Annual Report Time: It’s all the Time

by Anne Krueger
Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
El Cajon, CA

This summer, like every summer, my big project at work is putting together the district’s annual report. But my work on the report doesn’t begin in June. It’s something I think about every day of the year.

The annual report is one of the most important documents our district puts together each year. Our chancellor, Cindy Miles, holds a community event each September in which she presents the annual report and uses it to highlight the district’s accomplishments for the year. We send it to donors, elected officials and business leaders. It’s a great way to remind faculty and staff that we have much to be proud of in our district.

Despite all of the love I lavish on our annual report, I know that most people are going to only skim through it, looking at the photos and graphics and perhaps stopping to read the first few lines of the items sprinkled throughout. I know we probably only get their attention for a minute or two at best.

That’s why I’ve developed some guidelines when we put together our reports.

-Students, students, students. Our colleges are not the buildings on campus. They are the talented and amazing students who go there. You will never see photos of empty buildings on the cover of an annual report we put together. We will always show our students. We also feature short stories of our students throughout the report. Throughout the year, we are always looking for stories of noteworthy students to feature in the report.

-Striking photos are key to a great annual report. I come from a background as a newspaper reporter, and one rule we had at the paper was no “grip and grin” photos. As much as I can, I try to follow that rule for the annual report. Instead of showing a photo of someone standing stiffly and smiling at the camera, we try to find a photo that illustrates the award. That takes lots of planning. For example, when Cuyamaca College won an award for an innovative new teaching method, we arranged photos showing instructors working with students to illustrate the story. They were ready to go when it was time to put the report together, instead of scrambling at the last minute.

-Let graphics tell the story. A chart or a diagram can make even the most necessary but boring factoids come alive, whether it’s showing the district’s annual budget or the demographic breakdown of our students.

-KISS your words. That famous saying – keep it short, stupid – applies when we write articles for the annual report. Most articles are 200 to 300 words, and we use bulleted items when possible to further break up the text on the page.

These guidelines have worked well for us, and they’ve also brought us success at award time. We’ve won an NCMPR Paragon award for our annual report every year for the past four years, including a gold Paragon for the 2015-16 annual report.

Putting together an annual report is a massive project, but it can be a bit easier if you don’t just think of it as an end-of-the-year project. Keep chipping away at it throughout the year.

Anne Krueger is the communications and public information director for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in El Cajon, California.

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