Report Writing: A Must Do for CSOs

Report Writing: A Must Do for CSOs

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Gone are the days where people needed to rush from work to get home in time to listen to or watch the news bulletin at 6 pm. These days, with a good internet connection, you could follow the news and any other event, many hours after they have taken place, irrespective of your location. Just like news updates, reports serve the purpose of updating the reader about events and activities that have taken place in their absence. This is similar to minutes of a meeting or research findings. It is also essential in documenting proceedings of events that have taken place as well as decisions that were reached in the absence of the reader.

For these reasons, report writing has become a vital component in the day-to-day operations of several organisations and particularly civil society organisations (CSOs) who rely largely on both international and local donor support to fund their projects.
CSOs use report writing as a primary means of communicating with donors and rendering accountability on how activities have been implemented and funds have been used. A good report is therefore critical in establishing CSO credibility and ultimately, increasing their chances of broadening their donor base.

Mastering the art of report writing then has become indispensable within the civil society sector. This article, therefore, seeks to explain how CSOs can leverage on excellent report writing skills to maintain their relevance in a fast-evolving world.
An excellent report is one that gives detailed and accurate information about an activity or event. CSOs must therefore remember that accurate information promotes accountability and generally projects a positive organisational image. The ability to produce credible reports is therefore very essential in ensuring CSO survival and sustainability.
Now here is the real deal. Acknowledging that CSOs know the benefits of producing excellent reports, a great number of them find the task of report writing daunting. Of course, it is if you have not mastered the process of report writing. A plethora of factors accounts for this common struggle.

Firstly, some of these organisations do not have the ability to deliver the necessary narrative and financial reports that meet the standards these donors have set.
Moreover, some are unable to submit reports to partners and sponsors including government agencies on the different activities and thematic areas they are engaged in a timely manner. Even when they do, the facts in the reports are presented in a manner that might not be easily understood by the reader.

Have you ever waited on delivery from an online shop only to be presented with a product that is completely different from the one you ordered? That is the exact image a bad report paints to your donors. This puts you at great risk of losing them if you continue on that tangent.
So you see, a little attention to your report writing skills can give you an edge over others and go a long way to impact your organisation’s sustainability. Let’s now delve into the details.

A credible report is always concise and factual. This means that the information should not only be useful, but relevant to the reader. When writing a report, try as much as possible to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself whether you would understand the report if you had not partaken in the activity. Evidently, the task of report writing can be very unnerving. However, if we are to follow certain guidelines ardently, then we should be able to improve our skills in this regard. It is worth noting that report writing like any other serious activity requires preparation and planning. These and other tips are discussed in the next few paragraphs.
Planning: The first guideline, therefore, is to plan what you intend to report. Planning requires you to brainstorm on your content, ask critical questions like who is going to read the report and why is the report being written. Planning also helps to identify the resources you need to write the report.

Keep it simple. Secondly, the report must be delivered in simple language. Some CSOs write overly lengthy reports filled with jargon their stakeholders and donors cannot appreciate. Always ensure maximum use of the Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) principle. This guarantees a factual report and minimizes the use of jargon while ensuring that it is reader-focused at the same time.
Training: Furthermore, Executive Directors and Managers of CSOs should invest in training sessions on report writing as part of the professional development of their staff, as is usually done at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Refresher training courses could also be organized periodically to keep staff abreast with improved contemporary reporting standards.
Practice, practice, practice: Finally, developing excellent report writing skills requires constant practice, do not be afraid to write as many reports as you can. As the maxim goes, practice makes perfect. Write as many times as you can and ensure that what you have written is always proofread.

In conclusion, the value of good reporting is immense. If these guidelines are put into practice, CSOs will become more accountable, transparent, and trustworthy. This will increase their visibility, make them more attractive to donors and other stakeholders, and ultimately increase their capacity to contribute effectively towards social change and development.




About the author

Mabel is a bilingual Cameroonian and holder of a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the University of Buea. She is currently awaiting defense for her master's degree in Quality Control and Management. She has gained experience over the years as a volunteer and has worked in some local Non-Governmental Organisations in the domain of community development. She is passionate about empowering young girls.

At WACSI, she works with the Capacity Development unit as the Programme Assistant where she provides support in the facilitation of training sessions.

Angela is bilingual (English and French) with strong communication and research skills. Passionate about International Development and Diplomacy, Angela obtained a master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the University of Ghana. She also has a keen interest in women and youth empowerment and hopes to establish a mentorship and empowerment centre for young women in Ghana.

At WACSI, Angela supports the Policy Influencing and Advocacy Unit to drive change in West Africa through policy influencing and advocacy in areas of civic space, women and youth leadership and civil society sustainability.

Ballo NGOMNA is a Knowledge Management Assistant at the West Africa Civil society Institute(WACSI). He is a student (awaiting defense) from International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) where he studied International Cooperation, Humanitarian Action, and Sustainable Development. He has over two years of working experience gained from volunteering in local and international nongovernmental organizations particularly Nascent solutions international, United Council for Youth Empowerment and Africa Asia Youth Foundation Cameroon. He equally holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography obtained from the University of Buea.


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.