Three tips for effective annual reports

Charities registered in England and Wales are required to write an annual report, detailing their accounts, the type of work they do, how they are funded and how those funds have been spent in the last year. The format of the report differs depending on income– charities with incomes above £500,000 need to prepare a full trustees’ annual report, while those with incomes below that figure can provide a simpler version.

Either way, it’s not always a straightforward task. The Acceleris editorial team is experienced in working with charities and public sector organisations to produce their annual reports or annual reviews. These projects are far from dull – they offer an opportunity to celebrate a year of achievement, share positive outcomes with key stakeholders and convey essential information in a concise, yet engaging way.

While we love annual report production because it’s what we do, we appreciate it’s not for everyone. For busy organisations focused on their core charitable activities, annual report writing time can cause a real headache.

Here are just three of our top tips to counter some of the challenges.

1)      Accuracy

This is not just about getting your facts straight; up-to-date, accurate figures are the main reason for producing the report in the first place. It’s about applying the same quality to spelling and grammar. Errors, however small, can make organisations appear amateurish, and for bodies spending stakeholder money, professionalism is vital. Saving money by keeping annual report production in-house works well for many organisations, but this can prove a false economy if embarrassing errors are not spotted before going to print. So, if you only buy in one external cost, make it the services of a professional proof-reader!

2)      Content

The production of an annual report is a balancing act. The annual report is first and foremost a functional document used to publish accurate accounts and demonstrate how charities are spending funds for public benefit. But this doesn’t mean it needs to be boring; indeed, an astute content plan, effective use of imagery and engaging tone of voice can turn a stakeholder who would usually scan through into one who will read your report from cover to cover.

3)      A challenge, not a chore

“It’s annual report time again! Fifty-plus pages to fill! Where on earth do I start?”