We spend a lot of our time looking at Annual Reports. A LOT. We’ve seen some fantastic examples but probably twice as many we could hardly bring ourselves to read. We want your Annual Report to be one of those that simply demands to be read!

So – in no particular order – here are our top tips:

  1. Don’t use too much narrative: There is a lot of ‘ticking the box’ to comply with the reporting requirements without thinking how can you use the numbers to help a charity to show how they are clearly achieving their aims and providing a key service to their beneficiaries- this is what donors are interested in. Too much narrative can make it difficult to actually see what the charity is achieving.
  1. Think about digital options – There are lots of good reasons to think about a digital report. It’s cheaper to produce, has the opportunity to be much more engaging through visuals and can reach a greater number of people. Make the report easy to access by linking to it from your website. Issuu is a great platform for online Annual Reports
  1. Use stand out text:Even when you’ve edited the copy down and feel that everything in the report needs to be included there are bound to be some real key pieces of information that you would want anyone flicking through to notice. Highlighting the text, pulling sections out or using larger text will help draw the readers eye to key pieces of information.

  1. Be transparent, open and honest:The report is a space to voice achievements and celebrate successes, however if the organisation hasn’t been able to achieve all it wanted to in the past year then be honest about it. Most stakeholders appreciate honesty and transparency, as long as lessons are learnt.
  1. Add images and facts:This could be as simple as a ‘year in numbers’ page or go as far as a web link to video footage! A picture really does paint a thousand words so make sure that you include photos of your services users (where appropriate). Along with quotes ‘from the horses mouth’ this can be a very powerful way of reducing the need for reams of text. Data can be transformed from something very dry to something beautiful and engaging – information is beautiful is one of our favourite places for some visual data inspiration!
  1. Ensure all the basics are there by checking with the reporting requirements: The latest Commission’s guidance on Charity Reporting and Accounting essentials (CC15 a) is available here

  1. Don’t include everything: when you’ve ensured you’ve met the legal requirements then it can be helpful to ask yourself ‘so what?’ and ensure that everything else that goes in there is key. Information overload will mean that the most important things get lost in a sea of words. The NSPCC developed a great interactive tool enabling stakeholders to produce their own Annual report based on the information they were most interested in.
  1. Include a ‘Call to Action’ – We don’t see this very often but we do think it’s a good idea. If someone has taken the time to read your annual report then they should have a good understanding of the work you do and the difference it makes. So tell them what you want them to do next!
  1. Say thanks – it’s easy to forget but so important to remember to acknowledge the contribution of donors and supporters of your charity and your Annual report is the perfect place to do this. It also highlights to potential funders and donors that others are supportive and recognise the value of what you do.
  1. File early – we know, we know! This isn’t always possible but at the very least make sure your report is not late. This information does show up online (a red marking against your entry on the register) and sets a bad precedent before anyone has even read anything you have to say!