Congregation: Annual Report - Six Top Tips

End of year reports aren’t far off! What if the annual report was less report and more a promotional opportunity - a resource to explain your mission and impact?

The annual report can feel like a clinical statement of facts and figures that satisfy a regulatory requirement; boring to write, boring to read.

If you treat the exercise as something akin to creating a brochure showing all the great ministry you’ve done this year. Explaining the impact you’ve made to your congregation and to your community, you switch from reporting facts to sharing good news about your church and community.

An annual report becomes the tool you can point to whenever you want to encourage volunteers, or donors or funders or potential partners to join you in your mission. It is a one-stop-shop for all the stories you want to tell as well as a place to set out your vision for the future.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at these top tips:

1. Understand your audiences

  • Donors, volunteers, grant funds, the local community school you want to partner with – depending on who you’re talking to, you’d naturally adapt your communication style. Writing an annual report is no different and most churches need to think in three ways about their audiences.
  • If you’re a church seeking support and donations locally, you’ll need to use your report to show all the wonderful things you’ve done because of the money and/or volunteered hours given.
  • Maybe you’ve got a big capital project coming up – in which case your focus is on securing large grants, it makes sense to share your aspirations for the future and how securing that funding will help you achieve those goals and the impact it will have to the community.
  • And of course, as churches our core purpose is about sharing the gospel and demonstrating how our faith transforms so you’ll want to share stories about how your church has made a difference to congregation members and those you’ve met this year.

2. Agree the purpose

  • Imagine your audience has finished reading your report – what’s the one thing you want them to remember?
  • Perhaps you’re working towards a milestone, like raising sufficient funding to open a new centre or a new project to launch. Or you might have an anniversary coming up and are planning events to mark the occasion.
  • Agree the key messageand this becomes the narrative that you follow throughout your report to get the reader excited.

3. Tell a story

  • Rather than report in a matter-of-fact way, a simple listing of events and services, link what you’ve spent this year to your priorities as a church; use words and images to bring your work to life.
  • Top tip! Ask yourself “So what?”For example:

This year we’ve spent £1200 on our youth group and holiday clubs for children in years 5 to 9.

“So what?”

1 in 4 children in our community get involved in anti-social behaviour when they transition to secondary school

“So what?”

This leads to poorer educational outcomes for them, and social problems in our community.

“So what?”

By working with children at this age we introduce them to the God that loves them, help them to make a good transition to secondary and to think about positive aspirations for the future.

4. Grab their attention!

  • Even if you don’t have access to design skills you can still make your words jump off the page with a little bit of formatting, like changing the size, font or colour.
  • If you’ve got a lovely statistic, some positive feedback or a ‘win’ that you want your reader to take notice of, make your words big, bold and beautiful so they sing from the page and immediately draw the reader’s eye.

5. Choose strong visuals

  • As the saying goes, “a picture tells a thousand words”. And it’s true. Why take up your readers valuable time explaining something in words that can be easily communicated with visuals?
  • Think about where you could use photographs, infographics, charts/graphs and diagrams to emphasise certain aspects of your work and draw the reader’s attention to your success stories.

6. Include a "call-to-action"

  • This is the moment we’ve been building to. Back in step 2 we identified the key message we wanted the audience to remember, now we ask them to act on it. For example, to donate funds to your charity, to volunteer their time, services or skills, to attend your services, or to help you reach out more widely.
  • Whatever your call-to-action is, it’s important that:
  • · You spell out exactly what you want the audience to do. For example, “Click here to donate now.”
  • · You make that action simple for them to perform.

Need some help?

Any church or charity can create an annual report that inspires. For guidance and templates you can contact our Congregations development advisor Jo Beacroft Mitchell via