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26 Lessons from 15 Church Annual Reports

26 Lessons from 15 Church Annual Reports

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Churches use their annual report as a tool to communicate with leaders, volunteers, donors and the general community about what happened over the past year. Done well, annual reports engage people in the mission … done poorly, they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on (or the hard drive space they are stored on)!

I asked the unSeminary community to share their annual reports, to see what I could learn from them. I received a lot of reports! Here’s what I discovered from studying them:

Why Focus on a Good Annual Report?

  • Review accomplishments // Take time to talk with your community about the amazing things God is doing at your church. “IFTBUM!” It’s a fun to be us moment! Celebrate the positive momentum your church is experiencing.
  • Recognize people // Your church “happens” because people give time, effort and energy to it! Annual reports are a great way to thank and honor people who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the past year.
  • Retell stories // Organizations become the sum total of the stories we tell one another. At its core an annual report is a codification of the “big story” that was written over the last year. Amplify the story you want your church to become.
  • Record for history // If annual reports are done well, they become handy tools in the future, helping you to look back at what took place at your church. As you write your church’s report, ask yourself if this is the content you want to recall 10 years from now.
  • Refocus on mission // Like a “state of the union” address, an annual report is an opportunity for the leadership of the church to focus on broader themes and direction. Use this opportunity to point people toward the kind of church you want to be.

11 Best Practices in Annual Reports

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Download FREE Annual Report Infographic Templates

Just plug in your numbers and stories and then share with your community. These fully editable Adobe Illustrator files are worth $250 apiece, but we’re giving them to you free because we want to help your church communicate better.

[Click here to download now!]

10 Quick Tips for Annual Reports

  • Gather ideas, photos and stories all year long. It’s a lot simpler than scrambling to get them when it’s time to pull the report together!
  • Don’t use more than 5 elements in pie charts … more than that is useless to read!
  • Do the “quick flip test.” What is the “big message” you get by just glancing over the report and not actually reading it?
  • Choose photos of people actually “doing stuff” at your church, not just “stand and smile” poses!
  • Include “calls to action” in every section. What do you want people to “do” once they are done reading the report? Give, volunteer, invite … ?
  • Get a copy editor to go over the text. Everyone can use a little help spotting errors!
  • Triple-check the spelling of everyone’s names. (Ouch … it can hurt if you get those wrong.)
  • You must make a “digital” version of the report for easy sharing.
  • Give your report to someone who you trust but doesn’t know much about your church. Ask him or her what key messages come through.
  • After you release the report, contact a dozen people who received it and ask them for pointed feedback on what could be better for next year’s edition.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for posting this…it was a really helpful summary for us as we approached our Annual Report. I am pretty proud of our end product – it turned out to be a mini-website. Thought you might be interested…feel free to review and share if helpful – http://www.graceonefund.org

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