Annual Reports – Paper or Digital?

Just about everything is going digital these days. Should your Annual Report be as well? The debate for physical versus virtual continues to rage, but how “on-line” does your organization need to be? We’ll discuss some pro’s and con’s to making an Annual Report digital instead of a print version.

Pro’s

Innovation

By putting the Annual Report online and making it digital, an organization can include much more than just word-stories, data and donor lists. Those stories can be converted into video which tells them in a meaningful and engaging manner. Putting a face to a need, whether through a photo or a video increases emotional investment on the part of the donor and the chance of financial investment. Audio bits giving a breakdown of a group of data, an interactive map of influence and activity for the region, and photos with descriptive captions can liven up an annual report and keep a donor engaged longer on your site. Any videos created for the annual report can also be used on the organization’s website, blog, television spots and community presentations.

Cost

The cost of printing and mailing an annual report can weigh heavy on an organization. By putting it online, an organization can save a lot of money that can then be rolled into more fundraising efforts. The initial cost of producing the features (such as videos and audio clips) may be a little higher, but since many of the materials can be recycled throughout the year, the benefit often outweighs the cost.

Accessibility

Once an annual report is online, anyone can access it. This means that someone who is debating joining your organization as a donor can see what you have accomplished and make an educated decision whether to give or not. It can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter. Videos can be posted on YouTube and sent through the media spaces as well.

Cons

Some people just like to have something in their hands, to hold and to read. For those people, you may consider downsizing the amount of info you have in print form and send it to a limited number of individuals. One thing that can be moved online is the list of donors. This can take out a big chunk of space in a printed version. Other things that can be cut down would be lists of grants awarded and excess data.

Tips:

Focus on the content and not the features. Keep it simple yet informative. People are more interested in what you accomplished during the year than in the fancy technology you use. Keep videos short (between 3-5 minutes). Watch what others are doing to gauge what is working well. Look for help from people who are skilled in digital content. There may be some on your staff already.

For more information, check out this article by Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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