Annual Reports – Print or Online

Published by Graeme Russell on

Something that is often asked is how to share annual reports with supporters, should these be printed, online or both?

Annual reports and how they’re distributed should be included in your annual communication plan and not left until the report is due to be released, which sadly can be the case in many organizations.

Supporters, current and potential, want to know about your organization, they want to know what you have been doing, where the resources have been allocated and they don’t want to have to wade through reams of paper to get the answers.

With internet being widely used it makes sense for organizations to make use of it to share not only what they do, but also share their annual reports and much more.

Perhaps you don’t want to upload the entire report, that’s ok, you can upload highlights from the report:

Executive Summary

It’s all part of being open, accessible and giving your supporters what they want.

With more and more people spending hours searching for organizations to support, the more information that gives them what they’re looking for the better.

Openness is important and if organizations don’t or can’t provide the information people are seeking they will look elsewhere, they will go to organizations that provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision to support.

There have been instances where people have contacted organizations asking for more detailed information, not the ‘sales pitch’ most show on their websites, only to be told what they are wanting can’t be provided as it’s ‘confidential’.

Confidential? When funds are solicited from the community for services in the community – how can this aspect of what an organization does be ‘confidential’ – if your organization is one who says they can’t provide the detail you have to think again, are you doing justice to your organization?

For your current supporters, when you next send a newsletter, e-letter, or however you communicate with them – ask how they want to be contacted, how they want to receive your reports; you could be pleasantly surprised to hear that many will want reports, and general updates electronically.

Not only are you making it easier for your organization, your supporters, but you’re also doing your bit for the environment; and who doesn’t like a triple-win!!

Any organization working in the community needs to understand that it’s not only about them and they work they do, but it’s also very much about making it easy for supporters.

How are you distributing your annual reports, are you actively communicating with your supporters when it comes to the financial and service delivery aspects of your organization?

Graeme Russell

Graeme runs Adage Business, a boutique agency providing assistance to the not-for-profit sector to help them get their message out, helping them be heard through traditional and online media. He's passionate about new opportunities to get clients messages to market. Working with the not-for-profit sector he helps ensure this group receives the exposure it may not normally get. Graeme has been using social media for many of his clients and has seen some startling results; he enjoys the fluidity and connectivity that social media is able to give and bring to a campaign. He says social media needs to be recognised as two way communication that allows anyone to connect, collaborate and converse across a wide range of topics.


Jur · January 28, 2012 at 08:17

Sounds good… and if you’d ask a (potential) donor he or she would give you this answer. But, in my experience what a donor says and how he or she acts are two different worlds.
For example; an organization I worked for asked itself the same questions you describe above. Also, should our Annual report be on the orgs website more prominent? We had asked donors and they all said, yes, of course. So as a marketer, I (most of the time) want everything to be held up by statistics. I checked the number of Annual report downloads, pageviews, clickpaths, time spent reading this report… a stunning 189(!!!) visitors in 1 year, enormous bouncerate, hardly any time spent reading it. On a website with more than a milion visits a year!

So, visitors told us this was important but they sure didn’t want to read it. Maybe seeing the report on the website satisfied them? I didn’t get the chance to ask them honestly. What I am trying to say is that annual report (in my opinion) should ofcourse be published and yes, both online and offline. But don’t be surprised if no-one reads your beautyfull, produced with much care, annual report.


Graeme · January 30, 2012 at 19:44

Thanks for the comment Jur – I think some donors only ask as a way to ‘stall’ supporting, they sometimes think that if they ask and the report isn’t available immediately it gives them an ‘excuse’ to not support, others genuinely want to see it.

I’ve seen some examples similar to yours, but I’ve also seen examples where traffic and ‘time on site’ has been through the roof, those who put highlights of their report online – prominently – have a a (what would appear) longer read time.

One site for an organisation here in New Zealand that shows their report and has had good feedback is LifeWise – http://www.lifewise.org.nz – the report is right there where anyone can see it without have to trawl through the site looking.

I’ve asked organisations I work with about their reports and some have said, we do the financials but don’t give any detail as to work done throughout the year, and others say they are now looking at a more user-friendly report style. In both groups they have said this has come about due to donor requests for it to be easily accessible.

Personally I’d like to see reports online, it saves me time and I don’t like have lots of paper about, but I read and use report information on a daily basis, so I guess I’m different in that respect.

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