The digital era is well and truly upon us, “digital transformation” is now pretty much “digital transformed”, and most nonprofits now rely heavily on their online efforts to drive supporter engagement. And yet, nonprofits still spend big dollars every Spring (in Australia at least) on printing and distributing traditional impact reports. The digital version is usually a clunky PDF that falls well short of the potential for a modern digital impact report.
With the technology we now have available, it makes so much sense to break tradition and move to a digital format. Let’s dive in and explore some of the key benefits of going digital with your annual impact report.
1. Reach more people
No longer are you limited by the number of reports you can afford to print! Digital impact reports have global reach, allowing nonprofits to share their good work with a worldwide audience. This may even mean you attract international support or partnerships.
Digital impact reports are presented as a microsite (small standalone website) that can be shared using social media and messaging tools. This can amplify the potential reach, as supporters share your story with their friends and colleagues.
Being mobile responsive, a digital report can be accessed on any device, making it more likely people will read it on the train, before bed, or on the couch of an evening. Further to this, web accessibility standards provide better access for people with a disability. Accessibility is a particularly important consideration for nonprofits, often representing people who live with a disability.
Reaching more people means more opportunity to acquire new supporters, engage existing ones, and achieve broader sector awareness for the important work of your organisation.
2. Environmental sustainability
Environmental sustainability is another upshot of this eco-friendly option, as there’s no need for paper, ink, or transportation. This aligns with the sustainability goals of many nonprofits and resonates with environmentally conscious stakeholders.
Telling your impact story online may mean you no longer need a print version of your report. Professionally printing physical impact reports costs thousands of dollars, and distribution only adds to the cost. You do have to ask how many of the reports end up filed under a pile of mail, or worse, in the trash!
3. Prompt supporter action
Your annual reporting rhythm is an opportunity to prompt further action in support of your cause. For example, you can link to a donation form on your impact report to make the most of a moment when a reader is most aware of the positive difference you make. You may also consider other calls to action such as volunteer registration or newsletter signup.
Existing supporters can be re-engaged as they look over your year of impact, which can prompt them to re-think their giving habits or volunteering capacity. Equally, due to the sharing capability of a digital report, you can acquire new supporters – a nice reward for all your hard work!
3. Tell interactive stories
They say a picture tells a thousand words, but what about a video? With modern tech, you can include interactive elements such as videos, animations, infographics, counters, and charts. These features make your report engaging in a way that was never possible with printed materials.
Integrate with multimedia tools that enhance your story telling, bringing credibility to the narrative. For example, an interactive map can provide a highly effective explanation of the scope of your field projects. Your digital impact report is always available for anyone to dive in and explore!
4. Track reader behaviour
Equipped with analytics tools, nonprofits can track reader engagement and interactions. This provides visibility on firstly how many people have accessed your impact report, and secondly which areas of the microsite are the most engaging. This data provides insights that can inform continuous improvement for next year’s content.
Analytics tracking can also provide insight into user journeys such as donation conversions, and email signups. In addition, digital marketing tracking (e.g. Facebook pixel) can provide an opportunity for retargeting, so you could run a paid social campaign for people who have visited your impact report site.
5. Update content in real-time
There’s nothing worse than spotting a typo after a document has been printed! Going digital enables nonprofits to move quickly to publish content with peace of mind that any text can be edited via a content management system (CMS). Easily make updates to reflect your most recent data and achievements.
Team collaboration is another bonus with this approach, enabling your whole communications team to contribute to report content.
6. Build an impact archive
Past year’s digital impact reports are archived online, ensuring historical impact data and stories are easily accessible for reference and comparison. For example, if your current impact report URL is impact.mycharity.org you can store previous year’s reports at impact.mycharity.org/2022 , impact.mycharity.org/2021 etc.
Including an index of past impact reports in your microsite footer is a great way to maximise visibility of archived reports. Alternatively, you could link to an index page with an engaging card layout (for example). Past impact reports can all be hosted within a single CMS (Content Management System) system, using multisite functionality.
7. All the benefits of a traditional printed impact report
Of course, all of the above are in addition to the raw benefits of putting together an annual impact report, period. They serve as a valuable tool to communicate with stakeholders, donors, and the general public. Some of these benefits include:
- Donor engagement
- Grant applications
- Education tool
- Public relations
- Benchmarking and improvement
- Inspiration and motivation
- Legal compliance
So, there is certainly a compelling case for nonprofits to go digital with their impact report! The online format allows you to go beyond just showcasing your organisations achievements on paper, to bringing your work to life through an interactive, shareable experience.
Recently at Heartburst, we’ve created a dedicated product for Digital Impact Reports, and it’s really opened our eyes to all the benefits explored in this article. Please check out our NFP digital Impact Reports page for more information on that space.
But ultimately, there is real opportunity to drive positive change in the communities you serve through better digital experiences.