Like a good meal, annual reports bring everyone to the table. And, like the feast of info they are, they’re a lot of work to put together. 

So, why make them? Because the hours of statistical compilation, cross-departmental collaboration, and time spent on layout and imagery are all worth it. Annual reports are the showstopper of marketing content, and they are an invaluable tool for fundraisers and building legislative support.   

Libraries can use annual reports not only to share valuable statistical information from the year prior but also to share their accomplishments, describe the impact of their programs, and thank their volunteers, partners, and donors. Annual reports provide an opportunity to let your library shine! 

Plan for success.

Annual reports are a big job and may require more time than any other piece made during the year. So, your first task is to figure out who needs to be at the table. Work backward from your due date to determine your timeline. Next, make a list of what you want to include in the annual report. An outline is helpful for this step.  

Possible ingredients for a compelling annual report: 

  • Letter from the President/CEO/Chief Librarian with a summary of the library’s challenges, achievements, and plans for the future 

  • Annual operational stats, like circ data, and traffic and program attendance 

  • Strategic goals and accomplishments 

  • Challenges over the past year, along with stories of overcoming those challenges. 

  • Testimonials and stories of patrons 

  • Donor impact   

  • Reports on the progress of any capital improvements, like major renovations 

  • Finance and budget report 

  • Major survey feedback, if applicable 

Consider whether your annual report can support any strategic goals. 

Are your annual reports used primarily to raise funds? 

  • Feature donor impact and program success.  

  • Consider the annual report as “marketing real estate” for donor appreciation. Include a list of donors and feature donor profiles. Mention large gifts or bequests, if allowed.  

  • Talk about community partnerships. 

  • Don’t forget to include instructions on how to become a monthly donor! 

Are your annual reports used to support your relationship with local governing bodies?  

  • Focus on free resources offered to the public by listing exciting program attendance numbers and sharing accomplishments within the community. Examples might include how many adult students graduated from your GED programs or how many citizens were naturalized. Did any entrepreneurs benefit from small business classes? Did anyone win a grant due to grant writing workshops? 

  • Consider highlighting partnerships with other local associations and nonprofits. You can do a short interview with leaders of those organizations and let them explain the impact the partnership has on the community. 

Are your annual reports used to educate and inform community members about what the library has to offer?  

  • Brag on the number of checkouts. 

  • Share numbers on how many programs were held and how many people attended them.  

  • Feature patron stories and testimonials. And speaking of patron stories… 

Tell a story. 

The most compelling annual reports aren’t a giant list of statistics. Rather, they tell stories. Storytelling sticks with your audience because it makes them feel something. And emotions are memorable.   

Patron stories are perfect for this purpose. Find a community member whose life was changed by a service or resource at the library. Reach out to them and ask whether you can share their story. Ask your staff for these stories throughout the year and keep records just for annual report time. Try to insert these stories throughout the report.  

Okay, you made what? 

Annual reports contain a lot of information. And you want that to be shared far and wide. How do you take a big document and break it down into shareable elements? Here are some ideas.  

  • Make an infographic: Choose interesting points from annual reports and rework them into infographics. Studies show visual information is easier to digest.

    Here’s a great example of a Year In Review infographic (#MadeInLibraryAware, of course) by Arden G. Hill Memorial Library, which they shared as a poster. Here’s another infographic from Leach Library (also #MadeInLibraryAware) in poster format. Attleboro Public Library shared their infographic on their homepage, which is a great way to get eyes on this important information.

  • Post on your website: Many libraries keep an archive of annual reports on their websites. It’s a great way to be transparent with the community. For people considering donating to your library, having the annual report on the website will speed up donor research.

  • Email them! Send digital versions of the annual report to stakeholders, donors, and your subscriber lists.

  • Share print copies: Print high-quality copies and display them at each of your branches. Your philanthropy and Friends teams will benefit from having printed copies.

Enjoy the meal! 

The annual report is an important tool for the library. Give it the attention it deserves and make it truly compelling.

Need help in LibraryAware?

Find ready-to-customize annual reports and infographic templates for print and digital use. Just search annual report in the LibraryAware search field.  

Leigh Gaddy is the Lead/Demand Generation Marketing Specialist at NoveList. She is currently reading The Memory Thieves by Dhonielle Clayton.