For nonprofit organizations, keeping donors interested in your mission is vital at any time — but especially when it’s time to prepare your annual report. Yours could be just one in a stack of end-of-year reports going out to major philanthropists who will need to figure out if you deserve their help once more. Giving them information is helpful. Giving them a story is better.

When you’re next in the market for communications support, don’t just look for someone who knows how to write a grant application. Look for someone with a talent for design, in print and online. Look for someone who understands the importance of what donors see, not just what they read. The best communicators know how to mix images, words and numbers to send one clear message: They need you.

That’s right: they. The people you help every day should be front and center. Take a look at the first photograph in the 2016 annual report from Women’s World Banking (WWB). It’s of women in Africa running a textile shop. Photographs of beneficiaries put faces to the facts. This not only allows donors to feel a connection to your solutions, but also shows that you’ve built connections with the people those solutions are for.

Just one page later, we learn the problem that WWB is helping to solve: “More than 1 billion women around the world do not have access to even a simple savings account at a bank.” A few more numbers follow: 49 partner institutions in 32 countries, serving a total of more than 44 million clients. Top-line metrics like these give report readers a strong sense of your impact. More details can be tucked away in interactive graphics, such as the map showcasing WWB’s global partners. This approach streamlines the user experience, giving a reader the chance to deep-dive into the moment, instead of waiting until the end of the report to read a chart-filled appendix.

Speaking of charts, look at the bar and pie graphs sprinkled throughout the report. They’re each roughly the size of a quarter, and they only show two numbers: current and former. Once again, the emphasis is on top-line metrics. But these abbreviated charts also give readers an idea of the progress you’ve made. Don’t limit your data design to the most basic techniques you know in Microsoft Excel; the last two bars in a bar graph and the biggest slice of a pie graph are what donors remember. The purpose of data visualization is “to communicate information clearly and efficiently to users,” and you couldn’t do it better than this.

Finally, take a look at where WWB’s financials come up: at the very end. The main thrust of the document tells donors the who, what, where, when and why of their assistance; the how comes later, in case their minds aren’t made up already. This is how an ordinary annual report becomes an impact report. It leaves the reader feeling good about your organization and his decision to join you, once and again, in creating change.

Visual storytelling is a skill your nonprofit cannot afford to pass up. Your services and your branding depend on it. Are you ready to boost your value in your donors’ eyes? Visit for more information about creating reports that resonate.