We’re already hearing from some our clients about the creation of their 2013 annual report. Because large, printed pieces take so much time between content gathering and multiple rounds of revisions, many organizations seems to embark on this journey in early fall.


Photo titled ‘Sketchbook’ courtesy of Lauren Manning

In my past life as a marketing director for a nonprofit, I dreaded the annual report. Not because I wasn’t proud of what we accomplished, but because it was so much work with little understanding of what benefit it had. I felt as if it was just something we “had to do” mainly to appease our donors. But I didn’t feel it garnered enough results for the amount of effort that went into it.

It’s been so refreshing to see that more and more organizations are starting to move their annual report to digital formats. And I’m not talking about the electronic book option. But instead utilizing video, social media and landing pages on their sites to better visualize the impact they are having in the world. I think this is brilliant. Here’s why.

It’s more cost effective.
Printing costs can eat away at your budget. But, investing instead in some added online visuals to accompany your printed annual report is a great payoff. Plus the online version of your annual report is much more likely to be shared to more people than the printed version which means higher value for your investment.

It’s digestible.
Your printed annual report has a lot of text and today people don’t want to read through details to get the information they want – especially online. When people come to your site, they want the big picture, quick. Simply adding a link to download the PDF version of your annual report doesn’t cut it anymore.

It’s more transparent.
When the facts are more digestible, it increases transparency and thus credibility among your audience. When you move to this format, it communicates that you actually want people to see and know this information. It shows that you are proud of your financials and your accomplishments. It’s also shareable and can be found by search engines.

It’s more emotional. 
Compelling photos in your annual report can evoke some emotion, but they’re buried in a download link and tons of text. Bring the images to life by making them the forefront of your communications. Videos, photos and big, bold, beautiful numbers displayed prominently throughout your online presence can do wonders for making your audience and donors feel emotionally connected to your work.

It’s relevant.
Your annual report is meant to communicate the state of your organization and should show that you are embracing innovation. By displaying your annual report in this way, you are showing that your organization is keeping up with relevant technology and communication best practices.

Millennials love it.
One of the best ways to inspire millennials to give is to show them how their gifts can and have made an impact in the world. Millennials won’t dig around to find this information. Sharing your annual report in this way can really motivate millennials because of the transparency and easy access.

Are we suggesting you do-away with your printed annual report? No. However, we do think that every organization should test the waters with this approach and examine the results.

By providing an interactive, more visual representation of your annual report, more people will absorb it and thus you are creating more transparency and credibility with your organization. It’s a worthwhile investment.

So what does this look like? Check out Charity Water, the Salvation Army and W.K. Kellogg Foundation for some great ideas.

What are your thoughts on bringing your annual report online? Have you already implemented this for your organization? Let us know in the comments!