Marching on...

Surveying trustees' annual reports in the charity sector

The challenge for charities to demonstrate their impact and prove themselves worthy of trust increases all the time. In an uncertain economic and political climate, charities have the opportunity to be recognised for the work that they do in our society delivering their objectives and public benefit.

This is our second survey under the SORP 2015 and in many cases both the reporting requirements and progress against them appear to have stood still. Whilst all charities surveyed responded to the new fundraising reporting requirements (in more or less detail); there has been little progress on existing requirements, and still only a third of the sample include key performance indicators (KPIs) and 14% still did not include the factors mitigating their risks.

Reports continue to get longer with one trustees’ report and financial statements topping out at 110 pages: This remains only two thirds of the average length of FTSE companies’ corporate reporting at around 164 pages this year. It is important that with length, clarity and focus remain. Use of graphs, graphics and visual stimuli both enhanced and expanded the reports in the sample this year.

Only 10% of charities surveyed had no financial information on their website (and the accounts of those charities were all considered not visually attractive). 88% had accounts available to download and 36% had annual reviews available to download. 70% of charities had either visually attractive accounts or an annual review. However, only 38% of charities used graphs and 30% used case studies to bring their stories to life. No charity sampled outside the top 200 included an overview or highlights page.

We continue to challenge trustees to understand fully their audience and to consider the desired impact of their individual reports. Reports are not just a statutory requirement, they are available on the Charity Commission’s website and, for the majority, on the charity’s own website. They can reach a wide range of stakeholders, including funders, service users and volunteers.

Did you find this useful?