Thursday May 19, 2011
Here are some helpful tips on annual report writing from the Voluntary Sector Reporting Awards. The VSRAs, created by the CA-Queen’s Centre for Governance in partnership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario and sponsored by PwC, annually recognize the Ontario’s best non-for-profit Annual Reports.
Top 10 Best Practices:
- Include a strong introduction, with a table of contents, to significantly help orient the reader to the activities of the organization. An executive summary is a “must have.”
- State clearly the organization’s mission and relate the activities back to the mission throughout the report.
- Give a clear statement of performance objectives and targets and describe how they link to the mission.
- Disclose your organization’s risks,issues and challenges in the context of the mission.
- Tell the reader how your organization governs itself and how that governance structure reflects the mission of the organization.
- Have management discuss the financial information in light of the organization’s mission, vision and values; link that discussion to present operations, risks and future plans; all should be written in a concise “discussion and analysis” section of the report.
- Post the annual report and the audited financial statements (if not included in the annual report) on your website in an easy to find area.
- Decide on your primary audience and write the annual report for them using plain language appropriate to that audience.
- Balance carefully the “too much information” approach versus “lack of content” approach to arrive at a happy medium in the annual report. Ensure that one person edits the report so that it is internally consistent both with regards to content and to writing style.
- Avoid committee reports in favour of one broadbased board report that tells the organization’s story in a compelling and integrative manner. The committee reports can be posted to the website if they are considered important disclosures.
Things to avoid in your annual report include:
- Not providing a strong introduction so a reader can size up an organization quickly.
- Lack of stated performance objectives and targets, such as budgets and the non-financial indicators of mission accomplishment.
- Not stating the risks, issues and challenges.
- Non-disclosure of the governance structure.
- Lack of clarity in fundraising costs.
- Lack of discussion and analysis about the relationship between the financial reports and the organization’s service results.
- Poor quality financial information that either does not agree with audited financial information, misuses auditor’s reports or leaves out pertinent details.