LCO 101: Creating an Annual Report

Categories: LCO 101

As your local climbing organization (LCO) grows, putting out an annual report is an essential way for you to communicate with your members, supporters, and the wider public. It also fulfills part of your legal obligation to report your work and finances to the public in a transparent way. Your annual report should present a high-level picture of who you are, the great work you’ve done, how you did it, and present a compelling case to donors to invest in your LCO. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Choose a format and outline.
Many non-profits are going to digital annual reports, but some still print a paper version. Either format is great. Annual reports generally follow a pretty standard format:

  • Mission and programs
  • Letter from President and/or Executive Director
  • Financial breakdown
  • Project or program area highlights and stats
  • Supporters, members, and partner lists
  • Board of directors and/or staff list

Start with the basics—who, what, where, why? Start by laying out who your LCO is: describe your mission and basic program areas, explain where you work—whether it’s a broad region or a list of specific climbing areas.

Provide financial transparency. Annual reports are a place to demonstrate transparency and show your LCO’s financial position and funding breakdown. This is not line-for-line budget sheets, but a higher-level picture. What’s your annual operating budget, where do your funds come from (members, events, grants, etc.), and what percentage of your money goes where (programs, overhead, earmarked projects, etc.)? Nutshell: where do you get your funding and how do you use it. Pie charts are a great format to show this overview.

Show compelling outcomes from projects and programs. Break out and describe the big project(s) by program area, such as: stewardship and trail days, acquisitions, work with land managers, and climbing policy. Use photos to depict successes or works in progress. These don’t all need to be big victories—you can show work in progress and even long-term challenges.

Use photos and graphics to bring your story to life. Photos and graphics make a big visual impact and give life to your annual report. Use photos of your board of directors, trail days, volunteers at work, meetings with land managers, and of course great climbing shots at the home crags and boulders you care for. Graphics are also a great way to depict key stats about your LCO and its work, such as a funding breakdowns and number of projects by program area.

Quantify your work. Time to get left-brained. Quantifying your work helps provide a quick, easy-to-understand measurement of your LCO’s impact. Count any and all of the work your LCOs does, and then tell people what the numbers mean. Here are a few examples of what to measure: number of volunteers you mobilized, number of trail days led, number of bolts replaced, number of climbing areas you saved, number of meetings with landowners or rangers.

Highlight areas, projects, and people. To prevent your annual report from looking too much like a long list, break it up by highlighting stories and photos from a few great projects. You could highlight your best Adopt a Crag trail day, your rockstar volunteer(s), or a climbing area saved.

List your members, donors, and partners. Acknowledging your supporters and partners is absolutely critical. Nothing is worse than getting a call from a donor saying, “I gave you money, but didn’t see my name listed—what gives?” Most annual reports at least list their major donors and supporters, both individuals and corporate partners, at the end of the report. Some even list all members and donors, at every level. You may have a separate section for corporate supporters and non-profit partners, like a land manager or, of course, Access Fund. :-)

Check out other annual reports for inspiration. Here are some great examples of effective annual reports to get you inspired: