Every continuing education department should prepare an annual report. This valuable tool will allow the staff to take a step back and look at the overall practical and financial health of their department or “business” unit. This effort is well worth it as it forces everyone to document essential information about the department and how it operates in a format that is consistent year after year, enabling comparison to develop perspective.
This task boils down to figuring out where the department has been, where it is now, and where it is going; which is helpful in developing goals and objectives and modifying strategic plans. Every annual report should include the following segments: a message from the dean, director or leader, enrollment and financial reports with graphs comparing the past several years, student demographics, programming – what is growing and which programs are declining, marketing, operations, highlight any awards and achievements, and finally a section on the future which will build on the successes or failures.
When this is compiled into a clear and concise format, you allow yourself and others to see where improvements need to be made and anticipate circumstances for the upcoming year. Whether or not you actually use the annual report for a purpose other than to evaluate your own progress, the process of preparing it as if you will be showing it to an outside set of eyes forces you to be objective and ask yourself difficult and important questions.
However, I believe the value of producing an annual report is not only to use it as an internal roadmap but also as a marketing tool for key stakeholders so they better understand your department and the value it brings to the organization but the community as a whole.
Guest Blogger Lauren Smith works in the continuing education division at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI