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Charity Community

Telling your charity’s story with impact

Author: Daniel Chan, Director, PwC

Published: 07 Feb 2024

2024 is likely to be a turbulent year so the need for charities to communicate what they do, why they do it and the difference they make continues to be important. The trustees’ annual report is a key part of a charity’s suite of communications and effective reporting helps to build trust. So, how can charities tell their story with impact?

Celebrating good practice reporting

PwC’s Building Public Trust Awards recognise organisations that are leading the way in delivering sustainable outcomes through insightful reporting. Since 2014, we have reviewed the reporting by charities in the Charity Finance ‘Charity 100 Index’ as part of our annual Charities Award. Our award celebrates good practice reporting in the sector and enables us to share good practice that can be adopted by charities of all sizes.

A growing number of charities have evolved their reporting over the years, particularly in going beyond the minimum compliance requirements. There is now a greater emphasis on clear and engaging reporting that is open, balanced and authentic. However, a proportion of charities have maintained relatively boilerplate disclosures, showing no significant change in their reporting over this time.

Save the Children UK was the winner of our award in 2023, following an independent judging panel. Its report was recognised for the comprehensive nature of its reporting as well as bringing to life key aspects of the charity’s work in a balanced manner. National Trust and Oxfam were highly commended for their reporting, including for the use of case studies that demonstrate charitable impact and well-thought-out reporting over their environmental considerations respectively.

Five top tips

From our 2023 award, there are five key themes that stand out which charities of all sizes can adopt to sharpen their reporting.

  • Alignment – There should be a clear and coherent narrative across a charity’s strategy, achievements and impact, risks, future plans and financial review. ‘Joined up’ reporting is powerful in demonstrating that a charity is clear about its charitable purpose, ambition and values. A cohesive view of a charity is also given when it speaks with one voice throughout its reporting.
  • Streamlining – Better reporting does not mean a longer report or disclosing more; in fact, less is often more. Being succinct and impactful requires stepping back and carefully (re-)thinking about the key messages for the year. There is a growing trend to cut clutter, for example through effective use of graphics and tables, alongside greater demand from different stakeholders for reporting that focuses on what actually matters.
  • Openness – A charity’s reporting should showcase the achievements of the charity but it should also provide an authentic view of the key challenges, and perhaps any lessons learned, to take forward. In addition to celebrating the positive outcomes, charities should not shy away from covering areas where they may have fallen short. This can reinforce credibility in a charity’s achievements and progress, as well as its future plans.
  • Context – It’s important for a charity to not only look inwards when thinking about its reporting. Providing the context in which it is operating, including the external environment, shows that a charity is alive to the risks and opportunities that will enable it to deliver its charitable purpose in an effective manner.
  • Accessibility – Charities have a wide range of stakeholders, and a charity should seek to ensure that its reporting is accessible to them; this should be tailored to its intended audience. As a rule of thumb, an easy to understand story that is engaging and makes minimal use of ‘jargon’ or more technical language can be particularly helpful.

Charities have an important and influential role in our society. They should be bold in bringing to life their story and purpose and going beyond the boilerplate in their reporting. By embracing these key themes, they can convey their impact more effectively and, ultimately, build public trust.

More about this at the Big Trustee Breakfast

Hear more from PwC and Save the Children UK at the ICAEW’s ‘Big Trustee Breakfast’ at Chartered Accountants’ Hall on 13 March 2024. You can register here for this free event.


*The views expressed are the author's and not ICAEW's.