Annual Reports: Not Just for Financials Anymore

Kandace McLaughlin, HealthLeaders Media, September 17, 2008

Click to view Web site.No matter the industry, annual reports have been seen primarily as a tool for reporting financials to investors. One hospital, though, is holding the annual report to a completely different standard: as a vehicle for fundraising, involvement, and community awareness.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville started doing annual reports after a move to a new facility. "We started doing this to make ourselves more known," says Jessica Ennis, publications editor for Vanderbilt Children's Hospital . "We had never done one before I got here but we knew we wanted to use the report as a multipurpose piece."

From the start, Ennis and others worked to find a way to create something different to fulfill the facility's needs. "We sat down to think about a way to tell what we're doing in a different way," says Ennis, "I certainly don't like to read the typical report so I didn't want to make one."

Straying from the 'typical' proved to be easy once a creative focus was established. Vanderbilt Children's Hospital decided that the best way to convey the information for a Children's Hospital would be through the story of a child. The annual report and the child's real-life story were then transformed into a physical children's book that Ennis wrote.

The child that was chosen had been featured briefly in another Vanderbilt Children's Hospital publication after having undergone a heart procedure at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. "I thought he would be best for the illustration, a cute little red-headed boy," says Ennis. She spent hours with the boy and his family trying to get a feel for what they went through at the hospital, and the things he liked to play with and do.

The story describes the boy's condition and procedure in an adult- and child-friendly way. The story takes the reader through the boy's experiences, to the people he met, the things he saw at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and the things he did. In other words, Vanderbilt Children's Hospital managed to inconspicuously deliver the information within a typical annual report in a subtle yet interesting way. And the typical financials? Nestled within every book on a bookmark.

"What's really unique about the book was the extra mileage it's gotten," says Ennis. "People who saw it were so interested in it that they insisted that we put them in our gift shop for fundraising, a congenial heart organization contacted me about ordering some to put on its Web site as a resource. There have been newspaper articles about it and it has been read in kindergarten classrooms. I even saw it for resale on Amazon."

"Obviously, we got mileage that we never expected from taking a different approach," says Ennis. "It's been neat to see that it has gotten as far as it has and that's something you would never see with a typical annual report."

Kandace McLaughlin is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. Send her Campaign Spotlight ideas at If you are a marketer submitting a campaign on behalf of your facility or client, please ensure you have permission before doing so.

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