For Phoebe Dey and her team at the Alberta Cancer Foundation, the Gold Quill Awards create a sense of pride for their communication team, as well as encouragement to continue doing good work. Here, Dey describes how her team’s award-winning case study, “Alberta Cancer Foundation — 2019 Annual Report,” tells the foundation’s story and continues its mission to support Albertans facing a cancer diagnosis.
Oh, the good old annual report. For many communication professionals, those two words invoke a range of emotion. Some people love them. Some plead to never have to work on one again. It’s easy to understand why. They tend to be huge projects that are months in the making and involve a number of people — not to mention it’s a challenge to be original every year. The Alberta Cancer Foundation has found a way to embrace annual reports, working hard to make each year better than the one before and (even more importantly) ensuring this love-it-or-hate-it publication helps meet our business needs. In our case, it is raising money for cancer research, treatment and care for all Albertans who hear the words, “You have cancer.”
Over the years, the annual report has become a source of pride and joy for the communication team. It has earned several Gold Quills, which is always a feat to celebrate. That recognition serves a few important purposes.
The award creates a sense of pride with the communications team. It also validates good, hard work with the rest of the foundation, including the board of trustees. It demonstrates that the team is doing more than telling a good story or designing a pretty piece. It connects what we do to the organization’s mission and overall business goals. Winning these global awards also helps raise the profile of the organization to both the local community and international communication professionals. Plus, it is great for the local IABC chapters (in this case Edmonton and Calgary), since the foundation is provincial.
Although the accolades are certainly appreciated, the biggest benefit of Gold Quill is that, rather than completing a project and then filling in the submission criteria, the team now does things in reverse. It uses the submission criteria to guide the production of more than just the annual report. It forces us to apply critical thought to every project we work on, whether submitted for an award or not.
Being able to identify how the annual report’s communication objectives solve the foundation’s business needs has helped us stay focused on what we are trying to achieve. In the end, that means we will have created a meaningful reason for our fundraisers to connect with their donors and cultivate that relationship even more. To measure this, we tracked how many donors each fundraiser delivered the report to and if that touchpoint eventually led to a donation. The Gold Quill awards have refined our skills in terms of identifying the need, answering the questions of who should care and why, what we want our audiences to hear and, a favorite, ensuring we measure what matters.
This approach has worked well. We use our annual report to build credibility with our donors and stakeholders, and to show when people trust us with their dollars, we will make sure that translates to impact. We try to tell that story through our annual report in a compelling way. A Gold Quill judge said our work was “a breath of fresh air … that meets its purpose and objectives.”
Although the annual report may make some communicators shudder, we use it as a strategic opportunity to help tell our story, build trust and, in turn, create more moments for Albertans facing cancer by inspiring our community to give.
Phoebe Dey is vice president of communications and marketing for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.