Your Annual Report: Print vs. Digital

In our last post, we touched on why annual reports are not only for large organizations but also serve a purpose for small nonprofits and even individual missionaries. If you missed it, or are still on the fence about needing one, head back and check it out.

The biggest barrier to an annual report for smaller organizations has always been the cost of printing and mailing. There are three options for an annual report, a printed version that is mailed to your supporters, a digital version on your website that is emailed to supporters and a mix of both.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each as well as some of our recommendations.

The Pros and Cons of Printing your Annual Report

The Pros

  • Printing and mailing your annual report will cost money, however when done right will have a large return on investment.
  • A printed copy of something that is well-designed communicates a level of appreciation and is also much more personal than visiting a web page.
  • There are a large number of people who give to many organizations who are in the upper half of the digital divide – meaning they do not often use the internet and would not have easy access to a digital version.
  • Many foundations and major donors require a printed copy of an annual report when making grants or major gifts.
  • Ability to include a giving envelope that can solicit check donations
  • Having a printed report gives you something tangible to hand visitors to your organization and people you meet with.
  • A printed report provides a great “historical” record that you can pull out to look back at your years.

The Cons

  • It can get very expensive to get one designed, printed and shipped
  • Some donors may view it as a waste of resources when you could send them a digital version instead
  • You want to have it professionally designed to reflect the quality of your organization (and to show that donors can trust you with stewarding their resources well).

The Pros and Cons of a Digital Annual Report

The Pros

  • The ability to add a lot of extra touches to your report including videos, more photos than a print version, links to other pages and more
  • While there is an upfront cost to the design, once it is completed it is free to send it out to as many people as you want
  • Many donors will view it as very cost-effective and a wise use of their resources they are investing
  • You can have an online donation form on the page making it very easy for someone to give a gift
  • You can make it interactive, meaning people can dive deeper into stories and stats they care about
  • A great tool for small organizations and individual missionaries who may not have the resources to print and mail reports (or for missionaries based overseas may not have the storage capacity for a lot of printed materials).

The Cons

  • Several of your major donors may fall outside of the digital divide, meaning they do not regularly use the internet and would not see your report
  • You do not have a “take away” piece to hand donors when you meet with them
  • Many foundations and grant making organizations require a hard copy annual report


Since there are numerous pros with both the print and digital versions of an annual report, what we recommend for many organizations who have a larger donor base is a mix of both.

We recommend to organizations we deal with who have the financial abilities, or who have numerous donors over the $1,000 annually mark, to segment who gets what. This means that we strategically select who will be receiving a printed copy, and who will be receiving a digital copy of the report. While every organization is different, and we would love to help you figure out how to segment your donors, the most frequently used categories to send printed copies we use are below. However, know that there will be donors who specifically request no mail, or you know only want a digital copy.

Major Donor Supporters – Individuals who have given over a certain amount (usually $1,000) in a single year in at least one of the past three years (this can be any financial threshold that is appropriate for your organization).

Digital Divide Supporters – Supporters who have given in the past year (which the annual report will be reflecting) at any level and who do not utilize digital media and would not easily see it on your website.

Legacy supporters – Supporters who gave a large amount when you began or who gave a significant gift at some point in the organization’s history (such as to a capital project or an endowment).

Prospective Supporters – Strategically chosen individuals who you believe could become major donors if given the right inspiration.

Potentially Reengaged Supporters – Those who gave over a certain amount (we usually use $1,000) at some point in history but have not given in a while.

Highly Engaged Volunteers – Volunteers who are highly engaged with the organization, therefore those most likely to give financially.

Foundations – Many foundations require an annual report if you received a grant from them.

For all others we recommend the digital version, and generally send the digital version to all of the above who received a printed copy as well once they receive the printed version. As a note, if you are mixing both, you want to wait to send the digital version until after the printed version has reached donors.


We’d love to help you figure out how to leverage your annual report to communicate your story and drive additional revenue. Get in touch today to find out how we could assist you!

See Part 3 – Nine Tips for Designing Your Annual Report


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