How to Write an Annual Board Report (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Adam Wire
  • September 13, 2023
Checklist for Creating Your Annual Board Report
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Writing and sharing an annual board report is an important step in maintaining accountability and transparency surrounding your organization’s finances and operations. A board report is composed of multiple sections, including an executive summary, financial performance, and future outlook.

However, knowing what your board of directors report should look like and include can be complicated. Read on for an overview of what an annual board report is, how to write one, and why creating in-depth reports is important for your organization.

What is an Annual Board Report?

An annual board report is a comprehensive document prepared annually that provides an overview of the company or organization’s performance, financial health, and strategic direction over the course of the previous fiscal year.

It serves as a written account of what the board has accomplished over the past year, as well as new projects and endeavors in the works. This report is typically compiled by a board chairman or a high-level director, and is submitted to shareholders. 

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Elements of an Effective Annual Board Report

Some of the most important details to include in your board report are: 

  • Financial performance: Overview of the organization’s financial performance over the past year
  • Operational highlights: Key accomplishments and milestones over the past year, including product launches and expansions
  • Market overview: Analysis of the market or industry in which the organization operates, including trends, competitors, and market changes
  • Corporate governance: Current composition and structure of the board of directors, including any changes in board membership 
  • Risk management: Organization’s risk management strategies and measures taken to mitigate risks
  • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance: Metrics and data related to ESG performance, such as carbon emissions, diversity and inclusion metrics, and corporate social responsibility programs
  • Financial statements: Audited financial statements, which typically consist of a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement
  • Outlook and future plans: Strategic priorities and plans for the upcoming year

The executive summary, which is included first but written last, should provide a concise overview of the board report’s contents.

How to Write a Board Report

When writing a board report, start the process early enough to collect and compile everything you need without rushing contributors or yourself. The following steps outline the process. 

1. Gather and Collect Information

Start by creating a comprehensive list of the types of information you need to include in your board report and who you need to obtain it from. This includes financial statements, market research, and compliance documents. A lot of supporting data can be obtained through previous board assessments, committee reports, and board packs. Moreover, a well-prepared audit report should give you all the information needed to effectively communicate the organization’s financial performance.

2. Define the Structure and Content

Once you determine what types of information you need to include in your annual board report, it becomes easier to select a structure. There’s no one right way to format a board report, which grants you a high level of flexibility to select an option that makes sense for your readers. Ultimately, the board report should be organized and easy to read.

3. Craft the Narrative 

Once you have the information, craft it into a coherent and compelling story that effectively communicates the organization’s performance, challenges, and future plans. Data on its own doesn’t tell a reader much. Contextualize it with analysis and interpretation. Emphasize the areas you find most important or want the readers to find most important. 

4. Include Supporting Materials 

Being able to back up the narrative with supporting materials proves crucial. In addition to the financial statements, consider including:

  • Visual aids, such as charts, graphs, and tables, to illustrate key trends, performance metrics, and financial data
  • Relevant market research reports, industry benchmarks, and data that support your market analysis and competitive positioning
  • Operational reports that detail key performance indicators (KPIs), production metrics, sales figures, and any other relevant operational data
  • Documents related to corporate governance, such as the organization’s bylaws, code of ethics, and board committee charters

Organize supporting materials in appendices at the end of the board report for easy reference.

5. Review and Edit

Your annual board report should be professional-looking and error-free to instill confidence in your organization. Ask multiple people to review your board report and provide feedback. Conduct a final edit. 

Getting Started With OnBoard

OnBoard makes tracking the significant amount of information you need to create strong annual board reports easier than ever. From agenda and minutes archives and voting results to detailed information about your board members, our board management software provides an innovative alternative to paper files. 

Whether you’re preparing for a board meeting, collaborating with board members remotely, or building an annual report, OnBoard’s robust features simplify board work, so  boards and leadership teams can work smarter, move faster, and achieve more for the organizations they govern.

Download the Board Meeting Minutes template to learn more about how OnBoard supports effective governance.

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About The Author

Adam Wire
Adam Wire
Adam Wire is a Content Marketing Manager at OnBoard who joined the company in 2021. A Ball State University graduate, Adam worked in various content marketing roles at Angi, USA Football, and Adult & Child Health following a 12-year career in newspapers. His favorite part of the job is problem-solving and helping teammates achieve their goals. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and two dogs. He’s an avid sports fan and foodie who also enjoys lawn and yard work and running.