Every year your charity annual report describes your activities as a charity and the impact you’ve had. There are certain legal requirements that you must satisfy but this is also a great opportunity to communicate widely about your work and build your reputation.
This post summarises your legal requirements and provides advice, ideas and a free template that will help you to go beyond the minimum and really make an impact.
Legal obligations summary
Every year, charities with an income over £25,000 must send the following documents to the Charity Commission:
Annual return: A form confirming details about trustees, staff, etc
Annual accounts: A breakdown of the charity finances
Annual report: A description of the activities of the charity
Your charity trustees’ annual report
Audience: Charity commission and funding bodies
Objectives: Meet legal obligations and satisfy funding criteria
The legal requirements for your annual report vary depending on size. Small charities (under £500K turnover or £3.26m in assets) do not have to follow a specific format but should include:
- the charity’s name, registration number, address and trustee names
- the organisational structure and how it is managed
- how you recruit trustees
- activities and objectives for the year
- achievements and performance, including the public benefit
- a financial review including any debts your reserves policy
- details of any funds held as a custodian trustee
Larger charities must comply with the appropriate Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for charities.
Create a supporter-focused annual review
Audience: Supporters and the public
Objectives: Demonstrate impact, raise awareness and thank supporters
While it’s easy to share your annual report with supporters by simply uploading it to your website, doing so can miss out on a big opportunity. Lots of charities take the time to create an annual review aimed specifically at supporters in addition to the annual report.
This example annual review is a good template to work from to help you stay focussed on good communication rather than getting carried away with costly design services. Below is a summary of our top tips to help make a good annual review.
- Keep it brief
- Mention the challenges you faced
- Show how you overcame them
- Focus on 1-2 case studies
- Highlight 3-4 key statistics
- Use photos you already have
- Thank your supporters
- Say what was better than the year before
- Share your vision for the year ahead
What format to choose?
A traditional A4 printed document is expensive to produce and limits your options. Here are some modern, creative alternative formats that will help you create a cost-effective and impactful annual review.
One of the best ways to produce a supporter-focused annual review is a slide deck that you share online (like the above example). One of the best online annual reviews we’ve ever seen comes from Kickstarter who have always produced a great summary of their work.
If you're confident editing content on your website just add a page or section for your annual review. If you keep the page layout simple you shouldn’t need much external help for this and it can be more mobile friendly than a slide deck. Remember to keep it simple though, don't betempted to add lots of text.
Website hard to edit? Choose a good website building app.
If you don’t currently get a lot of traffic to your website you could try a social-first approach. Break your annual review content into a series of tweets and drip feed them to your followers over the course of a few weeks. They may start to follow the story and look forward to the announcement of what next year holds. It’s easy to tweet text and images together.
To prioritise reaching your existing and loyal followers you could try running an email campaign. If you have a large subscriber base you could send a series of emails that contain the entirety of your annual review content within the emails. Make sure you keep it brief because people often have little patience for long emails.
Leaflet or letter
If you have face to face contact with many of your supporters you could consider producing an annual review leaflet or letter. This will challenge you to keep the content brief which will increase the number of people who read it and keep costs down. Letters still have an impact when they are well targeted and leaflets can be a good resource if you run events or meetings.
If your cause is at all complex, consider video because it has the best track record for being able to explain tricky concepts. Video doesn’t have to be expensive. Set yourself a budget and keep the ideas simple enough to execute yourself with just a smartphone.