Sick of me telling you to get rid of your long printed annual reports? Well, I’ll stop when you stop 😉

Here’s what Rod Ruff, Program and Engagement Manager of Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, told us about switching from a print annual report to an online version:

For the first few months of this year I had been working on re-launching our website with a new platform and design. As such, I wanted to incorporate a digital version of our annual report that aligned visually with the new website. We wanted to officially launch our website at our Annual General Meeting, which is also when we typically release our annual report. The launch of both products at the same time was seamless and allowed us to really immerse our audience in our new look and content.

We also created postcards to hand out at our events and send to our donors. The postcards contain highlights from the annual report and direct the reader to the online version for the whole report.

Doing a digital version really made the entire process of developing an annual report much, much easier.

Visually we could see the report coming together in front of our eyes, changes were very easy to make, and not doing a printed version is a little more environmentally friendly.

Updating our website to WordPress allowed us to create the digital report in-house as I was able to easily manipulate the content and imagery on my own.

Not having to work with a designer, printer, and dozens of drafts saved us a lot of money, but also a lot of sanity and time in the process.

alberta ecotrust


Difficult Points

Moving to a digital platform opens up a whole new world of troubleshooting for problems. You still encounter similar issues to a printed report with layout, imagery and writing, but now you add issues related to programming.

For example, like any website you need to test the site across different browsers, but to make it mobile friendly you then need to test it across different mobile platforms.

Having the report “in your hands” when it is digital is completely different when it is a mobile device rather than a printout.

Beyond testing, designing a digital report also opens you to world of technical problems related to HTML, CSS, etc.

No one ever asked what the load time is for a printed report!


Being able to edit a digital edition at any time puts a little less urgency on developing content.

In the past I would have to receive all written copy a month before we would go to print just so we could make sure all our ducks were in order as we designed the report.

With a digital edition I was receiving tweaks and suggestions up until the day we went live. That is enough to drive a communicator mad!

Trade Offs

There is an element of a gamble with long time donors who are accustomed to receiving our printed annual report every year. While feedback has been very positive thus far, any time you switch mediums you risk alienating supporters.

The biggest trade off, though, is in knowing who is reading the report, which goes both ways.

When you give someone your full printed report there is an element of trust in that they can dive into the full document (whether or not they do is another issue).

However, with our digital annual report we can use website analytics to not only ascertain if people are reading the report, but how long they are viewing it and where they are being referred from.

There really is no going back to the standard report from here!

You can view our annual report at

Thanks, Rod, for sharing!

Published On: September 4, 2014|Categories: Fundraising, Nonprofit Marketing Trends|