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How to Create a Nonprofit Impact Report That Inspires (+3 Examples)

8 min read
May 15, 2024
Shannon Whitehead headshot
Shannon Whitehead
Content Strategist, Neon One

In the busy mix of your daily work pursuing your organization’s mission, it’s easy to get so lost in what you’re doing that you don’t stop to update your donors. But regularly updating supporters on the impact your organization is making and what their donations are accomplishing is crucial to keeping donors informed and connected to the cause. That’s where an impact report comes in!

When you read this article, you’ll learn the answers to five crucial questions about nonprofit impact reports:

Let’s get started!

What Is a Nonprofit Impact Report?

An impact report—similar to an annual report—communicates an organization’s achievements, impact data, fundraising progress, goals, and other impact-related information that showcases the organization’s work to donors.

Impact reports are an excellent way to demonstrate financial transparency to donors and share the real-world impact their support has made in your community or around the world. These reports can motivate donors to continue supporting your organization, stay engaged with your work, and contribute to active or upcoming fundraising campaigns.

Your report could cover a specific period of time or a certain program, initiative, or campaign. Some organizations choose to send quarterly or bi-annual impact reports, for example, while others loop impact report information into their annual report.

When you send an impact report that is separate from your annual report and other donor communications, you have an opportunity to update donors more regularly and share exciting updates as they happen.

What’s Different Between Impact Reports and Annual Reports?

The biggest difference between impact reports and annual reports is that annual reports are only sent once per year, typically at the end of the year. Impact reports often cover similar information for the same audience of donors and other stakeholders but are created more frequently.

While annual reports cover an entire year’s worth of data and updates, impact reports focus on the organization’s impact on its cause over a shorter period. There has been some talk in the nonprofit sector that annual reports are evolving and rebranding as impact reports, but many organizations still distinguish between them.

Why Should Nonprofits Send an Impact Report?

We won’t deny that curating, designing, and sending an impact report for your nonprofit requires some extra work. However, doing so also yields many benefits to both your organization and your supporters:

1. Share Your Impact

As the name suggests, impact reports’ primary purpose is to showcase your organization’s impact. Complete with graphics and photos, an impact report can highlight your organization’s progress and quantify the impact of your campaigns, initiatives, programs, or services.

By sharing the data and details behind your work, you can help donors visualize your effectiveness and see their donations in action.

2. Engage Donors

Another key purpose of an impact report is to keep your donors informed and in the loop. Sending supporters a report between your larger initiatives, like annual reports and other campaigns, helps keep your mission at the forefront of their minds.

It can also help establish trust between your supporters and your organization by regularly showing the tangible impact they’ve made with their donations.

Reading the report invites donors to reflect on the organization’s impact, feel connected to and proud of contributing to its successes, and participate in its continued growth.

3. Establish Credibility

Your impact report is a great space to share detailed information about your organization’s leadership decisions, goal outcomes, and financial stewardship.

If you share your impact report online, as many nonprofits do, sharing these details can help build credibility with your donors, your supporters, and the public.

An impact report is a way to build credibility, trust, and confidence by being transparent about how your organization uses its resources and evidencing the work you do.

What Should an Impact Report Include?

Your nonprofit’s impact report will vary based on your mission and the type of data and information you have to report. However, the content should be informative and visually appealing.

Here are a few commonly included sections:

Opening Statement or Letter

Begin your impact report with a few paragraphs recapping the time frame it covers, addressing the organization’s impact, and thanking supporters. Bonus points if it’s a letter from your CEO or another prominent leader!

Impact Numbers

Data points that show what the organization achieved—we’ll call these “impact numbers”—are typically the bulk of an impact report’s content. This section breaks down how many people you served, how many items you purchased, and other key program metrics. For example, a nonprofit that provides funding for people who can’t afford critical medications might report that they served 168 community members and provided 457 bottles of medication in one quarter.

Updates and Announcements

Provide organization updates and announcements to get your supporters up to speed. This can include new staff you’ve brought on board, fundraising campaign progress, impact numbers to date, financial updates, a new program launch, etc.

Impact Story

Few things are more powerful than storytelling when it comes to communicating an organization’s impact. Whether you choose to include a written story from someone your organization served, an interview with a family that benefited from your work, or a QR code to watch a video story, your impact report is a great place to introduce the humans behind your work and their stories.

Visuals

Visually illustrate your organization’s impact with high-quality photos, graphics, charts, and graphs. These visuals make your report more pleasing to the eye, help break up information, and make the report easier to read. Plus, showing your donors the faces of the people their donations help support can build connection and credibility.

What Are Some Good Impact Report Examples?

If you’re curious about how your fellow nonprofits are showcasing their work, how about three awesome impact report examples? 

The organizations featured below have produced impact reports that include good design, relevant content, exciting updates, and updated impact numbers to inform and inspire their supporters.

New Story

New Story's impact report on their website's blog
New Story’s impact report on their website’s blog

New Story is a nonprofit that creates innovative housing solutions and empowers families on their journey out of poverty and into adequate housing. The organization publishes its quarterly impact reports on its website’s blog section, making them easy to link to and share.

Their Q1 2023 impact report is a great example because it begins with a letter from the CEO, includes photos and a video, highlights updates on partnerships and staff, and features an interview with their Director of People & Culture. The CEO’s letter addresses supporters and emphasizes that their support and generosity enabled life-changing housing for thousands of people.

The Rainforest Alliance

A page in The Rainforest Alliance's impact report about their systemic approach
A page in The Rainforest Alliance’s impact report about their systemic approach

The Rainforest Alliance partners with rural communities in the world’s most important tropical forests to address the climate crisis through farm and forest management. The organization’s impact report, which is released annually, is a well-designed PDF that can be downloaded on their website.

Their 2023 impact report is an incredible example that includes a map that breaks down the organization’s impact around the world, an opening letter from leadership, and short articles about various aspects of their work.

The report also has a theme, “Together,” that runs throughout its section headings, including “Together, we’re protecting precious forests in Latin America” and “Together, we’re creating a world where people and nature thrive.” Language like this is perfect for an impact report, as it makes donors and other stakeholders feel connected to the work and recognize the part they play in the mission.

Seed Effect

One page of Seed Effect's impact report that shows a story, photos, and impact numbers
One page of Seed Effect’s impact report that shows a story, photos, and impact numbers

Another nonprofit that releases impact reports quarterly is Seed Effect, an economic development organization that focuses on South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans. Their Q3 2023 impact report is shared in flipbook format on their website, allowing for easy online reading akin to a digital magazine.

One of the biggest benefits of a quarterly impact report like Seed Effect’s is its brevity. Since Seed Effect breaks information into quarterly updates, it has less information to share at once, making impact reports more easily digestible to the supporters who will read them.

Learn to Master the Art of Donor Engagement

Impact reports are just one important way to engage your donors. Since these reports are sent infrequently, a donor engagement strategy is crucial for connecting with donors regularly.

Ready to cut through the noise and keep your supporters captivated by your mission? Dive into the article below for insights on donor engagement strategies you can use to stand out in a crowded communications landscape and build meaningful connections with your supporters!

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