Where can you find a charity review and what should be in it? Indeed should charities produce a review in the first place? Isn’t it better to just stick an emotional ask and spare people the detailed financial information? Who really wants to read a charity review anyway?
There are two perspectives to consider:
1. Average size or smaller charity
There is a feeling amongst the not-for-profit and particularly the charity sector that an annual report is a waste of time and money. The feeling is it is just for the big players in the market, and a luxury most organisations can’t afford to entertain. Out of a sense of obligation, they produce a document in word with a nice picture and a fancy font on the cover with a few photos taken at events inside. The rest are spreadsheets, only an accountant who is interested in spending the time will be able to decipher.
2. Those looking to donate large sums of money
They probably have access to financial people who can give the accounts a once over. They are used to reading professional annual reports because they have shares in listed companies. The goal is to cut through the raw emotion and validate it with a stronger sense of what the organisation is about and where it is going. They want a charity review. More than just a review they want a strategic outlook. If they are going to give large sums of money, they want to be sure there is a return on investment. That means the organisatoin should be demonstrating it is increasingly efficient in reaching its objectives.
What is the right perspective?
Think about how people found out about your charity in the first place. ‘Passion led us here’, but it is not enough on its own to make people engage with you. They want to get to know you before they give anything substantial. What will you show them if they ask for a charity review?
So what is the right perspective – the ‘customer is always correct’. If you are a charity and you don’t do an annual report or any other term you wish to call it, then you are missing out on opportunities you will never even realised existed. You can’t just be putting together the basic financials which you are now required to submit to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) for their tick of approval – you need more.
This is your chance to talk about:
- All the organisation has achieved in the past year
- The targets you have met
- The highlights both overall and for individuals
- How you spend your money
- Your plans for the future, to solve problems and be sustainable
Where can you find a charity review?
You will find some of what you are looking for on the ACNC website, and some agencies have even tried to put their own rating system together, but as a general rule, you will have to go looking through each Charity’s site. In the majority of cases, if the document is there at all it will not be the easiest to locate.
Make your annual report visible and easy to find. Treat your annual report as a valuable asset. You should be proud to distribute the document far and wide. It is a major communications and marketing opportunity for your charity. Use it wisely.