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If you’re a charity, it’s a legal requirement that you publish your accounts. Don’t just treat this as a box-ticking exercise though but rather as a golden opportunity to tell your story, showcase what you do and engage public support.

In the wake of media reports about the collapse of Kids Company, pressurising fundraising techniques and the amount some charities spend on wages and advertising, public confidence in the difference donations make has unsurprisingly ebbed. That’s why a charity’s annual report can be so important – but only if the figures are backed up with plenty of readable, interesting information on how the money has been spent and why.

Here are our top 10 tips:

  1. Think about who you are writing for. Who are your readers? What do you want to tell them? How can their continued support be encouraged?
  2. Plan carefully. The report should cover the charity’s objectives and activities, achievements and performance, financial review and its ongoing strategy.
  3. Be open and honest. Reassure your readers that you’re aware of risks and uncertainties and that they will be managed. Explain your reserves policy.
  4. Review and look ahead. What did you set out to do in the last year? What worked, what didn’t work, what have you learnt and what are you aiming to achieve in the next twelve months?
  5. Quality not quantity. Be punchy, not rambling. Think about how to get your messages across in a concise, easily digestible way.
  6. Focus on how you are making a difference. Use case studies and infographics to showcase what you are doing and the positive impact you are having on other people’s lives.
  7. Think visual. We all love photos so make good use of them in your report. Remember the old adage - a picture tells a thousand words.
  8. Tell stories, don’t just churn out numbers. Thousands die in famines but their plight becomes real only when we focus on individuals. If you want to engage your reader emotionally, show us the human impact.
  9. Don’t write like an automaton. Use language that is easily understood and don’t get bogged down in corporate detail. Readers want to be wowed, not bored.
  10. Go digital. Make your annual report accessible online. Think of it as an additional marketing tool that tells supporters what you do and why.

We’re accountants but the importance of going beyond numbers is clear. Make the most of your annual report. You have to do it, so do it well.