Story telling is an art and the reporting process is no different. It’s the organisational equivalent of a magnum opus – the omnibus of information that tells stakeholders the truth about your purpose, your plans and your people.

    The annual report is just one important chapter in the transparent account of your organisation’s financials, governance and strategy. Getting it right takes practice, as Andrea Galloway found during the process of entering the PwC Transparency Awards.

    The CEO of Evolve Housing – a community housing provider – first entered in the awards in 2013, during a period of rebranding. “We were changing our name from Affordable Community Housing Ltd to Evolve Housing,” says Galloway.

    The change opened doors, but in so doing it quickly became apparent that Evolve needed to improve how it educates all levels of stakeholders, from its 7000 residents to community groups and government entities.

    If at first you don't succeed

    The advice from PwC was that Evolve’s next annual report needed to “tell a better story”. More transparency around financials, services and solutions, as well as clearly identified trends and opportunities for improvement.

    “It was a huge learning curve but the feedback helped us demonstrate transparency in all key areas of our business,” says Galloway. The second attempt won Evolve the ‘most improved charity’ award this year.

    It required a complete skills audit of the board mapped against the strategic plan. That identified gaps in high-level networking (articulating purpose), human resources (talent management), operations and finance, which were filled with new directors recruited via the Australian Institute of Company Directors website.

    “Everything we do is about sustaining our tenancies to strengthen the community, so now we always ask: is this aligned to our strategy and business plan?” says Galloway.

    Another word for access

    Transparency means easy access to every conceivable piece of information relevant your organisation and its purpose: annual reports; policies; manuals, forms and templates. All that and more will be available on the new Evolve website from mid-June.

    The award-winning annual report is already live and interactive, with more than 4000 views so far. “You can click on interviews with employees and residents, and link to videos on our core values and what they mean to our employees,” says Galloway. Residents can also monitor their rent, log maintenance requests and provide feedback.

    The future looks bright, but Galloway says transparency is an ongoing journey. “We’re using feedback from PwC, which means more financial detail, more linkage to our strategy and articulating how we measure social return,” she says.

    “The transparency process has given us key metrics linked to day-to-day operations so the board can focus on strategy. If you focus on that, you’ll be married to your purpose.”

    In other words...

    • Transparent reporting is about telling the whole truth about your organisational strategy.
    • It's more than just the annual report, so ensure all communications align with your mission.
    • Listen to advice on your strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to try and try again to get it right.

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    Reading principle 10 of our Good Governance Principles and Guidance for Not-for-Profit Organisations discusses how stakeholder engagement can help an organisation engage effectively to produce relevant information and deliver on its purpose.

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