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Trustees’ Annual Report: Are you Telling the Story?

Archie McDowall picture Archie McDowall
2 min

Anyone who is involved in charity finance, whether as a trustee, a treasurer, or as a reader of charity accounts, will be aware of the vast amount of information which is required to be included in the charity’s year end accounts. However, despite all of that detail, one of the most common concerns expressed by the Charity Commission is that many charities “fail to tell their story well”. The Trustees’ Annual Report (TAR) is an opportunity to tell that story.

Perhaps because of the detail which is required to be included in the TAR, the additional information that can be included is often omitted. Yet, it is the TAR to which many users of the accounts (including potential funders and donors) will often turn first. It is in the TAR that readers of the accounts will be able to read of the achievements of the charity over the past year, and also of the charity’s plans for the future.

Sadly, here at Stewardship we see many TARs which are simply a “cut and paste” from the previous year, or which omit to highlight the activities of the charity. This might be an issue for churches more so than for other Christian charities. Churches shouldn’t assume that everyone will know about what the church does and shouldn’t be afraid to highlight the parts of church life which so many of us might take for granted – the welcome to everyone who comes through the doors regardless of background, the fact that there is no charge and it is free to all, the mutual support, the facilities offered to the neighbouring community and so much more. Speak of values and aims and not just the activity.  Don’t list every single activity but instead perhaps include in more detail a few different activities each year.

People who are not part of the church are often amazed when they hear of the wide range of activities in which the church is involved and even more importantly of the ways that those activities impact the lives of people, so try to include some “real life” stories (anonymised as appropriate) and write the report so that it can be easily understood by those who might not understand finance – or might not understand church!

The TAR is of course a required element of the year end accounts, but some churches might also produce a perhaps slightly amended version in a standalone form that can be distributed to anyone who might be interested – new regular attenders or visitors to the church, other users of the building, potential funders, local groups and many others.

Remember the story of your church is also part of God’s story, so it is important that we tell it well!

 

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Written by

Archie McDowall

Archie joined our Accounts Examination Services team in 2020. Prior to this he was Deputy General Treasurer of the Church of Scotland and before that he managed the charity audit section of a firm of Chartered Accountants. Archie has been involved in advising treasurers and trustees of charities for many years and has also served as a trustee of various charities.

Archie and his wife Sarah live in Essex, where he preaches and leads worship in various different churches on a regular basis. Their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren live in Lancashire. In his spare time Archie enjoys going to the theatre.

Archie is passionate about the local church and the ways in which it serves its community and the most vulnerable on the margins of society. He recognises the importance of supporting volunteers within churches, particularly those who are facing pressures to comply with increasingly complex legislation on finance and governance.