Getting Started with Annual Reports

What format is best for your organization?

While most of us think of annual reports as printed documents that involved a lengthy and complicated production process, today there are many options to consider when you create your annual report. These include:

  • Digital or online:
    • Online documents (housed on your existing website)
    • Mini-sites (separate URL)
    • PDFs (that reside on your website)
  • Postcards (usually with a link to a more extensive online report & financials)
  • Video
  • Printed pieces (brochure-style; 2-page; 4-page; poster-style)

For many years organizations produced printed reports that they also turned into PDFs for inclusion on their website.  Now, a number of organizations are only mailing out printed copies or event postcards to those who request a non-digital version. The format you choose will depend on both the nature of your organization, the objectives for your annual report and your audience’s preferences. After all, we all want to be environmentally conscious, but if you know that you have a group of donors who expect to receive a printed piece or if you know that these are shared and have an effective use and shelf-life, you would want to continue with a printed version. But take some time to research and consider the type of format that might work for you.

If you’re not sure about the best format for your key audience, you could consider conducting an online survey to gather a consensus from your constituents.

Examples: If you'd like to check out some examples of the various types of annual report formats, Kivi Leroux Miller has created a Nonprofit Marketing Guide's Annual Reports Wiki – where she offers examples of the various types of annual reports.

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Getting Started with Annual Reports by Wild Apricot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at

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