It’s that time of year again. Many charity CEOs are bracing themselves to start drafting the annual report and accounts narrative.
An annual report and accounts is an essential tool for charities to communicate their achievements, impact and financial performance to stakeholders such as donors, supporters and regulators.
Writing a great annual report and accounts can help build trust and confidence in your charity, attract new supporters, and demonstrate accountability and transparency.
But many charities tell me they struggle with writing the annual report and accounts narrative.
Doing brilliant work that changes lives and improves communities is, of course, a wonderful thing. But communicating your work effectively – to donors, funders, local authorities, partners and other stakeholders – is equally important.
Below is some advice to help you write an annual report and accounts narrative that will inspire, educate and inspire people to engage with your charity.
Tips for writing a top-notch charity annual report
1. Set clear objectives: Before writing, set clear goals for what you want to achieve. Think about who your audience is and what they want to know about your charity’s performance. Do you want to celebrate your achievements? Raise awareness of a new campaign? Demonstrate your financial stability? Whatever your objectives are, mapping them out first is a great way to help you structure the narrative.
2. Tell a story: An excellent annual report and accounts narrative should tell a compelling story about your charity’s achievements and impact. Use real-life examples, case studies, quotes and images from beneficiaries and stakeholders to bring your work to life.
3. Focus on impact: Donors and supporters want to know their money is making a difference. Ensure you highlight your charity’s impact on beneficiaries and the wider community. Use evidence and data t
4. Be transparent: Transparency is critical to building trust and confidence in your charity. Provide a clear and accurate picture of your performance. And don’t be afraid to be honest about the challenges your charity has faced. Showing how you have tackled these challenges is also a great way to evidence positive organisational characteristics such as resilience, courage and a willingness to embrace change.
5. Engage your stakeholders: Make sure your annual report and accounts narrative is accessible and engaging for your stakeholders. Use visual elements such as photos, infographics and graphs to break up the text and illustrate your points. Write in a conversational and friendly tone rather than formal or technical. Include a call to action, such as inviting people to support your work or donate to your charity.
6. Be authentic: Authenticity is something I’m passionate about. If you’re a small, local charity, you are unlikely to have complex, expensive systems for recording and evaluating impact. Explain that. Be true to your organisation. You will likely not have the funds or the staffing capacity for detailed, complex impact evaluation systems, glossy marketing materials or expensive national campaigns. That’s fine. People will understand this. Don’t feel the need to ‘big up’ your work. Be authentic.
The bottom line
Set clear objectives, tell your story in a compelling way, focus on impact, be transparent about your finances, and be authentic and natural. These will set you on the right track to writing an annual report narrative showcasing your charity’s achievement and inspiring support.