IT intelligence: paperless communications

Sue Fidler explains how easy it is to become a paperless communicator.

Following Dean Russell's excellent comment that charities should be making more use of digital communications to save money, increase their response metrics and help save the planet, it seems like the ideal time for me to offer advice on the subject.

The web can seem scary and expensive if you don't know about it. A full site with a proprietary content-management system and professional design and implementation will cost more than £10,000.

There are cheaper alternatives. At the bottom end, you could build a simple site on a tool such as WordPress for very little. Then there are open-source platforms, such as Drupal and Joomla, with which the licence, but not the implementation, is free. Unless you have the skills and time for DIY, you will need an agency to design, build and maintain the site.

Email is an ideal way to communicate. It can appear personalised, just like direct mail. But it is also immediate, trackable and very cheap. Email marketing tools are normally priced in bands according to the volume of emails sent per month. Even if you are sending fewer than 100 emails, the cost should be no more than 10p each.

There are free, open-source email systems. But you will need the skills to set up and manage the platform, templates and address books. Proprietary systems start at about £100, for which you get templates, training and everything set up. There are lots of places to find help. For example, besides consultants, free articles are available from sources such as the ICT Hub Knowledgebase. Also well worth joining is the Charity Webmasters Forum.

- Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant.

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