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A step-by-step guide to board of directors reporting: How to write a board report

Create an impactful board report from your CEO or HR department

David Greenbaum

June 17, 2022 2 min read

A step-by-step guide to board of directors reporting: How to write a board report

The secret to a productive board meeting lies in its careful preparation. Board reports are an essential part of that preparation—a quality business report will keep your presentation on track, and bring your board members up to speed in a clear and concise way. However, putting together a good board report requires time, effort, and skill.

While the purpose of a board meeting is to discuss a company’s performance, remember that your own performance is being judged, as well.

By covering all your bases in your board report, you’ll present yourself and your team in the best light possible. It’s important not to leave out essential information and to keep your board committee engaged in the process.

This guide on how to write a board report covers the board of directors reporting essentials, including the purpose of a board report and how to structure one. We’ll also provide valuable board report writing tips and a board report structure template you can customize to fit your needs.

Table of contents

What is a board report?

A board report is a document distributed to board members prior to a board meeting. This document should contain information that informs the meeting, covering what will be discussed during it.

The board report’s content usually includes: 

  • Company financials
  • Recent growth projections
  • Variance to plan
  • Business strategy
  • Key performance indicator (KPI) overviews

A board report should provide an overall summary of the company’s performance across multiple different metrics of success.

What’s the purpose of a board report?

The main purpose of a board report is to keep the board abreast of all that’s happening within the company. It’s each board member’s duty to read and discuss the content of the board report, in particular, the data presented. A board report typically focuses on the company’s performance during the time since the last board meeting.

During the meeting, the board of directors will likely raise questions, and it’s the purpose of the report to provide context as the foundation of the discussion. It’s not enough to summarize performance, you also need to provide key takeaways and recommended actions.


Types of board reports

Each board meeting usually comes with a special area of focus. Sometimes that will be discussions of strategy, sometimes financial projections. These different conversation topics should be reflected in the report’s content and structure. For this reason, you may find that you need different types of board reports to present updates on specific topics.

Two of the fundamental types of board reports are the CEO board report and the Human Resources board report, which we explore below.

CEO board reports

The CEO’s relationship with the board of directors is essential, and being accountable is key. A typical CEO report to the board of directors presents a monthly breakdown of the progress on business objectives and company financials.

A great CEO report does not necessarily have to be written or compiled by the CEO themself. However, the report should provide an executive summary of everything the CEO plans to discuss with the board.

Tips for writing great CEO reports to a board of directors include:

  • Focus both on past success and future endeavors
  • Outline your goals clearly
  • Prioritize data analysis
  • Highlight key takeaways
  • Describe outcomes

A CEO report answers to the board in the name of the whole company. Therefore, keeping to objective information sources and providing high-level overviews of company activity is key.

HR board reports

While CEO reports are about driving progress and achieving set goals, HR reports inform the board of directors of the company’s internal stability.

What should HR report to the board of directors? Human Resource reports to a board of directors should include the following points:

  • Hiring efforts and talent pool quality
  • Employee engagement
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) policy
  • Employee turnover data

The HR board report executive summary should act as an overview of these focus areas. The report should provide your board members with all the insights they need on the current engagement and satisfaction of employees, providing hints to addressing retention and turnover concerns.

5 tips for structuring a great board report

Every board report’s structure will vary depending on the company’s growth stage and mission. Still, there is a basic structure to follow in order to keep your report clear and concise.

Below are five tips on how to properly structure your board report.

1. Include board meeting details

Start by outlining your document. The outline should act as the report roadmap and include essential information like:

  • Meeting date and location
  • Name of the meeting committee
  • Committee chair and member
  • Meeting objective

You might also consider dedicating a brief section to reviewing the previous meeting’s minutes and outcomes.

2. Highlight recent projects

The first item on the meeting agenda should be a review of recently completed projects. Discuss each project’s success outcomes and give credit where credit’s due.

Your notes can include the name of the project, a short project summary, prominent drivers within the project, and key outcomes.

3. Update on current projects and upcoming events

After covering what’s been completed since the last meeting, it’s time to turn the board’s attention to the progress of current and ongoing activities. If possible, outline the stages of progress and describe important milestones. Identify the expected results and provide an estimated time of completion.

To keep everyone apprised, make short announcements of upcoming events and planned projects.

4. Complete a financial review

As the most important part of your board report, the section outlining the current financial state of the company should be clearly organized and easily understandable. Your financial report should detail revenue and expenditures, cash flow, income, and shareholder equity. 

Accurate and detailed financial data provide the decision-makers with key indicators and crucial information needed to drive efficient corporate strategies.

5. Wrap up with conclusions and recommendations

The end of your report should sum up key takeaways from both past activities and ongoing projects. Briefly summarize the company’s outlook over the next period based on what’s been reported.

Your board report should also conclude by outlining a proposed direction for the upcoming period before your next board meeting.

What to avoid in a board report

Knowing what to include in a board report is only half of what’s required when reporting to your board. The other half is knowing what to avoid.

To keep your board reports impactful and credible, avoid the following:

  • Complex structures or wordiness: Simplify lengthy sentences and streamline overly complicated report structures. Information overload makes it difficult for board members to follow the meeting’s agenda and separate important insights from the fluff.
  • Busy design: Keep things simple. The point of the board report is to relay important information—not impress the committee with visuals.
  • Non-green-lit projects: In business, sometimes ideas fall through, and projects don’t get off the ground. Overpromising during a board meeting and then not delivering on the members’ expectations will generate discussion that will detract from what is actually being delivered.

To avoid information overload, it’s best to stick to a few key areas that need to be discussed. Going into too much detail results in confusion and time wasted parsing through information for the most relevant insights.

Additionally, it’s recommended to keep to clean, impactful formatting and design. If the way the information is arranged is too plain, it will be harder for the board to follow and extract important information. Messy visuals, on the other hand, can be overstimulating and might hide crucial insight from view.

Top metrics to include in a board report

The essence of writing a quality board report is quality over quantity. To ensure that quality, be sure to tailor your message to your audience.

Depending on the board’s previous industry experience, you can either simplify your language and content or go into deeper technical detail. If, for example, most members of the board aren’t well-versed in financial statements or data analysis, limit that part of the report to just the key takeaways. Make sure everyone comes out of the meeting feeling like they fully understood every minute so you secure more input from the committee.

On that note, let’s review some of the key metrics to include in your report. Avoid metrics that are quick to change and might lose relevance the moment the meeting is concluded. Instead, look to larger trends that influence your company’s growth, market conditions, and financial health.

Note that the contents of the report should vary according to the company’s growth stage. For early-stage organizations, conversion and engagement rates are key indicators of how well the business is doing. For the enterprise stage, this becomes less important, and retention and employee engagement are of the essence instead.

To cover all your bases, we recommend including a few of the following metrics in your report, according to the needs of the meeting and your business:

  1. Marketing: Focus on acquisition rates and cost, as well as Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) and return on investment (ROI). Lead volume and individual marketing channel performance—especially social media channels—are also informative marketing performance and brand reputation metrics.
  2. Sales: For a high-level overview of your sales performance, review activity from the last quarter and add projections for the next quarter. Year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter trends should also be included.
  3. Product: Present development roadmaps and timelines. For discussions of performance, look at your Monthly Active Users (MAU), retention rates, engagement, and churn.
  4. Finance: Always include reviews of your profit and loss accounts. Remember to include updates on large expenditures, such as acquisitions. As your Finance leader, your CFO can take over from here if it’s something you’re comfortable with. Financial statements should not be presented as sheets and overly detailed graphs but rather highlight the bottom line. Think of sharing financial data as a form of storytelling.
  5. HR: Share crucial information on company growth and individual team performance. Key HR metrics for the board of directors are employee turnover and retention.

To relay all this data in an engaging way, don’t shy away from charts and graphs. While it’s more important for your board deck to be well-designed, that doesn’t mean the board report should avoid data visualization. Double and triple-check that the data in your report aligns with the board deck, to avoid unnecessary confusion.

How to end a board report

The end of your report should sum up the major insights of the past quarter or period.

After presenting this information, be ready for questions. Board members can often be concerned about forward-looking aspects of company operations, such as corporate strategies for growth, product roll-out roadmaps, or employee turnover numbers.

To prepare for the committee’s questions as best as possible, go over your report in detail before presenting. Identify potential pain points, and reinforce your position with additional hard data. This data may not need to go into the report itself, but it will be helpful to have it by your side during the meeting.

Sometimes board members won’t immediately have the right questions. For more insightful input, you can always follow up a day after the meeting through email.

Final FAQs about board reports

Writing impactful and quality board reports takes time and experience. If you’re still uncertain of how to make your board report the best it can be, review the below answers to FAQs about board reports to help further guide you.

How often do you submit a board report?

How often you should submit a board report depends on several factors. The first factor is how often the board meets, whether it’s monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. Next, the type of board report also determines its frequency. For example, a chief executive may submit a CEO report every month, while an HR board report may be submitted quarterly.

How long should a board report be?

Given the volume of information expected from a typical board report, you may be surprised to find the average length of this document should be no more than a couple of pages or three to four at most. 

To achieve this, make sure you present your data in a concise, direct way. Rely on visual design to structure the content, and use bullet points and numbered lists to your advantage. Common board report formats are Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. Board decks can come in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. For the report itself, it’s advised to rely on word processing programs.

What’s the best way to present financials in a board report?

The best way to present financials in a board report is to use data visualization, including charts and graphs. You should focus on only one pertinent statement or key statistic per slide. This ensures that you break up the data so it doesn’t get lost or misrepresented.

Improve the quality and impact of your board reports

Constructing an impactful, high-quality board report is the key to an effective, time-efficient board meeting. Make sure to accurately and precisely represent the performance of the company by covering all of the important aspects of its operations. Board reports should always include all of the relevant meeting details, projects recent and current, a financial overview, as well as recommendations for the immediate future of the company.

Different meeting objectives should influence the structure and content of the report. While a CEO board report focuses on the more high-level areas, covering corporate successes, future goals, and structural data analysis, an HR board report should cover matters of internal stability, analyzing the talent pool, employee engagement, DE&I policies, and the overall turnover.

Lastly, keep in mind that a good board report is all about keeping it short and to the point. No data overloads, no excessive run-on sentences, and no unnecessary information. You can cover all of your key metrics—marketing, sales, product, finance, and HR—through organized bullet points and a few smartly placed graphs. Of course, if there’s a need for you to break down your reasoning behind certain insights, be prepared to back up your ideas with hard data to avoid confusion.

A quality board meeting is a productive board meeting, and a well-prepared board report will help get you there.




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About Author
David Greenbaum

Is the Founder and CEO of OnPlan. His lifelong passion for Excel is rivaled only by his infatuation with Airtable. Prior to founding OnPlan, David founded Boost Media (now Ad Labs), an Ad Creative Optimization software company. David has worked in a variety of FP&A roles for companies including Interval Leisure Group (NASDAQ: ILG), Plum Capital and Goldman Sachs. David holds a BA from Brown University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

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