Effective Reporting That Will Impress Your Board of Directors

For many nonprofits, the beginning of the year is a time for assessment and re-dedication. It is a time for the board to review past performance and tweak–or possibly set–goals for the coming year.

To prep the board for its assessment, many organizations prepare a year-end report. Usually, the report contains financial information and a review of outstanding work done during the year, including a few stories that demonstrate how and where the organization made a strong impact. Organizations often polish the basic information, using crisp, descriptive language and compelling photos and graphics to highlight their efforts with enthusiasm and finesse.

A carefully prepared report, though, can do more than simply brief the board on the past year. It can serve to focus the board on the organization’s mission, with an eye toward creating expanded involvement in the coming year.

A report that is succinct, eye-catching and inspiring also can serve to energize the board, staff and volunteers. Think about nonprofit organizations that inspire confidence. Often, it is their written material that either begins that process or reinforces it.

Focusing on the following elements can help transform your routine year-end report into an engaging and inspiring presentation.

  • Examine each area where the organization is active. Write a short paragraph about the goal at the beginning of the year and conclude with a list of what was accomplished by the end. Be as specific as possible. For example, although it is good to say a group sponsored five mission trips, it is better to say 50 volunteers were able to meet with 500 potential converts in three countries. If there were several activities in one area, list each one individually and make it clear they were separate, even if related.

 

  • Tie each activity to a specific organizational goal. Make it clear that your organization is focused on that goal and is, in fact, making a difference. It helps to include short testimonials and vivid photos.

 

  • If the organization took advantage of unexpected opportunities that led to new paths, explain in the report how those arose and how the organization capitalized on them. Be sure explain why that involvement was appropriate by demonstrating how the actions tied in to the organization’s core mission.

 

  • Follow the money. It helps to include a short financial statement, perhaps including a graph or two, to demonstrate how the money flowed throughout the organization in the past year.

 

  • Make it visual. Use photos, graphs and large breakout quotes to make the pages easy to review.

 

  • Use active verbs, sparkling adjectives and strong nouns to spice up the report. Write short sentences that capture the essence of the organization’s activities.

 

  • Wrap up with a paragraph or two about new challenges, so that the board will have a segue into its discussion about the coming year.

 

  • Remember, the board has already heard details of the organization’s activities during its regular meetings. The year-end report doesn’t need to repeat those in-depth accounts. Instead, it needs quick, lively recaps to jog memories and provide perspective.

 

  • It may be useful to request reports from an organization’s key supporters and vendors, if that’s appropriate. InChrist Communications has provided such reports to several clients about marketing and communications activity so that information can be included in reports to their boards.

 

One final suggestion: Get help if it is needed. While all executives are experts at describing their mission, few are experts at creating a compelling, readable recap of an organization’s yearly achievements and challenges. InChrist Communications can help clients showcase their activities in the best light.

Remember, your year-end report should highlight 2015 accomplishments while also showcasing the spirit and enthusiasm of the organization in a well-written, easy-to-understand document. If creating a report like that isn’t your expertise, then find help. It is really your future you’re talking about.

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Palmer Holt, founder and CEO, is an award-winning communications professional with more than 25 years’ experience in journalism, corporate and agency public relations, marketing and advertising.

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