This section provides some ideas for compiling your VOPE’s annual report, and provides some examples and checklists for you to keep in mind.
An annual report is a comprehensive report of an organization's activities throughout the preceding year. Annual reports are intended to give stakeholders and other interested people information about the organization's activities and financial performance. It may also serve to share the plans and focus areas for the next year, or update the vision as it was captured in the organization’s plans.
For a VOPE, an annual report is useful for communicating important information to the VOPE members and donors, and is an indication of good governance. The report also creates the opportunity for a VOPE to communicate its achievements, share its challenges and ensure that the VOPE management stays focussed on the organization’s objectives. It is a good idea to distribute or present at least the annual financial report at the Annual General Meeting and publish it on the VOPE website. Specific rules, regulations and legislation about Annual Reports may apply in your specific country, so make sure that you are aware of what they are, and that you comply.
Some important considerations:
o Before considering themes, designs, output formats, etc., carefully plan what information needs to be included in the report.
o An annual report should focus on accomplishments rather than activities. The annual report is not a description of activities and rather should summarize what was achieved.
o The financial aspect of the report should be informative and easy to read. In most cases, some graphs and a copy of the balance sheet are sufficient. Information about the income streams of your organization and allocation of the funds to specific programs/events or administration could be included.
o Many organizations use the opportunity to issue a call to action to members, mobilizing members by including a request to assist.
o The annual report should be easy to read, easy to view (consider a .pdf version, an online version, presentation or separate executive summary), easy to understand (especially the numbers; provide enough information to keep the reader engaged but do not overwhelm your readers with huge amounts of data and complicated graphs) and include visuals (photos, diagrams).
o It might be helpful to organize your report around a theme that speaks to the focus of your organization for that specific year.
The KnowHowNonProfit website (http://knowhownonprofit.org/campaigns/communications/effective-communications-1/annual-reports) provides a step-by-step guide of the key elements to include in the different report sections. These steps are adapted and summarized below:
Start the report with an introduction by the Chair of the Board or the President of the organization. This should be their own personal reflections on the year’s activities, pulling out particular successes and highlighting some of the plans for the following year.
Include the objectives or aims of the organization. Provide information on what the organization does and why? This should be a relatively short section and should align closely with the organization’s business plan / strategic plan. Include both the VOPE's long-term and short-term objectives.
Provide readers with information on the VOPE's key achievements over the year, measured against the objectives set for the organization.
Demonstrating the impact and value of the VOPE’s services is crucial. It is this part of an annual report that can really set your organization apart and help demonstrate to funders, supporters and all potential supporters the value of the work the VOPE does. However, it is important that claims are backed up by evidence, and that an evaluation reflects any commitments made in the organization’s plans, founding documents, etc. A VOPE, intending to deliver service to those interested in professional evaluation, may take this opportunity to model effective evaluation of the organization and effective reporting.
Many VOPEs rely on volunteers to keep their services running and help raise money. Include information on their role and achievements.
In this section, the following questions are addressed: How do this year’s activities and successes provide a platform for future plans? What are the challenges that lie ahead and how will they be overcome? What opportunities are there in the year ahead? This final section should be ambitious and forward-thinking, but keep it realistic.
As a general rule, it is best to leave the statutory information (as required by your country’s legislation) to the back pages, unless you can find a way of including it in such a way that you communicate your annual report messages better. When presenting the information, use graphs, infographics and diagrams which are easy to interpret, where possible.