Making your Trustees Report Work Harder for You

For some organisations the Trustees Report is seen as a year end compliance piece, lead by the requirements of the Charity SORP. It is usually pulled together primarily by the finance lead who takes charge rounding up contributions. For other charities it is more of a living breathing document, written collaboratively and used as a “shop window” to demonstrate impact.

It seems that the days of a separate glossy document are perhaps behind us, with the costs associated with this considered somewhat extravagant and digital media making the glossy print work redundant. So there is a lot of merit to an impact based report which demonstrates the charity understands it’s aims and objectives and has measured it’s impacts against these charitable objects using considered measures.

This could feel like quite a shift from your current process but there are some very simple changes you can make to the report to change it’s tone and how you can use it to showcase the work of your charity.

The Charity SORP sets out the key areas to be covered in the Trustees’ Report for all charities with some additional requirements for “larger charities”, defined as those with income over £500,000. This sometimes creates a report which is very set around the requirements of the SORP and the stated “headings”. But you can look through this and go beyond these requirements and ensure that the messaging and tone of the report sits with your other marketing and fundraising tools such as your website and literature. You should also consider who your audience is and also the values and culture of your organisation, ensuring that the report is consistent with these giving the right messaging to your supporters/funders.


Too much focus on financials?

Most people who read your Trustees Report are not always focused on the financials, which is often hard to address when it is pulled together by those financially minded and presented along with the accounts. Making the report accessible and interesting for all is key to not disengaging the reader. Charts, graphs, and infographics can help interpret information in a user-friendly way and often these methods can say more than we can in words. A visual summary can often give readers a really good sense of the activity in the year. Statistics/visuals such as how each £1 raised is spent can give strong positive messages about how you are spending your funds.

The use of such tools isn’t just limited to financials either, a whole range of KPI’s can be demonstrated in this way. The key is in deciding what the key KPI’s actually are and what these mean and also setting targets.

Remuneration reporting is a key part of financial statements disclosure requirements and the Trustees Report narrative. Following the letter of the SORP can make this very tick box – staff numbers, remuneration banding, key management remuneration and salary setting policy. But this doesn’t give the reader any sense of the people, and charities are people driven organisations with staff and volunteers being absolutely key to the effectiveness of most organisations.

Expanding this reporting beyond the compliance and considering issues such as gender pay gap reporting (only mandatory to the biggest of charities currently), living wage disclosure, diversity and inclusion considerations and also people investment such as training, apprenticeships and professional skilling. Also remember to include your volunteers, between them they can contribute thousands of hours and they are the lifeblood of the sector. This is your opportunity to publicly thank and praise them and perhaps encourage in new volunteers.


Impact reporting

The sector is increasingly focusing on impact reporting and guidance issued by the SORP making body and Charity Commission consolidating this focus. Trustee Reports generally tend to focus on actions you have taken in the year and what’s happened rather than what you achieved and your impact against your aims/targets.

Thinking about your events, outcomes, services offered and any new services and how you have achieved public benefit may give a more rounded view of impact. This does have to be balanced, which may highlight areas for improvement which could then feed into your future plans and strategies. This balanced view adds to credibility and authenticity and really is a key part of been both transparent and accountable.


COVID-19 Impact

For many this year COVID-19 is likely to feature heavily, reports will feature the positives of how resilient the sector has been and the challenges of the year too. For some it will unfortunately create real going concern doubts which must also be addressed and managed responsibly in the report.

But the view should be longer term too, you’ve no doubt considered internally the longer term implications of the pandemic and it’s legacy, and this should feature in your risk assessments and potential uncertainty around future operations and income and expenditure impacts.


Final thoughts

A change of mindset when pulling together your report can really change it’s look and feel and what you can achieve with it. Moving away from creating a single purpose compliance document, which may feel very different to the living organisation, to something that tells your story, lives your values and supports your fundraising.


If you have any further questions or queries regarding the above contact Laura Masheder at