Writing an informative report for a nonprofit association is much like writing any other business report. You need to keep the same principles in mind: Who are you writing for? And what's the goal of the project report?
It also helps to follow good writing practices to make sure the information is transmitted effectively. A project report does not have to be dry and boring to read, and it should tell a story that is easy for the reader to follow. At no point do you want to confuse your audience or make them backtrack to understand what you're talking about.
Keep Your Audience and Goal in Mind
First, you need to have a very clear idea of who will read this report and what you want them to take away from it. Your target audience affects many of the choices you make as you write. That's because the audience is directly tied to the goal of the piece, the tone that you'll use and the information that you'll emphasize.
For example, if the general public will be reading the report and your goal is to convince them to become a donor, you need to include detailed information about how donations affected the project. You can be more persuasive here. But if you're writing an internal paper that the board of directors will use to determine whether or not to keep a program running, it's best to just stick to the facts of the project.
On the other hand, if the project report is for people intimately familiar with the project, you can skip the background information and head straight to the analysis.
Formatting an Informative Report for a Nonprofit Association
Start with an introduction that explains what the rest of the report will discuss. Although this appears first in the text, it's often better to write it last, after you've completed the report.
Before you dive into explaining the project itself, readers may need to understand some crucial background information. For example, if you're writing an informative report for a non-profit association's sports club, you'll want to explain the circumstances that caused this sports club to get started in the first place. What niche does it fill in the community?
Include statistics when you explain why the project was deemed necessary. Maybe in your community, 60 percent of kids don't have any after-school activity or cannot afford to join a school sports team. Explain the disadvantages of this. Have studies determined that students involved in a sports club perform better academically and socially? Include all of this information in the report so that the audience thoroughly understands why the program or project exists in the first place.
Explain How the Project Operates
After providing background information, it's time to get into the nitty-gritty details about your program or project. How is it set up? Who operates it? Are there employees, volunteers, or both? What kind of budget does it have? Is the project or program active only on certain days of the week or at certain times?
Discuss Measurable Goals and Stats
Next, talk about any measurable impact that the program has had. What stats do you use to measure its success? How many people have benefited from the organization? Of the beneficiaries, how exactly have their lives improved? What were your initial target goals, and how does reality compare?
How has the community in general benefited? Perhaps the community has seen a reduction in crime, littering, pollution, unemployment, animal abuse, etc., thanks to your nonprofit's project. If possible, discuss how this translates into saving money for taxpayers, as this information can be used later when seeking grants.
Explain Next Steps
Finally, you can provide an analysis of the project's performance. Is the program efficient? In other words, what is the ROI? Can the ROI be improved? How can the program have an even greater impact on individuals and the community?
Discuss some possible next steps for the project. Do you need additional resources, like more volunteers, a permanent employee, a different facility or an increase in funds? If the program seems to have reached its maximum sustainable functionality, you can say this in the report.
Wrap it Up With a Summary
Add a conclusion to the report to serve as a brief summary of the entire report. Remind readers why the program is necessary, the impact that it currently has and the impact that it could potentially have with additional resources.
If it makes sense to do so according to your target audience, include a call to action at the very end, such as "Send donations to ..." or "Sign up to volunteer."
Informative Writing Tips
Do take care to re-read and revise your report, especially if it has the potential to reel in new volunteers and donors for your nonprofit association. Send it to a colleague for a fresh perspective. During the writing and revising process, keep these writing tips in mind.
Make Sure Ideas Flow Well
Smoothly transition between ideas. Don't jump around from topic to topic. The last sentence from each paragraph should have a logical connection to the first sentence of the next paragraph. Use phrases like "therefore," "so," or "however" to clarify these connections.
Be Explicit, Not Implicit
Writing explicitly means that you make absolutely no assumptions. Spell everything out for the reader. Don't assume they understand the connection between two ideas. Explain everything as thoroughly as possible. For example, if you're writing an informative report for a nonprofit association hospital, you may need to define some medical terms or explain why a certain procedure works better than others.
In other words, do not imply anything in your writing. This can be tricky to identify without another pair of eyes. You may automatically believe your logic and flow of ideas makes perfect sense. That's why it's so important to have someone else read your work to point out anything unclear.
Cite Any Statistics Used
Always cite any statistics that you mention in your report. All of your claims need to be verifiable in order to establish trust in your nonprofit. If you make outrageous claims that are found to be untrue, you can quickly earn a bad reputation among donors and volunteers. These represent the backbone of any nonprofit organization, so do not compromise their trust when it's so easy to be honest in what you write.
You can conduct your own internal studies with internal data, but for the sake of transparency and trust, you should publish the data so that other people can verify that you have accurately analyzed and represented it in your report.
Use Precise Language
When you carefully choose your words, your audience is more likely to understand your message in the way that you intended. It also helps set the tone for your report. If you want it to have a positive, upbeat message that encourages people to get involved, the language you use should reflect this.
On the other hand, if the project requires a somber tone, you need to write it accordingly. Either way, choosing precise language demonstrates professionalism and care. Try to avoid pronouns, check antecedent agreement, use shorter sentences and paragraphs and search for powerful alternatives to common nouns and verbs.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.