Use your annual report as a chance to shine by showcasing your triumphs and emphasizing their impact in your community.
Identify and speak to your audience: service users, supporters, volunteers, local officials, MPs, foundations, etc.
Put forward your main message, and keep statutory information at the back of your report. You may wish to consider putting it in a separate companion document.
Your theme should be whatever your organization’s main push has been over the last year. Compelling stories around that theme are fresh in your group’s conscience. Use these stories to give your report its narrative.
Do the words “annual report” evoke yawns for you? Consider “impact report”.
Good design (flow, cohesion, colour, visual interest, meaningful infographics, interesting visuals) gives your document impact. If you don’t have those skills in-house, hire an experienced designer to keep your report from disappearing.
Use all voices to give your report its character: service users, staff, partners, volunteers, supporters, and case studies. “A Day in the Life of a Volunteer.” Outline the major risks faced by your organization – it’s an important part of the picture.
Consider using an event to ‘launch’ your report. Or build its launch through media. Perhaps a local story or issue can help create a little buzz around your report’s release.
You’ve prepared the usual introduction, executive summary, etc: do not neglect to closely align your objectives with your business plan.
Key achievements can include positive media coverage, increases in volunteer numbers, invitations to speak at conferences, new contracts gained, etc.
When showing impact and value, it’s critical to back up your claims with statistics, numbers and facts.
A recent and comprehensive examination of nonprofit reports by Deloitte revealed most to be dull, and short on photos, charts, colour and visual interest in general. Don’t use long unbroken tracts of copy.
Finally, while there is a trend to publish your report only online, it pays to produce a small quantity of hard copies. Most charities need to do more to communicate with potential donors. A hard copy left behind in hand makes a lasting impression.