Turn That Annual Report Into A Living Report

Credit unions should harness the power of technology to provide real-time updates on their financial and social impact.

 
 

Back in 2012, I wrote about the power of the annual report. These comprehensive communications detailing a company's activities throughout the preceding year present an opportunity to go beyond dry tables and grip-and-grin photos to actually telling the story of a credit union’s impact on its members and their community.

They still do that. But, today’s visual presentation tools make it possible to turn a static document people rarely read into something much more. Credit unions today have the opportunity to turn their annual report into a living report.

 

 

Think about it. Credit unions are joining the countless organizations using visualization tools like Tableau and PowerBI to both better understand and display data. But why stop with internal use? Why not use that presentation power to provide members a real-time update on how the credit union is performing financially and socially?

Organizations like the United Way post static “thermometers” to track the progress of annual fundraising campaigns.

Ever seen those cutout “thermometers” in public squares and plazas that track the progress of the annual United Way or other fundraising campaigns? Visualization tools allow a credit union to accomplish the same purpose in the virtual, but still very real, world.

Tableau itself is already doing that with the Tableau Foundation annual report. The organization updates its tables and maps every week with new grants, donations, and figures about its worldwide philanthropic work.

“Regrettably, these well-manicured and polished annual reports contain charts and figures that are woefully out­­­-of-date by the time they make their way into anyone’s hands,” says Jason Shumacher, Tableau Foundation’s program manager, in a post about the foundation’s report for the year just ended.

 

According to Tableau, its living annual report refreshes weekly with new grants, donations, and figures without any substantive work on the part of organization.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Tableau itself says the updates take place “without any substantive work on our part.” Even better, a credit union doesn’t have to jump in headfirst. It can begin by jazzing up what it already posts online.

The Tableau Foundation changes the way organizations do good with their data. If you have a foundation, and are looking to connect with a network of foundation leaders for two-days of collaboration, idea sharing, and problem solving, join Callahan in September as we host our first-ever Foundations Roundtable. Learn more today.

Some credit unions are already doing this. Check out Vancity’s online annual report. The $26 billion Canadian cooperative is fantastic at telling its story with an annual report that features a video of members and credit union leaders talking about their institution as well as a series of illustrated articles about entrepreneurs and commercial developments that speak to the credit union’s mission.

According to Vancity, its integrated annual reports reflect how it integrates social, environmental, and economic factors into all aspects of its business and collaborates with others to build healthy communities.

 

Canadian credit union Vancity showcases its social, environmental, and economic efforts in its annual report.

I love Vancity’s approach, including the big credit union’s transparency about who it is, what it does, and how it’s doing. The only drawback here is that it’s still an annual report.

To make a living report, a credit union just needs to turn its internally facing reports to the outside. Credit unions are already tracking their new member growth or new accounts opened daily, weekly, or monthly. Turn this data outward to illustrate how the community is voting with their feet by bringing new business to your institution. 

Loans are the growth engine for most credit unions. Rather than track loan volume, track how much interest members have saved by refinancing their homes or participating in a round-up debit deposit savings plan. Educators Credit Union ($1.9B, Racine, WI) has been doing this for a decade. This data should be central to your living report.

But don't stop with financial performance. Use visualization tools — whether via app, social media, or in-branch displays — to highlight the cooperative’s community involvement. Employee volunteer time, school branches, and money raised for a foundation all tell great stories, as does detailing how the credit union puts its money to use.

Connect with others from the credit union industry who are working together to improve member service through analytics and visualization. Join the Credit Union Tableau Users Group. All level of experience and platform preferences welcome.

Track the progress of these items on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Allowing members to follow along on the journey not only engages them but also motivates employees to do more. Members get to engage with their credit union, employees get to see their good work on public display, and the credit union gets to showcase its commitment to the community it serves. Everyone wins — except maybe the bankers, who will have to fight a stronger credit union brand in their attacks.

For those worried about what to do when the numbers slip, be prepared to communicate that as well. Decide ahead of time about the level of transparency that is best at that moment. That kind of planning is essential when adopting a dynamic approach that presents impact and performance in close to real time.

There’s a natural dynamism to an engaging visual presentation that updates regularly. The old adage that asserts “you get what you measure” begs the question, how much more can credit unions accomplish if they take what they are already measuring every day, or every week, or every month and turn it outward to the stakeholders in their community?

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the questions raised here and about what you’re doing to communicate your impact. Please share your comments below or let us know at editor@creditunions.com.

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Feb. 19, 2019


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