January 9, 2024 The Ultimate Checklist for Your Annual Report
These reports can be a tool to share the story of what God is doing through your church and celebrate how good He is.
An effective annual report for a church should inform members and those who give about the church's activities, financial health, and achievements over the past year. But before we dive into a list of what all your annual report should include, it’s important to remember why you should create one in the first place.
Take a look at this recent article to understand the impact that an annual report can make on your church and giving moving forward.
While the specific content of an annual report can vary depending on the size, priorities and activities of your church, there are a few key elements every annual report should include.
Nothing can derail a good annual report faster than bad design. You want your report to have a visual appeal that matches the excitement of the good things happening. Good design can be a helpful tool for building trust and rapport with not only your current attenders, but also with the wider community and people who are new to your church. The bottom line is that a well-designed report will enhance readability and engagement.
Aesthetic appeal, thoughtful layout, and clear data representation can transform “boring” information into a compelling narrative that reinforces your church’s mission, vision and values. These reports are often shared during the end of the year when your congregants are considering year end gifts. A well designed report is a great way to remind your church and community of why the Church exists and the eternal value of offering financial gifts in support. We all need that reminder sometimes, right?
We can all be positively impacted by a good story because stories have the power to inspire, connect and engage us on a personal level. Think about your own giving patterns. What inspires you to take action and give to an organization or even your own church? Transformative stories offer a window into the lives and experiences of individuals or communities touched by the work our churches do, making the mission and impact more tangible. Ultimately, they breathe life into all the communication your church does and can leave a lasting impression on the people who see them.
As the report creator, don’t feel like you have to find these stories on your own. Go to other ministry leaders and your congregation to seek out these stories. It helps to gather these stories throughout the year so you aren’t trying to collect them all at once. You can also retell stories you have told through social media or other platforms. Then share them in fun and unique ways throughout the report.
Bonus Idea: If you have a story that is pretty long, you can put a shortened version in the annual report, then include an extended video or blog with the entire story on your website.
Photos and Visuals
Be sure to include photos and visuals from events, services, mission trips, community outreach activities, serving opportunities and anything else that might help to make the report engaging and visually appealing. High-quality photographs can capture the essence of your church and the people within it. Strong photography can tell powerful stories, evoke empathy and convey the real world impact of your church’s work, far beyond what numbers and text alone can achieve. Well-curated images not only enhance the overall appeal of the report but also serve as a testament to your church’s transparency and authenticity, reinforcing trust and credibility among people.
Now for some of the more tactical elements that you should include in your annual report. While not all of them are necessary depending on the size of your church, each can play a distinct role in calling out the mission and vision of your church in the report.
Print vs Digital vs Hybrid
Before we get into the sections of what to include in the report, let’s talk about the avenues in which to distribute the report. You may be limited to just print or just digital, but in most cases, we’d recommend a hybrid approach. If you have the funds to mail your annual report, it can be a great way to capture your audience since mail is often used so sparingly. We’d also encourage you to share your report on your website. Ideally this would be a dedicated landing page with interactive elements and clickable links. A PDF version is also a good option if you don’t have the resources for a landing page.
At the beginning of your report should be a welcoming message, from the lead pastor or church leadership, expressing gratitude for the support and participation of the congregation.
Church Vision and Mission
A majority of your congregation most likely won’t know the vision and mission of the top of their head, so include it here. It should include a brief overview of the mission and vision statements, reminding members of the church's purpose and goals.
Highlights and Achievements
Summarize significant accomplishments and milestones achieved during the year, such as outreach programs, successful events or spiritual growth initiatives. Make it fun and accessible by putting it in graphs or charts. Highlight any success or wins that your church and sub ministries had this year along with any new initiatives that have been started. Use stories to bring these highlights to a heart level.
People want transparency when it comes to their church and giving. The annual report is the time to share a detailed financial statement showing income and expenses for the year. You’ll want to provide a comparison with the previous year's financial performance to show trends and changes. Use a mixture of graphs, charts and spreadsheets to make the report more readable.
Membership and Attendance
Report on the size of the congregation, membership trends and attendance figures for worship services and special events. Sometimes financial and attendance numbers can show decreases. This is not something to hide or gloss over, but be sure that the rest of the report is a celebration and casts a vision for where God is leading next so that an honest, yet positive tone can be maintained throughout.
Volunteer and Staff Recognition
Acknowledge and thank volunteers and staff members for their contributions and dedication to the church's mission. After all, these people are the backbone of what makes the local church so wonderful and they deserve to be celebrated. Plus, your people want to see the impact of those working behind the scenes to make church happen every week.
Contact Information with a Call to Give
An annual report is not only a great way to show what your church has accomplished this year, it’s also a great way to lead into asking people to give during the holiday season and in the new year. Be sure to also provide contact information for church leadership, a link where people can give, social media accounts and any other information where people can go to learn more about your church.
Remember that the annual report should not only convey financial information but also capture the spirit and impact of your church, its people, its ministries and its involvement in the community and around the globe. It's an opportunity to celebrate the congregation's achievements and to inspire continued support and participation.
If this is your first time creating an annual report, we’d love to help! Getting the opportunity to work with you to share what God is doing through your church is what we love most at Fishhook. Fill out this form and we’ll get back to you.
Written by Kyle Ferguson
Lead Account Director