back

Writing Annual Report: Questions to Ask and 9 Best Practices

An annual report is a written account of the most important events and activities that took place in a company in a year. In associations and other non-profit organizations, these reports are often a presentation of the activities and events they organized and participated in during the year. For commercial companies, an annual report also often includes a thorough financial report. An annual report should give a clear view of what worked and what did not, what needs to change, and areas for improvement. The resort should also be a basis to help plan the future development and direction of the organization. An annual report is an excellent way to present the company’s accomplishments to business partners and stakeholders.

Let’s dive right in and uncover the best practices for writing comprehensive annual reports.

Part 1

Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself to help you gather and organize the information you wish to include:

  • How should the report be presented? What should it look like? What are the elements that would make me read every detail carefully?
  • Who is my target audience? What kind of language do I need to use for this type of audience?
  • How am I going to collect this information? Do I already have a calendar where I noted the activities? Who else can give me the information I need?
  • What type of format am I going to use?
  • What type of information do I wish to include?

Part 2

Questions to Ask Your Peers

Use these examples to compose questions that apply to your business setting:

  • If you were to describe your activities this year to a friend, how would you describe them?
  • How is the activity of our company making a change?
  • What were your achievements this year?
  • How do others describe our organization and your work?

Part 3

Best Practices for Writing an Annual Report

  1. Write an Accurate Report That Can Help Your Company Grow

    The first thing to keep in mind is that while your report should focus on positive outcomes, it must remain realistic and fully objective. If you only mention the good things, you will create an unbalanced image of perfection that might trigger negative reactions. Nothing is ever as good as it seems and your audience will be aware of this. So, try to write it as if you are giving yourself feedback on your efforts. Focus on both the positive and negative outcomes and try to offer some suggestions for improvement.

  2. You Don’t Have to Do It Right the First Time

    Your first draft should be an outline of what you wish to include. You can polish it later, but for now, you just have to make sure you don’t forget any essential data.
    The second draft is where your annual report begins to take shape as you start building the story around the outline. This still isn’t the final version either, so it doesn’t have to be perfect yet; it just needs to grow.The third time’s a charm—this is where your observant eye is put to work. Your third version does need to be flawless because this is the document that you will present to your stakeholders.

  3. Pay Close Attention to the Language You’re Using

    Don’t use clichés in your report or try too hard to make it sound good. Instead, try to communicate as naturally as possible. Ensure that your annual report is relevant and readable regardless of trends. You can greatly influence the impact of your report by using the right language.

  4. Include a Table of Contents

    Having a table of contents can be a great help for those who open your report for the first time. It helps people to see what your report includes quickly, and it allows them to go straight to the parts that interest them. Very few people are going to read everything from beginning to end, so it’s better to guide them through the content.

  5. Always Strive to Improve

    Learn from your past mistakes and perfect your report writing skills. For instance, you can create a calendar or a notebook where you take notes of activities and events that take place throughout the year. That way it will be easier to organize them chronologically when you start writing the report.

  6. Have a Clear Goal and Stick to It

    Focus on the mission of the organization from the very beginning and continue throughout your report. Show how your activities supported that mission. Don’t forget to include activities you could improve upon and any risks or issues that you weren’t able to handle as efficiently as you would have wished.
    If you include a financial report, explain how the financial decisions made supported your mission. A financial report can be difficult to create, so consult with your financial team. They can guide you through this process and show you what information is relevant and what will just add dead weight to your report.

  7. Find the Right Balance

    Including too much information is not necessary, but not having enough information can damage the purpose of your report. Find the right balance between the two to achieve the best results.
    Make sure that your report tells your organization’s story and remains focused on that specific year. While you can also include general information on the company and its goals, you have to concentrate on the activities that happened that year.

  8. Go Beyond the Managerial Level

    Focus on activities at every level — not just management. Your employees are the backbone of your organization. Sure, some people have more responsibilities than others due to the nature of their roles, but that doesn’t mean that lower levels of the hierarchy didn’t contribute to the mission. So, try to include everything that is relevant to your goal and mission in the report.

  9. Come up with a Distribution Plan

    Think of how you wish to distribute your report. You can email it to your stakeholders, put it up on your website, print it and have it delivered, or just use status.net to distribute it automatically every year. Think about what would be the most useful options and choose the ones that are the most convenient for everybody.