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Five Top Tips for Writing an Impact Report

Five multi-colored hands holding up between one and five fingers. Illustration.

This month’s guest blogger is Hannah Keartland, who brings you smart, no-nonsense writing tips for your next impact report. Hannah is the founder of Keartland & Co, where she brings her talents to companies by serving as an outsourced Chief Impact Officer. Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Hannah! 

Lots of the people I talk to say they don’t know where to start when it comes to writing an impact report. Here are my five top tips… 

1. What needs to go in it

An impact report’s job is to share the progress you’re making against your plans.

When you strip it back to basics, this is what an impact report should communicate:

  • What you said you were going to do
  • What you did
  • What you’re going to do next 

2. Be open & honest

The number one principle I’d encourage you to have in mind as you’re writing your report is — be open and honest. 

Whenever you’re wondering what to say or how to communicate something, come back to this principle. For example: 

  • If you don’t know something or haven’t worked something out yet then say so
  • If you’ve been grappling with a big question or thorny issue then share the journey you’ve been on and why it’s been tough to navigate
  • If something you did went horribly wrong talk about it and explain what you learned
  • If you don’t have the data you’d like then say so and say what you’re doing to gather better data in future

3. Think about why you’re writing the report

What’s the purpose? Who’s the audience? What do you want the report to achieve?

This influences the story you tell and how you tell it. And it will influence your choices around design. It will also help you understand how much time and money to put into it. 

A lot of the poster children of the impact reporting space are from consumer brands – the report is a key marketing asset. If yours isn’t then you might create something much simpler. 

4. Use an overarching framework to structure your report

The best impact reports have an overarching narrative that hangs together. I recommend you use a framework to structure your report.

Some examples of what this could be:

  • Your impact strategy (if you have one)
  • Environmental-social-governance
  • The pillars of the B Impact Assessment

5. Get feedback before publishing

Before you share your report far and wide, it’s a good idea to get feedback. Give the report to a few trusted friends to read so they can let you know things like:

  • Does the storyline make sense?
  • Does the design work?
  • Is the data you’ve included easy to interpret?
  • Are you at risk of greenwashing — making statements that aren’t backed up by facts and data?