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An annual report can highlight your organisation’s work across a range of areas, from community impact to membership growth.
Some organisations are legally obliged to prepare an annual report, with different requirements depending on their size or structure, whilst for others this can be an opportunity to showcase the impact your organisation has had. An annual report may form part of an organisation’s annual accounts or may be a standalone document. Whatever the driver, creating an annual report has lots of benefits so can be a worthwhile exercise for any organisation.
What are the benefits of an annual report?
The process of producing an annual report enables organisations to reflect on what has happened over the last year, consider what they could do differently going forward and outline any future plans. Others benefits include:
- Showcasing both sporting achievements and ‘off the pitch’ successes, by reporting on what has been achieved over the last year.
- Demonstrating positive impact on their people and community by telling real-life stories that show how the organisation supports others.
- Celebrating efforts made by volunteers and visibly thanking them for their contributions.
- Encouraging organisations to keep their purpose and objectives central to operations.
- Keeping different groups of stakeholders informed about the organisation’s direction.
- Evidencing good governance by publishing key information and plans, which shows commitment to transparency and accountability.
- Providing clear benchmarks to compare future progress against.
What to consider when creating an Annual Report?
It can be useful to list out the different groups that might be interested in your annual report. These could include:
- Existing or potential participants, members and volunteers.
- External stakeholders like partners, suppliers, facility/landowners, supporters, investors or funders, and the local community.
- Companies House or the Charity Commission, based on legal and regulatory requirements.
- First think about what has to be in your report based on any legal requirements. Then, consider what your wider audience groups might be interested in.
- Consider the final format/s of your report. It may be best to add any statutory information to the end of your report if you do not have to follow a set structure for reporting.
- It can be valuable to have a digital copy available on your website to direct stakeholders to, but also having printed copies available will ensure the report is accessible for a range of people.
- With more than one person working on a report, you’re likely to have different writing styles across the team. Agree some writing guidelines in advance, to avoid major differences throughout and try to write in a way that will be understandable for as many people as possible by avoiding the use of technical language unless it is relevant for legal requirements.
- Identify people from across your organisation that could be involved in developing the annual report.
- Decide who is best placed to take on individual report sections. It might be better for more complex sections to be shared by two people or more.
- Confirm your publication date and work out internal deadlines based on this. Companies House or the Charity Commission might require organisations to submit returns by specific dates, so be sure to check these.
When measuring impact, it can help to first consider your purpose, then the activities undertaken to achieve this. The impact and outcomes of these activities can then be measured. Examples might include efforts to make the organisation more inclusive, creating local partnerships, fundraising or developing new activity offers.
It’s important to back up impact statements with evidence. Statistics, like your growth in membership, paired with case studies and testimonials from real people will help to make stories much more compelling.
- Add all report sections together and make sure the full version is reviewed. There should be a formal sign off process for your report before it is circulated to your stakeholders.
- If required, you should file your annual report with the relevant regulatory body. There is usually a time limit following the financial year to do this so ensure you are aware of any deadlines.
- Make sure people are aware of your annual report and the impact your organisation has had. Consider how and where you will share your report to ensure it reaches your intended audiences.
What should be included in an Annual Report?
- Information about the organisation’s purpose, and how it is run and structured.
- A list of key personnel, such as committee or board members, their position and dates of term.
- Progress against the organisation’s aims, purpose, development and/or business plans as well as an overview of any risks and how these are minimised.
- Overview of ‘on the pitch’ activities including events, competitions and social activities.
- Overview of ‘off the pitch’ achievements like community engagement and social impact.
- Plans for working towards the organisation’s purpose and objectives in the coming year.
- Updates on the membership and workforce, including numbers and diversity.
- Financial reporting including a summary of finances and annual accounts.
- Updates on sponsorship and fundraising efforts or partnerships.
Who needs to do an Annual Report?
Some organisations, including incorporated organisations and charities, are required to create a report, but expectations differ depending on an organisation’s size and structure.
For a charity, the following must be included in annual reporting and submitted to the Charity Commission:
- Details of how the charity is governed/managed.
- What its charitable purpose is, and what has been done to achieve this.
- Financial information including review of debts, reserve policy details etc.
There are further requirements for larger charities depending on their income level and whether they are a company or a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
For incorporated organisations, requirements differ depending on turnover and size but reporting focuses on accounting. Community Interest Companies (CIC), however, file returns with Companies House covering their activities, benefit to the community and how stakeholders have been consulted.