Annual reports matter because of what they represent and what they can do. So, if you dread having to prepare your annual report and look at it as a chore, then you’re missing a trick.

Your annual report is an ideal opportunity to tell your story. You can showcase your achievements and progress over the past year and demonstrate your impact and value to a wide range of people. It should inspire and help readers understand why you’ve spent money in the way you have, and show what you’ve learnt from any challenges you’ve faced.

But before you even start writing your annual report, here are 4 key questions to think about.

  • What’s your audience?

Who do you want to reach and why? If you’re a charity you have a legal duty to submit annual accounts and a trustees annual report to OSCR, who have some great guidance on what they’re looking for. But your annual report is also a great chance to inspire and influence other stakeholders such as funders and donors, service users, and staff and volunteers. So think carefully about the content and style of your report, and how it can be used to communicate to different audiences.

  • What’s your story?

Your annual report is a platform for your work, showing how you spend your funds and how you help your beneficiaries. Yes, it needs to contain certain statutory information, but it can also show so much more. A strong theme and narrative can give it broader appeal, and case studies from service users, volunteers or staff, can bring your report alive. Show photos of your key contact people and make it a dialogue, not a monologue, by inviting reader involvement with an opportunity for feedback.

  • How can it help you fundraise?

Use your annual report to thank your donors and your volunteers, for their support and show them what a difference they have made. But also use it as an opportunity to raise more support. Tell your readers about current and future unmet need, and make it clear that anyone reading your report is key to your ability to help your beneficiaries. Make sure you include a call to action.

  • How can it show you are well governed?

Your annual report is a great way to demonstrate good governance by giving a clear picture of how well your organisation is run. If you look at it as an opportunity rather than an ordeal, you can show that you’re effective, which is one of the five principles of the Scottish Governance Code for the Third Sector Your annual report can enhance public trust and give your organisation, and the whole sector, credibility. It’s a powerful tool to reinforce the messages and values you represent, showing the public, donors, beneficiaries, members and the media that you are accountable and transparent.