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Annual Reporting: Why Nonprofits Are Making the Switch From Paper to Digital

Posted by
Marcy Rye
Jul 18, 2017 10:12:00 AM


Most nonprofit organizations rely on annual reports to communicate insights from the previous year and articulate their intentions for the future, combining human-interest stories with important data. In the past, this information has been presented in print, often in a text-heavy, large booklet on thick, glossy stock paper. As technology and design trends continue to advance, many nonprofits are deciding to make the switch from paper to a digital format.

There are many advantages to going from paper to digital impact reports. Here’s a few reasons why nonprofits are embracing the change:

Visual Impact

A digital Impact Report, done in a visual storytelling style and using data design, has powerful impact. These days people don't want to read long text documents. They prefer to visit your webpage and quickly scan for the information most relevant to them. Help them out and use data design to make complex information easy to understand at-a-glance. Data design is the art (and science) of designing information in a way that it's easy to grasp complex concepts quickly. It creates order out of what can be a very confusing amount of information, and it can reveal relationships that you may not have expected to find.


If you’ve ever gone the trouble of printing and mailing documents, you know sending and receiving information in a digital format can save organizations a great deal of time. Not only does it save you a trip to the post office, but going digital provides organizations an opportunity to quickly and easily share their information on multiple platforms. As digital reports will often live on an organization’s website, its unique URL can “distributed”, or shared, through social media, email newsletters, blog posts and other marketing materials. Now you’re not only reaching current donors, but are opening your organization up to the opportunity of being discovered by new audiences.

It’s also important to note, without going digital, organizations have no means to measure the success of their reports. Digital reports can give organization's specific information, such as page views, scrolling time, bounce rates and more through web analytics. Having a clear look at these distribution numbers can help your nonprofit make smarter (and more successful) decisions in the future.


The lifespan of a digital report far exceeds those that are printed. Printed reports have a single destination, from sender to recipient, soon after being untraceable, and often times forgotten. These reports also run the risk of being lost in the mail, tossed aside or throw out. Distributing your annual report in a digital format gives it a “home”, allowing for it to be later referenced, shared and easily repurposed.

Digital reports are also multi-functional, allowing organizations to use them as fundraising collateral, a recruitment tool or linked back to throughout marketing materials. Most commonly, the annual report is a great place stakeholders and donors can go back and quickly get a sense of the organization’s efforts, in a condensed, readable format. It becomes a reference and easily-accessible resource for the year to come.


Each year, nonprofit organizations must take the costs for annual reports into their budget considerations. If you’ve gone through the efforts of producing these reports, you already know the costs can add up. Paper, printing, shipping and time all must be accounted for. Although there is still a cost associated with going digital, when done properly, digital reports should produce organizations with a positive ROI. As mentioned, these reports have greater longevity, creating opportunity for additional engagement and SEO (search engine optimization).

Is your nonprofit looking to make the switch to digital annual reports? Download our free guide to planning your Impact Report.

Get the Guide

Topics: nonprofit marketing