Every year many charities have to hand in their Annual Return. There is a lot that goes into writing this report – data, narrative, graphics and the accounts. Then there is the writing itself and making sure it looks professional. Writing reports can be time-consuming, especially if you haven’t produced one before, or it’s been a year since the last larger report had to be submitted. People working for charities are busy and Annual Returns can feel sometimes like a time-intensive compliance exercise – and the result might look a bit cut and dry. However, it doesn’t have to be a task. There are many simple and free tools out there that can assist you in all aspects of writing a report.
Good data is the basis for any impactful report
Data can be at the heart of any good narrative. But gathering data can be difficult if you don’t have a lot of resources available. Here are some low cost options..
Impactasaurus is a free impact-monitoring and reporting tool by non-for-profit for not-for-profits. It offers standard monitoring and evaluation frameworks but also allows you to customize the framework to define what data you want to collect. Data is then captured through its app or through uploading it directly online.. Impactasaurus is currently free of charge and will continue to work to be free. If they do have to start charging they will alert users two months in advance.
Google Analytics is a premium web analytic service provided by Google that allows owners of websites to be able to track and produce reports of website traffic. Users are able to review online campaigns by tracking landing page quality and conversions/goals. Goals can be sales, view per pages, or downloads. They also enable users to obtain insight about visitors who are currently on the website. Google also offers Analytics IQ Lessons, certification tests and a free help centre FAQ for support.
Software to build infographics
Once you have captured your data, generated reports on it and have done some analyses of it, you might want to display some of your core findings in a visually appealing way.
Canva is a program that allows you to create infographics.. From bar graphs to multiple circle Venn diagrams, there are many features that work for everyone. They are completely free but do offer a paid subscription offering you access to more features. You can also apply to receive their full plan for free for non-profits. If your company has a Charity Registration Number from the Charity Commission, a CIC Registration Number from the CIC Regulator, and Articles and Memorandum of Association, then you are eligible for this program.
Writing the narrative
The content of what you are writing needs to be clear and easy to understand.. Hiring a copywriter can be expensive and might not be an option for everyone. However there are many free tools that can help you make sure your grammar, word choices, and readability are up to high standards.
Grammarly can be an add-on to your web browser along with its own downloadable program where you can upload your documents and work on them there. This program goes through your writing and finds any spelling, punctuation, grammar and convention errors that may be present. They do also offer a paid service which provides more features.,
Another great website is Scribens. This is a free website that allows you to copy and paste your writing into their system that checks for word repetition, word reduction and comma overuse. It also offers suggestions to fix awkward sentences, different word choices, and adding positive or pejorative words.
Also check out these DSC tips for copywriting.
Formatting the report
Once you have the data, infographics and the narrative in place, the next thing to do is getting the report into nice layout.
There are many websites on the internet that allow you to download templates to help format your documents. Here are some sites that work great and are completely free.
Tidyform is a free website allows you to download different templates. They have hundreds of different ones that fit everybody’s needs from reports to performance evaluations to inventory.
If you have Microsoft Word, they offer many templates to help you format your writing. Preformatted documents can make it easy for those who haven’t written many reports before. The templates allow you to identify what to write where and to stay organized.
Along with infographics, Canva also offers free templates for reports as well. Much like Microsoft Word, it shows where certain information should go and help add any graphics that need to be within the text without messing with the formatting of the text.
Inspiring examples of report information used online
You Annual Return does not have to sit as a PDF on your website. You can use the information from the report and display it online. It can present a powerful and accessible story of what your charity is all about. Not sure how it should look? We’ve found these great examples that you can be inspired by.