Charities are often at the cutting edge of social movements. We’re the first to dream of a better future, and we’re the first to roll up our sleeves and start building that future. The work we do is innovative, forward-thinking and world-changing. So why do so many charities print off the same, A4, stapled, 115gsm document to demonstrate their remarkable impact? It’s time for the fully digital impact report.
Here’s why it’s important to go digital for our reports and how we produced an accessible digital impact report with minimal resources:
Why go digital?
At SeeAbility, we have just produced our first ever digital-first impact report, after years of producing paper reports. Ultimately, it was inevitable we were heading in this direction, which was only accelerated by changes since the pandemic. The days of storing physical impact reports in the office to send out to funders are over. Digital reports can easily be sent out to supporters by email, and easily browsed from a laptop or mobile phone.
It’s a game changer. The many benefits include: greater accessibility; multimedia features; internal linking (here’s looking at you, Donate page); integration with social media; the option to change it even after publication; greater flexibility with word and page counts; and the environmental impact of not printing hundreds of reports. That’s just scratching the surface! When the time comes for reporting on engagement, we’ll be able to provide better analytics than a paper report could ever provide.
So, what are the secrets to creating a great digital impact report?
Firstly, it’s important not to be intimidated by much bigger organisations, who pay thousands of pounds to produce fully interactive digital reports.
These reports often look impressive; however, there can be downsides, like compromising on accessibility and usability in favour of design. Many of them would not pass the WCAG guidelines for accessible web design. Additionally, many charities simply don’t have the budget to produce something at this level.
Instead, work with what you have. Look at the functions your website has available and think about how you can uniquely use these features.
We decided to use our ‘Accordion’ module (a drop-down menu, often used for FAQs) to hold transcripts for the videos on the page.
We did end up spending a little budget, but this was mostly to get more colour options for various modules. Overall, this cost less than what we used to spend on print runs. Instead, we have upgraded modules for the website, which we can now use for various web pages.
Leaving all this aside, most websites have the basic capabilities: text, video, and images. Work with these, move them around, and create new content to fill the page in creative ways. With mediums like video, you can literally include the voices of the people you’re supporting in your report.
What if we need something physical for events?
It’s true: sometimes you need a physical report. It could be your Annual General Meeting (AGM), a fundraising event, or just something to send to your most loyal supporters. There are certainly benefits to having a physical report.
That’s why we have a very short and nifty paper version to work in tandem with our digital report. Our mentality was this: the digital should work for digital, and the paper should work for paper. Both should really take advantage of the benefits of their format.
To do this, our graphic designer created a fold-out paper report that resembled a phone, representing our move towards a digital report. When you open it up, it’s as though you’ve unlocked the phone to look at the screens inside. The paper report was very short, giving audiences a taster of the full, digital report, and covered in QR codes and short URLs, so it directly signposted to the main report.
The point is that it should not take over. It’s a physical reminder and prompt towards the digital report, that does so in a fun and quirky way. We would never have been able to create a full paper report in such an interesting way, but by shifting towards digital, we had more room to play around with it.
Focus on accessibility
Accessibility is incredibly important to us at SeeAbility. People we’re supporting should be able to read about our work, so accessibility was at the heart of everything we did. Just making the report digital was a tangible improvement in accessibility, as it can be easily accessed by screen reading software and on mobile phones.
There’s a preconception that accessibility is extremely limiting, or can result in dull designs, but there’s a beauty in making everything clean and easy to access.
We thought carefully about accessibility when creating our report, and how we could include interactive elements that were accessible. GIFs, for instance, are generally inaccessible, but if they last for less than five seconds and then remain still, then they are accessible. We found that our ‘Infographic’ module (basically an image above text) could support GIFs as images. Therefore, we could use that module to create animated infographics using high-quality GIFs.
As our GIFs were supporting statistics, it was important that we didn’t include crucial information and lots of numbers in the GIF itself, so it was easy to describe in the alt text. All of our videos included subtitles, but we also provided a transcript, offering people multiple ways to access the content.
As most people we support have learning disabilities or autism, we also created an Easy Read version of our Impact Report. Easy Read is a type of content writing that uses pictures, large text and short, simple sentences to explain complex information. It isn’t just for people with learning disabilities and autism, but for anyone who prefers reading information in this way. Our Easy Read report can be downloaded as a PDF or read directly on our website – again providing multiple ways to access the information.
Moving to a digital impact report has opened up a huge range of possibilities for showing off our hard work. It brings our innovative work to people in a creative way, acting as a powerful calling card for everyone interested in our work. We couldn’t recommend it enough! Make sure to have a look through our Impact Report, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
You can also read more about how we made our website more accessible through simple keyboard navigation, colours with sufficient contrast, large fonts, alternative text and meaningful link text.
- Accessible communication: A starting point to foster more inclusive comms
- Core principles for accessible design in print
- Accessible communications doesn’t have to be complicated
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