The first thing to know is, it’s not an annual report. Not one like you would think, anyway. For St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, it is the annual community report.

About five years ago St. Francis teamed up with Baldwin Publishing, a marketing firm based in Lambertville, to change its approach to its annual report. “We wanted to put together a piece that we could get a lot of use out of all year round,” says Norma Monaghan, vice president of development for the St. Francis Medical Center Foundation and the hospital’s coordinator for the annual report project. “We wanted something that would be a giving piece, a community piece. It’s very important to stay in touch with the community.”

Gail Rose, editorial director at Baldwin, says the idea behind the community report is to highlight the effect more than the cause. Yes, everyone wanted to tell the story of the hospital, its staff, and its services, but what sets St. Francis’ report apart is its focus on the people, she says. “We wanted to go into the real world; to speak to people whose lives have been touched by St. Francis.”

Baldwin went for the direct emotional approach. Rather than just printing out pages of numbers and text about the hospital’s financials for the preceding year, Baldwin combined pictures and stories of patients, families, and people St. Francis has served. Last year’s report, which won a silver award at the ASTRA event, features a filmstrip layout that uses real stories to highlight how the hospital helped members of the community.

The section on LIFE St. Francis, a relatively new hospital program that provides care and social services for patients 55 years and older, is the one Rose says touches her the most. “It’s an alternative to a nursing home,” she says. Patients in the LIFE program often are alone in their apartments all week. “The van picks them up, they come in, get care, see their friends. It’s the one thing they look forward to all week. Every time I read it I start to cry.”

Compelling stories don’t just tug at heartstrings. They are tangible examples of how the hospital’s programs often work in unexpected ways. Take the story of one man who participated in the St. Francis Walk-In Clinic. “Here’s a man who says he wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t come in,” she says. The man, one of the many uninsured and underinsured, came in for one small ailment and found that he had a clot in his lung.

Rose says the report has won four other awards over the last four years. Last year’s report was different in that it really hammered home the hospital’s core mission, which is to treat patients according to the tenets of the Catholic faith, Monaghan says. It has always done that, she says, but the latest report was designed with the idea of making sure people know how the hospital follows its mission — such as the fact that even executive meetings start with a prayer.

Last year also showed the board for the first time, Monaghan says. “We wanted to give it some perspective. We wanted to show why people volunteer.”

Monaghan is about ready to sit down with CEO Jerry Jablonowski to discuss the direction for this year’s community report. “There are always lessons to be learned in anything,” Monaghan says. “Change depends on what you want to communicate.”

Whatever changes the hospital has made over the years have been the results of meeting between Monaghan, Jablonowski, and board director Tom Moonan, who also is co-chair of the Hibbert Group, a marketing firm based in Trenton. Rose says that having a client with a strong vision helps Baldwin put together a package in the most efficient and effective way.

It’s still a lot of work (usually about four months worth), but Rose says it is worth it. Baldwin gets to put together a product with a strong focus, St. Francis gets to use its report for outreach and fundraising, and the community gets to know that the hospital is living its mission. “This fills a huge need,” Rose says. “It’s very satisfying.”

Baldwin Publishing, 351 South Main Street, Lambertville, 08530; 609-397-7002. Gail Rose, editorial director.

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