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not for profit

How to produce an engaging annual report

How to produce an engaging annual report

For most not for profit (NFP) organisations, their annual report is a document filled with lots of information about their activities, their audited financials and a wrap up of various departments.

It is all collated into a substantial document that is printed in full colour on glossy paper. And they look great! But, there is no need to spend so much money and use up your valuable resources on a document with such a short shelf life.

We think the following tips will help you produce an engaging report that can connect you with your members, stakeholders and potential new funders.

Legal requirements

Legal requirements

First things first… there is no legal requirement to produce an annual report. But we do believe it is a great way to showcase the work your organisation has been involved in over the past twelve months… and can help engage your stakeholders with any upcoming plans. Kirsten Forrester, CEO, says,

“Traditionally, the annual report is an opportunity to report on activities of the past year and it is often used as a vehicle for publishing the annual financial statements… in fact, organisations often publish all 20+ pages of their audit report. But there is no need to do that. For registered charities the ACNC will have your financial reports and if you receive government funding you will have direct, explicit reporting obligations that require much more detail than what is usually included in an annual report.

There is no legal obligation to produce an annual report, it is essentially a marketing document… and as such, it allows you complete freedom in the content you include.”

Go Digital

Go digital

NFPs are always looking to make the most of their resources and one of the easiest ways to save time and money on the production of your annual report is to make it digital.

In this innovative age, people are used to receiving information online or in soft copy direct to their email inbox.

In fact, many will prefer a digital version that they can easily refer to. We’d be willing to bet that even the most beautiful and glossy printed annual report will never make it to a bookshelf, and instead will probably make to a recycling bin within a month or so.

There are many online publishing tools that produce very slick e-books and recent media research shows that almost 85% of the Australian population read digital news, which would indicate we are a nation that likes digital copy.

The bonus of going digital is you are producing a far more environmentally friendly version of your report. Think of the trees…

Leverage the marketing opportunity

Leverage the marketing opportunity

As Kirsten suggests, your annual report is essentially a marketing tool and as such you should maximise its appeal to the reader.

You want your members, stakeholders, potential new funders and even new employees to enjoy reading the report and to be impressed by the organisation. Kirsten says,

“Your report should showcase who you are as an organisation and what you do… it should focus on outcomes – the benefits you provide to the community. You can include information about specific activities and events but connect it back to the positive outcomes you are achieving.

Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to the annual report… it’s important to remain engaged with members and donors throughout the entire year. Make sure you are regularly updating them with your activities… one annual report is not really enough to maintain that relationship. Your members always want to know about the change you are making in the world.”

Your story is important

Your story is important

Consider including future plans and goals in your annual report. Extending from the activities you’ve completed this year, it can help build a story of organisational growth to present ideas for the next year or more and to engage your stakeholders for the longer term.

Plus, rather than publishing extensive financial information, think about presenting your financial data to support the story you want to tell. Kirsten recommends,

“Instead of publishing the audited financials, use charts to highlight your key metrics… this allows you to tell a much more nuanced story than the good old general-purpose financial statements.

This also allows you to make the connections between the organisation’s financial and non-financial indicators, whether that is your occupancy rate or your social return on investment or other impact indicators.”

By following these tips, we are confident your annual report will be a welcomed publication and not just end up in the recycling.

Read more not for profit governance articles.

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