Communications: Charities preferring to publish online

Eighty-seven per cent of NCVO members are publishing online instead of or as well as producing printed material, according to a new survey.

Out of 50 respondents to the two-month survey by NCVO's Publishers' Forum, 55 per cent are committed to providing online publications free of charge, 10 per cent are already charging and 35 per cent are exploring ways to charge.

Dave Nolan, web editor at the NCVO, says: "Most of those using online publishing do so to print reports and policy documents, but a few are also using it for events and directories.

"The main reason they give for using online publishing is that it enables charities to reach a wider audience."

Volunteering England stopped printing its membership magazine and made it available only online last October. Jane Heath, its assistant director of outreach services, says: "The main reason behind the decision was cost - the membership fee barely covered it."

But although online publishing can save charities money, it can also lead to income being lost - if, for example, a charity makes a previously paid-for publication available online for free.

Nolan says: "Although it can be part of a charity's objectives to provide information to its beneficiaries free of charge, there may be instances, perhaps when providing information to businesses, where it could make financial sense to charge."

A common reason given for not using online publishing was a lack of ICT technology and investment. But Nolan says: "Relatively inexpensive systems are now available that allow you to charge for publications. Just include a link to another website, such as PayPal, so that someone else is managing the payments."

But Heath argues money should not be the only consideration for organisations thinking of switching to online publishing.

"Some of our members weren't sure about it because people like to have something to read on the bus," she says. "But we have made everything available in an easily printable format.

"The magazine has actually improved. We are able to cover a much wider range of areas and it's much more up to date. In the past, the content was about a month old by the time it came out."

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