An annual report is an underused publicity vehicle. If it is produced at all, frequently it is dull, providing only the minimum reporting and financial information required by the Companies Registration Office (if your organisation is a company). For organisations that are not companies, reports on finances and progress, as would normally appear in an annual report, are often only produced for donors at intervals specified by various funding programmes.
Annual reports can have multiple purposes:
- Informing members, service users and funders about what you have done
- Acknowledging contributions of money, time, skills and in-kind resources
- Impressing current funders so that they will continue to fund you
- Impressing potential funders in the hope that they will begin to fund you
- As a promotional document to attract more members, service users, volunteers, staff and supporters
- Informing other organisations and agencies about your work
- Informing the general public about your work.
Communicate the Key Information
For all organisations, producing a report on an annual basis that communicates the key information as noted below is good practice. There is no standard format for an annual report, but disclosure of the following information is recommended, possibly in combination with photographs, drawings, case studies, graphs, charts, scaled down images of publicity materials, and so on:
- Introduction by the chairperson
- Background on what the organisation is set up to do and how it does this
- Annual review: a clear overview of the work of the organisation over the past year (what was planned, what was achieved and what is next?)
- Organisational structure: if relevant, include information about branches and the number of members
- Governance: committee and subcommittee structure and individuals’ names and acknowledgement by the governing body of its responsibilities for establishing, implementing and reviewing internal control systems
- Staff: individuals’ names, job titles and whether they work full-time or part-time
- Volunteers: individuals’ names and roles and/or total volunteer input
- Remuneration of directors (if any), the CEO and other senior staff*
- Acknowledgements to funders, including donations in kind
- Contact details and other official details, for example CHY and company numbers
- Financial report and annual accounts to include:
- Major support cost items
- Expense categories
- Unusual movements/transfers
- Nature and purpose of fund
- Assets and liabilities of fund
- Investment powers.
You may wish to refer to the guidelines that are in place in the UK related to how to draw up annual reports for charitable organisations. The guidelines are commonly referred to as SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice). They provide a framework that enables charities to explain what they aim to do, how they go about it and what they achieve pulling together narrative and financial reporting in a coherent package focused on the activities undertaken.
Producing a report on an annual basis that communicates the key information as noted below is good practice.
These guidelines do not apply in Ireland, but many groups choose to adhere to some or all of the practices outlined in them. Read them here.
* There is a balance to be struck between the rights of funders and the public to know how money is spent within organisations and the rights of individuals to privacy about their salary. This may need to be handled sensitively within your organisation if it is not a practice that is currently implemented.