97% of the UK’s largest charities now report success against strategy – exclusive research

04 Oct 2023 News

Adobe, by chaylek

The annual reports and accounts at the UK’s 100 largest charities have continued to improve with 97% now clearly linking their trustees’ report disclosures to their strategic objectives in a measurable way, according to new research.

The research, which is published in the October edition of Charity Finance, is the latest review of annual reports and accounts carried out for the magazine by Helena Wilkinson, a partner and head of charities and not-for-profit at accountancy firm Price Bailey.

This year the research covers the Charity Finance 100 Index, the largest charities as measured by three-year average income.

Wilkson found that 88% clearly “articulated their strategy and how they measure success”. This compares with 56% in 2021, 27% in 2019 and 10% in 2017 (the research alternates between the 100 and 250 Index each year).

This year, a further 9% also have at least a brief overview of their strategy and success measures.

“This is a fantastic achievement – the increase from 56% to 88% is significant and demonstrates that many charities have considered their reporting and changed,” Wilkinson writes.

Reports very long 

Despite this, the research also reveals areas where there is still room for improvement.

For example, the average length of the trustees’ annual report has increased again, by seven pages to 56.

Previously, it had increased by six pages in 2021 and six pages in 2019, which equates to a 26% increase since 2019.

Wilkinson argues that the length means “means charities need to really work hard to engage a reader and keep them interested”.

She adds: “The younger generation want to assimilate information quickly in bitesize chunks and the style of reporting that is evolving is not conducive to that.”

Best practice

Each year, Wilkinson selects one report as representing best practice.

This year, she selected Barnardo’s as “it has achieved excellent results in the survey and is also well below the average page count for a trustees’ report”.

She says: “The accounts have a good balance of summary information and high-level pointers throughout the report tie into key performance indicators (KPIs) and strategy and success measures.”

The Royal Society and RSPCA were also highlighted as “other good examples” and the British Red Cross as “worthy of note”.

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