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How To Create An Extraordinary Annual Report By Gary G. Hoag

Four Tips to Create an Exceptional Annual Report

Recently, Ereny Monir, Ruthie Cristobal, and I from GTP produced an ECFA webinar called “Creating an Exceptional Annual Report.” While doing the research for it, we marveled that few churches and ministries actually do an annual report. If that’s you, watch the recording and download the slide deck found in the bio below. You will have what you need to start doing one this year.

Why? An Annual Report can serve as one of your primary tools for rallying greater giving and deeper levels of involvement with your constituents and new prospects. It can unify your board and strengthen your community. And, if you are not sure where to start, the free webinar points the way. But, be sure to include information in the following four areas.

State Your PURPOSE Plainly

Don’t confuse your mission and your purpose. Your mission is “what you do.” That informs the minds of people. Your purpose is “what you do” coupled with “why you do it.” When you add the why part, you engage the hearts of readers. After stating your purpose plainly, highlight the community that shares that purpose with you.

How? Feature the work of key volunteers and explain what they do. Include photos too! Pictures inspire people to join the unfolding story at your church or ministry. Also, be sure to tell people how they can join you on purpose. You may do this by having a link that drives people to your website.

Share About Your PROGRAMS Strategically

By strategically, we suggest that you describe your programs with short statements and use stats (numbers with infographics) plus stories (words with images) to illustrate progress. This gives readers both the quantitative and qualitative measures of your fruitfulness. It also positions God to get the glory for all that’s happening.

In combining your stats with infographics, you increase the possibility that people will get the message. Studies show that most people read the captions. Additionally, if you share mini-impact stories with real photos and teaser text to get people browsing, you can boost traffic to your website and increase the probability that people will actually read about what’s happening. 

Speak About Your PARTNERSHIP Openly

Partnership is a biblical word. It’s the word koinonia used in passages like Philippians 1:5 where Paul thanks the Philippians for their “partnership” in the gospel. The word implies participating in God’s work with what we have. And people have more than money. They have gifts, abilities, energy, and resources.

So, in your annual report, be clear about how people can partner with you and invite them to deeper engagement. Say the number of prayer partners, givers, and volunteers, and then be clear how people can join these ranks. Readers will (hopefully) envision the impact they can have and enlist! Your job is to make it easy for them.

Show the PEOPLE Who Serve with You Visually

Have you ever scanned an annual report and you had to read the fine print to find the list of board members? Don’t let that be you! Put the names and photos of your board, staff, and key volunteers. Also, include the name and logo of your auditor and the ECFA seal to give people confidence that you follow standards of responsible stewardship.

For complex entities, you might want to include an organigram which illustrates how departments, partner organizations, and networks collaborate with you. By this way, you show individuals and groups of people (institutions) work together. This can inspire new organizations to serve with you.

A Final Thought

The first time we did an annual report at GTP, it spanned more than a year. If you have never done one, yours might too. It’s okay. Tell the story of the history leading up to that year. People love a great story. It helps readers new to your community get the back story and celebrate God’s faithfulness with you. This brings glory to God. After all, it’s His story you are telling.

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Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., serves as President & CEO of Global Trust Partners (GTP). In obedient service to Jesus Christ, GTP multiplies faithful stewards and mobilizes peer accountability groups (like ECFA in the USA) to build trust and to grow local generous giving to God’s work. To learn more, visit gtp.org. Click to watch the Annual Report Webinar and download the slides here.



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