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The Future of the Nonprofit Annual Report is Digital

Guest post by Josh Kligman at Yearly


Ten million nonprofits worldwide can't be wrong - producing an annual report to show your community impact to donors and board members is a fantastic idea. That's why we do it. You get creative and source the best stories to explain why your program is a hit, showing why the donor funds are so important.


Considering you spend so much time and effort planning your report, do you track how many people are reading it? What about how much time they spend with it? Years ago when I was creating annual reports for a nonprofit, I never did that and I wish I did, it is so easy.


A recent poll showed that small and medium size nonprofits and foundations spent an average of 36 hours on producing their traditional static and printed report, even more if you count the writing process. The same organizations reported that using a digital platform, like Yearly, is over 3 times faster to produce a report, and four times less expensive.


Tracking the return on your fundraising and marketing efforts to create a report consists of comparing the time, cost and effort spent, to the praise, awareness and future donations that result. A digital report platform could shine a light on the number of unique visitors to each report and Google Analytics could tell you how much time was spent on the page. If you can create the report faster, it's more efficient, and while digital report creation is so easy, it goes beyond the benefit of speed.


Digital reports enable nonprofit fundraisers and marketing professionals to integrate more engaging and interactive assets into reports than static or printed documents. You can take relevant social media posts or videos, from the prior year, that compliment your storytelling and photos, and couple it all to engage donors for longer periods of time.


You can do the same with videos you have posted, or get really creative and develop a video welcome message from your Executive Director or community influencer and place it right in your report. The World Wildlife Fund has a great example of embedding video and coupling it with short format copy to convey their story about doubling the number of tigers. It’s convincing to show stakeholders because their point comes across immediately.


Traditional annual and impact report formats are great, but no-code technology delivers many cost-efficient benefits and options for nonprofits, we have to jump into this new method of creativity. The best part about today's tech for nonprofits that are creating reports is that you don't have to know how it works, or have a design background, you just have to tell your story. You got this.


Alleviate Some Stress.


Find a solution that can help make things faster and easier. Yearly is a platform to make digital annual reports flexible, so that when nonprofits have copy edits to make, even major edits, it doesn’t cause a graphic designer to re-layout the report and hold-up our timeline.

There is always that donor's name you spelled wrong after the report went to. If and when you make a mistake on a digital report, you can go back and fix it. The stress is real but going digital can help.


Here are a few other tips to help you reduce some of that nonprofit annual report building stress:

  • Share drafts of a digital report as a live url with colleagues, as you design

  • Reduce or eliminate printing to save on the time and cost

  • If you do need a static version, save your report with the click of a button as a PDF from a digital platform rather than hiring someone to re-create the report from scratch

  • Track if your report is getting read: Embed your report in your website, track metrics with Google Analytics

Get More Out of Digital Reports

Even if you put in an effort to make the report look really nice, many times the document ends up sitting on your website either as a technicality or you are not sure what to do with it. That’s fine, but you might be leaving fundraising dollars on the table. Consider letting your report become a marketing tool for your fundraising efforts instead of a static and lonely…technicality. Here are 3 ways a digital annual report can assist with fundraising:

  1. Utilize Board Contacts: Don't be afraid to ask if nonprofit board members can utilize their network as a distribution channel targeting prospective donors. While board members are often on the lookout for new individual and corporate donors for your organization, you can arm them with the powerful tool that is your annual or impact report, to help them start conversations and open doors. Your goal here should be to ask for introductions.

  2. Social Media Announcements: Sharing your annual report over social media is a great way to get exposure, and make sure you are targeting the right audience. The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine does a great job of that here. There is also value to posting it on LinkedIn and using hashtags like #annualreport or #impactreport, but if you want to reach an audience of potential donors, use your posts to highlight specific stories about your impact, rather than relying solely on the fact that you published your report. For instance, did a person tied to your cause do something with or for your brand that differentiates your organization from others? Did you have a record breaking year? Share those stories with a teaser and allow readers to click a link to read more within your report. You might be able to generate multiple pieces of social media content and post about this once per week.

  3. Email Campaign to Existing Donors: Send donors an email directing them to view your report on your website so they get excited and stay informed. This promotional tactic can complement other updates you provide that audience through efforts like your end of year campaign, that they might find on your website once you drive them there.

Building a digital report yourself is the future of annual reports. You don’t have to have a grand vision for what it looks like. Platforms like Yearly did all that work for you already, you just have to have that idea of how you’re going to tell your story.


About the Guest Blogger

Josh Kligman is the CEO of Yearly, a platform for nonprofits to create digital annual reports. Josh has worked with nonprofits on annual reports, brand, and partnerships since 2011. With Yearly, Josh has helped nearly 2,000 nonprofits create more engaging annual reports with his team’s new, digital platform. Some familiar brands include the World Wildlife Fund, Harvard University, plus small and medium-size nonprofits across the U.S. We love yearly and recommend them to all of our customers and clients as a great, affordable solution for creating beautiful, digital annual reports.