businessman drafting a new annual report strategy

Is It Time to Shake Up Your Annual Report Strategy?

As the year ends, some associations will compile their activities into a printed annual report, while others may be less traditional and do something digital. A look at how the American Bankers Association has made biannual email updates work for them.

While printed annual reports are a staple at many associations, the American Bankers Association doesn’t use format to communicate with members.

“We’ve always been proactive with members about what we were doing, but we didn’t have one space where we collected our biggest wins and achievements for the industry over a period of time,” said Evan Sparks, ABA’s senior vice president of member communication.

However, in summer 2020, ABA decided it was time for a change. Not only had ABA staff been hard at work developing relevant content and learning, but ABA members also helped deliver the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program that allowed businesses to keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.

“Members were helping businesses and communities across the country, and ABA was educating members about changes and updates during the pandemic,” Sparks said.

To highlight all these wins to members, ABA created a biannual email—sent out in June and in December—with the essential information. Like a typical annual report, ABA’s email updates show members the value of their membership and help the association review its accomplishments and determine what to focus on next year.

“We want to present the information in a clear, compelling way rather than as a stiff history of our activities,” Sparks said. “Condensing and simplifying the information that would normally go into an annual report and sending it via email can be a great way for associations to share their successes.”

Incorporating a personal touch and being mindful of which achievements to highlight and help associations deliver an engaging update to members—no matter the format.

Annual Report Format and Delivery

As you decide on the format of your annual report, it’s important to keep in mind your members and their preferences. For example, if you have an audience that prefers digital, you’ll have a better chance of reaching your target audience when it’s sent via an email in a format that feels more like a personal note.

ABA’s biannual email updates come from the CEO, which lets members know that the information is important and is from someone familiar to them.

“If I’m a member, I’m likely to open and read an email from my association president that’s addressed to me personally and says, ‘Here are six things we accomplished on behalf of members like you,’” Sparks said.

Association Information and Accomplishments

According to Sparks, if you’re sending an email update to members instead of a multipage annual report, it’s important to be more deliberate when deciding what information to include.

“We look for accomplishments that are closely tied to our strategic goals and accomplishments that emphasize the value we are delivering for the broadest segments of our membership,” he said.

Though there’s no such thing as too many victories, including every accomplishment may diminish their ability to stand out to members. Sparks recommends reviewing what happened over the period you’re highlighting and determining whether the item is an input or output.

“For advocacy, our members can expect that we will file comment letters on the important regulatory proposals facing our industry—important work that I’d think of as an input. The outputs are the wins in final rules where we can identify changes influenced or aligned with our advocacy,” he said. “You need to do this internal decision-making for any year-end summary of work, but it’s even more critical when you’re creating a document that’s short and easy to digest.”


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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