5 ways you can make your next charity annual report brilliant

Some charity annual reports are nothing short of brilliant, they’re compelling documents that tell the story of the cause and the difference staff & volunteers have made throughout the year. Unfortunately most annual reports don’t fall in to that category. If your last annual report was a 40-page monster, filled with internal jargon and nothing but text now is the time to change.

We’ve rounded up the five main areas you need to focus on when you’re thinking about how your non-profit reports impact…

  1. Go digital

Now we’re not saying you should ditch paper annual reports altogether but a PDF or website-based annual report can really bring to life the work you do and make your content more accessible. Digital annual reports can save you a packet – provided you don’t bring in a big digital agency to create a bespoke website just for your annual report. The Salvation Army saved an estimated $25k in 2009 by making the switch from print to digital for their annual report. Your digital report allows you to reach a potentially limitless audience – you’re no longer constrained by the amount of copies you print. Perhaps most exciting of all is the potential to do something truly exciting with your annual report, we love the approach British Heart Foundation took with their 2013 annual report.

  1. Get visual

Still printing A4 annual reports filled with blocks of text and complicated statistics? Stop it! Look at infographics online – what can you learn from them and how can you use visual tools to bring your work to life. The Dogs Trust annual report from back in 2011 is a brilliant example of how detailed stats can be brought to life using visual tools.

  1. Give people a voice

Your annual report should be a space for service users, volunteers, staff and partner organisations to have a voice.  If you’re going digital use audio or video interviews to bring this to life. If you’re constrained to paper then big, bolg block quotes work well. As well as quotes, use images where possible. Your charity’s work is, most likely, all about people – make sure your annual report reflects that. Check out how Crisis use service-users’ voices throughout their 2013 annual report to great effect.

  1. Show impact

Your annual report shouldn’t be a long list of the work you’ve done over the last 12 months. A good annual report is all about showing the difference you made – did you meet your goals and what are your future plans? Phil Sital-Singh, impact research project manager at the RNIB, is clear about the importance of demonstrating impact in an annual report: “Previously we just had a narrative of information about the activities we delivered, but we wanted to move more towards ‘this is the change we have created’.

  1. Be minimal

OK so there’s some stuff that you have to include in your charity’s annual report to satisfy OSCR and The Charity Commission but beyond that think about the length of your report. Have you ever read a 40-page annual report cover to cover? No, me neither. Think about your audience, what do they need to know about your organisation and what calls to action should you include. “The secret is to be minimal in text but pull out bits of significance,” says Mike Blatch, managing director of Oyster Marketing and Design. “Give it white space so that things are easy to read. Use graphics and icons for key figures so that it is easy to digest for the reader. And for every page identify the key facts and information that will help the reader get the message and highlight those.”

Has your charity created a brilliant annual report this year? Tweet us and we’ll share them with our followers.