sun Tzu) And in no instance could that be more true than in the nonprofit sector’s relationship with the annual report.

They’re not required by law, but annual reports give your organization legitimacy that an IRS Form 990 can’t quite touch. They let the world know you’re serious.  In fact, during my days with a grantmaking foundation, an organization’s annual report was a required document of prospective grantseekers. And, while we would accept a 990, those organizations without an annual report were rarely funded.

Simply put, your annual report fills a void that your 990 can’t.  If done well, they show your supporters and community leaders the impact you’ve had.  They can play a critical role in seeking corporate and foundation funding, as well as your overall communications strategy.

But the end result found in most nonprofit annual reports is a dry, jargon-laden document that almost no one reads.

What if, instead, your annual report could be a celebration of the good work your supporters’ gifts had made possible?

What if your annual report became a document that your donors loved to receive and read?

What if your nonprofit annual report actually raised money?

That is the premise behind a well-written and designed Gratitude Report.

And, since my very first accidental gratitude report back in 2003 (!!), this is the concept of annual reports we’ve incorporated into our Basics & More training.

But a gratitude report goes beyond merely slapping the title of “Gratitude Report” on the cover of your same old annual report. It’s a little bit art and a little bit science.

That’s why I loved this annual report from Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC), a nonprofit that “provide/s domestic violence safe shelter, intervention, and prevention.”

This is a clear, simple visual display of AWAIC’s donors’ gifts in action through 2020. I loved the colors, the hearts, the language of this piece. It’s laden with gratitude:

Every day, your support of AWAIC helps turn…
Fear into FREEDOM
Desperation into DETERMINATION
Hopelessness into HOPE

I also loved that AWAIC mailed their gratitude report — and sent an email version (both of which can be found below).

What’s missing? The endless 8 point lines of donor names. Hallelujah! No matter what your boss tells you, leave ‘em off.

What else? I would have appreciated one story that illustrated the work of AWAIC. And I’d recommend sending this report in an envelope with a remittance envelope rather than a self-mailer. But those are minor quibbles.

Download AWAIC’s Gratitude Report. How does it make you feel? That’s what we’re aiming for.

Download the hard copy


Download the email



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