What you can take away from these exemplary annual reports.
Whether you’re a for-profit company or a nonprofit organization, annual reports are an important part of your brand’s transparency and accountability.
While there are required elements that must be included in annual reports like cash flow statements and balance sheets.
But companies and nonprofits alike will often release a shinier, more creative and more narrative-driven annual report instead. The purpose of this version of the annual report is to tell their brand’s story to customers, donors and shareholders.
These annual reports are usually highly visual, with ample photographs and charts, and will typically center on a specific theme for that year.
When done well, an annual report will clearly communicate the values and goals of a brand, the key and most exciting metrics, the major achievements for the years, some of the key players, and a call-to-action.
Some companies and nonprofit organizations have come up with some cool annual reports over the years. Here are 10 awesome annual report examples that you can draw inspiration from.
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1. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2016 Annual Letter
Bill and Melinda Gates are superheroes in the business world and their foundation’s 2016 annual report letter that. Using “superpowers” as the central narrative theme for their report, they report their two main causes for the year (sustainable energy and closing the gender pay gap). The theme simultaneously celebrates the people who have made significant contributions to their causes while also calling new people to action.
- What you can take away: A narrative theme will engage readers and give your annual report focus.
2. Shopify 2016 Year in Review
Popular E-commerce company Shopify uses minimal text, instead relying on a series of infographics to show the year’s top metrics. Clicking on the infographic will take you to a page where you can download it. This is a great content sharing strategy--readers can share the infographic on their own sites, spreading Shopify’s brand message.
- What you can take away: Using infographics makes your annual report easy to share.
3. Flywheel 2015 Year in Review
Flywheel is a WordPress hosting agency that knows how to create a funky annual report. Using a layout of overlapping square images and borders against a stark white background, their design is offbeat without looking too cluttered. Their report also follows the trend of using animated number counts to spice up their key metrics. Because of these elements, the brand’s values of fun and good humor are communicated throughout the report.
- What you can take away: Don’t be afraid to experiment with a design that will reflect your brand’s message.
4. MailChimp 2015 CountUp
Aside from using a beautiful color scheme of neon oranges, blues, pinks, and greens, the MailChimp takes a cool approach to their annual report by listing metrics in ascending order. Calling their report a “CountUp” rather than an annual report, they not only include key achievements like new features released and successful campaigns, but also fun company culture numbers like “eight murals in our new office” and “2,600 pounds of coffee beans ground.” These bits of information show readers what kind of people are behind the business in a relatable way.
- What you can take away: Sprinkle in fun stats along with the key stats to make your report relatable.
5. Charity: Water 2014 Annual Report
The days of gaudy, busy designs are long over. Now, people appreciate sleek, minimalist design. The nonprofit charity: water uses a simple layout of alternating colored blocks beside an accompanying image to show important achievements, memories, and metrics. Each section (Team, Supporters, Work, Financials) has its own corresponding color. It’s a functional, no-frills design.
- What you can take away: Use simple color blocks to organize your sections.
6. Oxfam Australia 2015 Annual Report
While Oxfam Australia takes a more traditional approach to their annual report, their approach is effective because it lays out the positive impact of their organization in a clear and reputable way. Their report is broken down into their six overarching goals, with example cases of how they addressed each. This kind of straightforward reporting is reassuring the donors, which is essential for maintaining a good brand reputation.
- What you can take away: Put the focus on the people impacted by your business or organization.
7. Energy Trust 2015 Annual Report
Energy Trust of Oregon focuses on the numbers, rather than much narrative. Their annual report consists primarily of a series of pie and bar charts that show their energy sustainability results for the year and the core financials. While it doesn’t do much in the way of evoking an emotional response from readers, their report condenses a lot of important information into a few easy-to-understand charts.
- What you can take away: Use simple charts to communicate large sets of data.
8. Kiva 2014 Annual Report
Kiva is a nonprofit organization that allows people to loan money to entrepreneurs and students in developing countries, via the Internet. The coolest feature in Kiva’s 2014 annual report is the interactive timeline that allows you to scroll through their biggest events and achievements of the year. Beneath that, they also use an infographic to highlight the key statistics for the year like number of borrowers and the amount of money lent per minute.
- What you can take away: Interactive charts are engaging and save space on the page.
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9. CPA Annual Report 2015
The Ontario Chartered Professional Accountants annual report is a perfect example of the recent trend towards one-pager annual reports. The report flows seamlessly from one section to the next, sections divided into color blocks of a similar blue hue. Covering only the very key metrics, the entire report is fast and easy to read.
- What you can take away: Simple and cohesive color schemes are easy to read.
Have you read any particularly impressive annual reports?