What Your Parish Annual Report Should Look Like

One of the things I’ve posted about on a few occasions has to do with how the Church - parishes, organizations, charities, etc. - raise money. And one of the things they need to do much better on, in general, is communicating to parishioners where and how their money is being used. There is so much missed opportunity here.

This is what a typical parish’s annual report looks like:

Some kind of spreadsheet like that surrounded by pages and pages of text. It’s fine. But it’s boring and uninspiring. It doesn’t connect with people and their emotions. Most people don’t even know what it means - really. And most people won’t really look at it.

Take this line item: Salaries… $167, 367.29.

That means nothing to me. It says my money every week went to a few salaries. But think about what those salaries likely did? What did they accomplish for the parish? That’s what parishioners need to connect with.

If it communicated something like: $167,367.29 of your money helped us to organize our Fall festival, administrate 122 baptisms, 392 confirmations, teach 129 CCD classes, organize 3 parish-wide retreats, run our food pantry which feeds 120 local needy families, provide for our dedicated parish priest who said 589 masses this year and heard thousands of confessions, allowing Jesus to work through him to set thousands of people’s souls back right with God in preparation for their eternal life in heaven. etc. etc. etc. All of a sudden that $167k is a little more real. A little more justified. A little more exciting to know that you had a hand in doing and supporting all of that. Hopefully you get the idea.

Additionally, instead of just listing 122 people got baptized. How about meeting some of them? Hearing their story in a video interview? We have to personalize it for parishioners. This work of the Church is not just a bunch of statistics. There are moving stories behind each one of those numbers. Tell them.

And then how about visually portraying all of this information in a way that makes it easy and convenient to read and understand. Instead of just writing big long paragraphs about what your parish is doing - show people. Use images. Use audio and video. Use multimedia on your website. Show parishioners that they are a part of something important. That their tithing matters - a lot. That it’s being put to good use.

People are excited to be a part of something like that. Of course the accounting spreadsheet should be some part of the annual report, but it should be at the end or tucked away behind a lot more important stuff that actually communicates effectively to parishioners what your parish did this year and how they had an important role in it.

Here is an amazing annual report by a non-denominational group, LifeChurch.tv. It’s a very impressive annual report with lots of things parishes could learn from. Everything is presented clearly. It’s interactive (you can hover over and click each thing to get more info). It has some creative graphics that show how different areas have grown over the past year (much more interesting to the avg parishioner than a spreadsheet of expenses and revenue). It uses professional graphics and videos. And most of all, it is organized in a way that connects to people and what they care about in their being a part of the organization.

Please share this post with your parish leaders. I would wager the amount of time and money a parish might put into making such an annual report communicate so well would be more than made up for by the additional tithing they would get as a result of it. It’s an investment worth making. Parishes are doing some amazingly important things, parishioners just don’t know about them. It’s our job to communicate all of it better.

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