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The Benefits of a Digital Annual Report

An annual report is an essential tool to provide your organization’s stakeholders. Not only is it a great way to sum up the year’s efforts, but it also builds reputation and trust among existing and prospective stakeholders.

We’ve all been through the chaos of developing an annual report. Each year, it can feel like a mad scramble to gather all the pieces, have it designed and organize the print run. But with the craze comes the reward, because once that report is ready to go, there’s no better feeling. Here are some benefits of switching to a digital annual report:

More Sustainable

Not only is publishing your annual report digitally more sustainable for the environment, but it is also more sustainable for your organization. When it comes to the initial cost of developing a microsite for your annual report, it can exceed the cost of the traditional format. However, that initial investment goes a long way for your organization’s future. Small design changes year after year will give your report a fresh look, so all you have to budget for is the design and development updates, versus the cost of design and printing.

Increased Engagement

Imagine the photos in your printed annual report coming to life? What if the stories of your impact can be experienced with video and sound? You can easily add more compelling and engaging content to a digital annual report. The best part is, you can measure that engagement also so that you can dive into the analytics, test, learn lessons and make adjustments on the go.

Flexibility to Edit and Augment

Speaking of adjustments, we’ve all experienced the moment when you get your printed annual report in hand, you flip through, then notice a mistake. Oops. Thankfully, any mistakes made can be fixed and missing information can be easily added in.

Printed annual reports typically run on the 4-page rule. Surely you’ve experienced needing to add just one more page, but end up having to scrap it or add three more pages just to make the layout work. Publishing a digital annual report means you won’t have to worry about the headache or the cost of making changes.

Promotional Tool

It is common for organizations to use annual reports as a marketing and promotional tool to seal the deal with donors, sponsors, and other partners. Until digital annual reports came around, it wasn’t common for organizations to hand out their annual reports to recruit volunteers or for small-scale fundraising.

Since a digital annual report exists online, you’ll have the opportunity to increase your SEO, distribute it at the click of a button, use anchor links to point users to the exact sections you wish for them to see. The possibilities are endless!

Best of Both Worlds

There are likely going to be some people who would still like a printed copy of your annual report. Instead of working with minimum print runs, you can print exactly how many you need by using a print-on-demand service such as Mimeo. It might cost more per copy, but if you communicate to your supporters that switching to a digital annual report is a more environmentally-friendly option, they’ll understand. If they are still keen on a printed report, you can ask for a small donation to cover the cost.

Alternatively, you could include a printable PDF of your digital annual report. This version could include just the highlights, with calls-to-action to encourage readers to head to the website for more in-depth content. If you do this for a year or two, your readers will be used to the idea of a digital annual report in no time.

Well-Designed Digital Annual Reports

At Briteweb, we get to work with game-changing nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprises every day. Needless to say, we’ve seen our share of annual reports through the years and really know an exceptionally well-designed annual report when we see one. Here are our favorites:

Girls Who Code


Sick Kids Foundation

Like their fundraising campaign, Sick Kids Foundation’s digital annual report is bold and inspiring. They’ve embedded a video right at the start as their message from our leaders, which adds a personal touch to an otherwise typical letter. They use a lot of photo sliders and videos to tell compelling stories and make great use of drop-down blocks for their lists.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A little more simple than the previous examples, UNDP’s digital annual report features a clean design and pays close attention to keeping the web copy brief enough to keep the user moving. This is a good example of a digital annual report that doesn’t rely on the bells and whistles of animations or video but stands out by it’s well-organized and presented content.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity makes great use of columns to mimic the experience of a traditional annual report, with the interactivity of a digital report. Their use of powerful photos to tell their stories makes the experience of scrolling through quite enjoyable.

They’ve packed a lot of information into this microsite, so the menu at the top is very handy and gives the user a good overview of what’s to come.

Two women smiling and working together in an office

Reading an annual report should be fun. More importantly, it should inspire people to take action, continue to support you, and help raise awareness for your cause.

The better the experience you provide, the more engaged your audience will be. That sounds like a worthwhile investment for us. 

If you’re interested in exploring what a digital annual report could look like for your organization, give us a shout and we’ll be happy to help.