The Annual Report

24 Sep The Annual Report

The fourth quarter is upon us, and you may be looking to begin developing your annual report – the (print or digital) document typically provided to your Board and your members each year. Whether you’re new to your association or a long-term employee, it is important to know what should be in your report, so we have provided below a suggested checklist for your next annual report.
Depending on the requirements of your report, you may be able to get away with a one-page document or a simple email message. However, consider taking the opportunity to “show off” your association and its accomplishments by crafting an attractive, easy-to-navigate report that can double as a marketing or membership-recruitment tool.

First and foremost, know your legal/policy/contractual obligations – You need to know is what requirements there are for your annual report and what deadlines exist, if any, based on the type of association you have. Some annual reports are required by law; some are not. There also may be requirements in your bylaws, contracts, etc., so be sure you educate yourself on these rules, which may include delivery recipients, required language and due dates.

Map out your content – Again, depending on your individual association, some content may be required, such as your financial statement(s). However, even if it is not mandatory, consider including a financial summary that shows how membership dues were spent. Write down everything that you need and want to include. It is also a good idea to keep all major stakeholders abreast of what you are planning so that that are not surprised when they see the final report.

Establish a timeline – This may seem obvious, but creating a realistic timeline for production can be critical to making sure all your content and edits are finalized in time. Think about how responsive and reliable your staff and board members are to your requests for extra information. If they tend to get slammed with work, give them sufficient amount of time to collect and deliver their contributions and to review drafts if necessary. Share this timeline with everyone involved in the process and stick to it. Be sure to build in time for re-prints in case there is an error on the printing/production side.

Select a format – Some annual reports are a single page while others are larger, perhaps even combined with your membership list, in a book format. Regardless of which you select, it is important to pick a format early on so that you can estimate your timeline for completion and have specifications ready for your RFPs and vendors (if applicable).

Decide what infographics/photos to use – Had a great year? Show, don’t tell! Graphs and charts are a great way to accentuate your accomplishments, especially for otherwise dull reports, and can also be used again and again throughout the year. Consider hiring a graphic designer to “liven up” your content with infographics or to emphasize a critical message. Be sure to add any design/photography needs into your timeline too. (Tip: Do you need headshots of your board? Consider bringing a photographer to a board meeting so that you’re not scrambling last minute for photos.)

Don’t forget the obvious – While you may visit your association’s website every day, your members may not have it top of mind. Consider creating a “footer” on each page of your report that includes your contact information, websites, social media handles, etc., so your members don’t have to hunt for them. Another nice touch is a tear-out resources page with important staff and/or board names that also includes their titles, contact information and extensions, as well as their responsibilities with the association.