Annual reports for NGOs – How are they different?

Aug 11, 2022
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NGOs and their need for effective annual reports

Even though annual reporting is mandated by law for all NGOs registered under the Company’s Act, its curation has now moved beyond being a mere legal formality. Annual reports for NGOs have become a tool for increasing visibility, encouraging more volunteers to join, and acquiring donors. Further, they also help document progress year on year, giving a clear picture of how much difference the NGO has made over time. Recognising the advantages of launching annual reports, many trusts and co-operative societies (which are not mandated by law) are also now publishing annual reports.

Most of these institutions are yet to revive from the Covid-19 setback. However, what’s interesting is that as per reports, December remains a crucial month for non-profit organisations. It was found that these organisations receive 17-22% of their total funds during December. Another interesting fact is that as per a survey undertaken by NPOinfo, 42% of the donors said that their decision to donate was majorly influenced by the personal stories of the people impacted by the organisation. 61% of the donors said that they decide the NGO they donate to, based on their current fund utilisations.

An annual report helps in compellingly displaying both the NGO’s story and its fund utilisation. However, the first thing that needs to be thought about, even before the planning stage of the annual report, is the ultimate purpose of the report. If entities start preparing reports with the mere objective of stating facts, the report is very likely to come across as chaotic, unclear and overwhelming. Having a well-thought-out objective in place, helps create a report that is directly focused on what the entity is trying to convey and this increases the probability of creating a report that is genuinely engaging.

Content of an NGO’s annual report

Annual reports for NGOs should bring out the below-listed variables distinctively (the list is not exhaustive and can vary depending on the nature of the NGO):

  1. Apprise the readers of the mission of the NGO and the exact problem/s it aims to solve. This will help spread awareness about what the organisation seeks to achieve and help it raise funds and attract new members.
  2. Outlining the impact that an NGO has created so far becomes a significant aspect of its annual report. This could include testimonies from the people that have benefitted from their efforts, experiences of the volunteers and specific data points displaying the exact difference that the entity has made.
  3. For NGOs, merely laying down financial statements in their reports is not enough. These organisations are now surpassing traditional methods and are particularly demonstrating their expenses to exemplify financial transparency. This helps in building credibility with the existing donors as they can exactly point out the purpose for which their funds were used. This also shows potential donors how the NGO is utilising its subsisting funds.
  4. Apart from stating its achievements, naming the people who helped achieve them has become a commendatory practice. This list could include the names of sponsors, staff members, board members and volunteers. Other organisations that the NGO has partnered up with to help achieve its goal could also be stated.
  5. The future plan of the NGO should then be clearly defined. Laying down the entity’s ambition and its long-term strategy will help draw a clear roadmap in the minds of the readers, which will further increase its accountability.
  6. Lastly, the report also needs to precisely state how its readers can help this entity achieve its mission. If the report is well written and is successful in conveying the NGO’s vision, it is very likely that the people who read it will get inspired and would want to help out. The report could ask its readers to contribute in the form of donations (and can even insert a payment link if the report is digital). Readers can also be directed towards volunteer activities, upcoming events or ideas for the next campaign. What’s important to note is that every additional option in a report increases the probability of the reader to contribute in a manner that aligns with his/her interests.
Some compelling factors

Although stating facts and figures is essential, the effect that is created through powerful storytelling and visually appealing reports remains unapparelled. Composing a narrative that clearly demonstrates what your institution has set out to do, the values it holds and what it has done so far will help readers connect with your mission on an emotional level.

Further, instead of solely highlighting statistical information, the impact that the organisation’s activities had on its intended environment should be demonstrated.

If the NGO is involved in educating children, the experiences of such children and teachers should be included. If the NGO is working towards the employment of people from rural areas, the stories of people who gained employment should be included. Facts such as how the beneficiaries were striving prior to the NGO’s involvement and how much their lives have changed after will help your audience understand you at a deeper level. Including photographs, quotes, and testimonials will help add immense value to your report.

Making the perfect report

Effectively communicating your brand’s story through a documented report is not an easy task. Portraying information so that the same is embedded within the memory of your audience requires innovative ideas and high-impact imageries.

Take for instance the report curated by Dream.org. It clearly talks about its values, demonstrates its history, gives us glimpses of the children that benefitted, quotes teachers, calls out specific data points and lays down their future plan as well. It ends with four different actions that can then be undertaken with just a click.
,br> Creating reports as impactful as this requires a different set of expertise. Report Yak is a business reporting design agency that specialises in creating annual reports with compelling tailor-made designs. We conceptualise, create content and design annual reports, ESG reports, and impact reports for organisations world-over.

Feel free to check out our award-winning work here or get in touch and we’d be happy to discuss your next report.