Whether you’re preparing a report for your Executive Director, your Board of Directors, or a funder – status reports are critical. They show your stakeholders that:
- You are in control of current situations,
- You are organized,
- You are accountable for the resources used, and,
- You can be trusted to continue doing a good job.
Take this visual example from the Ontario Non-profit Network’s website:
It shows C.L.A.S.S. in that it is:
* Looks Ahead
* Action Oriented
* Simple Language
Most people are visual. By using icons and colours, your readers can tell the status of projects faster. Just like a traffic light system, green means go, and red means stop or something needs attention. Even with a lot of information on the page, it is well organized with lots of white space.
Despite reporting on the past, there is a column devoted to next steps. This isn’t a historic document; it invites discussion and engagement.
The report talks about actions, not roadblocks or plans. Even when progress has stopped, the report tells you what the new plans are. The reader can quickly see how these actions dovetail with the organization’s “Themes”, presumably set by the Board. By tying progress back to the overall mandate of your organization, the reader can assess the urgency and importance of devoting more resources to any stopped or blocked projects.
This report can be read in a couple of seconds. You can skim the headings and status icons to get a quick assessment of progress. By making it scannable, the full report is more likely to be read because it doesn’t look overwhelming.
Avoid jargon. No Three-Letter Acronyms (TLA’s), which are a major communication hurdle for charities and public-sector organizations. It can be read equally well by a new Board member, as by a seasoned veteran.
So, next time you are asked to report on progress of a business, charity, or project, just remember the acronym C.L.A.S.S.! A special thank you to the Ontario Non-profit Network for publishing such a perfect example (http://www.theonn.ca).
If you need to prepare and present a complex status report that needs to be easy to read, get in touch with me at Energized Accounting. I love a challenge!