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Charity Digital – Topics – How charity magazines are evolving in the digital age

For more established charities, supporter magazines have been around for decades – before a digital magazine was even conceivable. While there are pros and cons to both paper and digital magazines, many charities offer choice to their supporters – allowing them to receive their magazine by either post or email.

Offering supporters choice

With around 25,000 subscribers, The Parkinson is a popular magazine that is published three times a year. “The Parkinson’s is an invaluable part of the charity’s strategy. It’s a channel where we can provide high-quality health information with our community and share the stories and voices of people living with Parkinson’s”, says Karen Spillett, editor of Parkinson UK’s magazine.

In February 2019, the charity launched an online magazine with weekly stories, and in April 2022, they launched Top Picks, which is a curation of the top stories in the print magazine, sent by email which subscribers can read online. There are currently around 2,500 Top Picks subscribers, which is about 10% of the paper magazine readership.

The benefits of a digital magazine

There are many benefits to a digital magazine, which is why charities are either diversifying their offer or making the switch completely to a digital magazine.

Save money

One of the most obvious benefits of a digital magazine over a print magazine is cost. Not only are charities saving on print costs, but they are saving on postage costs, too.

In 2019, Girl guiding launched their digital magazine, alongside their print version. In 2020 they made the decision to make the magazine completely digital, which was partly influenced by the pandemic but also by feedback from their members.

Girlguiding has saved thousands of pounds by producing their magazine digitally, and in doing so they can use the money saved to help the charity grow and enable them to be there for more girls.

Help the environment

While digital has a carbon footprint, a digital magazine is arguably better for the environment than a paper magazine.

Feedback from girls and young members of Girlguiding was that sustainability and the environment were really important to them. They wanted to see Girlguiding reflect those values, so making the magazine digital meant that the charity could significantly cut back on their environmental impact.

Learn about what readers want

The beauty of a digital magazine is the insights that you get from data. Paper magazines can’t offer you any insight into whether it was even opened, or which articles the reader enjoyed the most.

A digital magazine allows you to see what articles readers responded to the most, in real time. “We’ve been able to streamline our content really effectively, and these insights have been useful across our communications.”, said Eleanor McConnell, Communications Lead for Girlguiding.

Digital analytics have helped them to learn more about how the magazine is helping to promote their other content. “We can use it to refer volunteers directly to the guidance and resources on our main website that they need the most, and we can also see how the magazine is contributing to sales in our online shop.”

Think outside the box

Kidney Care UK receives more questions about how to eat well when you have kidney disease than almost any other topic. So, in 2018, they launched their Kidney Kitchen website which published kidney friendly recipes.

When the cost-of-living crisis hit, they wanted to create something that really responded to the needs of patients, with a focus on how to eat healthily even on a budget. In late 2022, they launched their series of Eat Well Spend Less food magazines.

“People with kidney failure have to eat a kidney friendly diet, with foods that are low in potassium and phosphates,” said Laurie Cuthbert, Director of Fundraising, Marketing & Communications at Kidney Care UK.

“When you’re restricted in what you can eat, you are also at the mercy of food prices. Over the last 12 months we’ve been tracking the prices of ten food items that are suitable for kidney patients and these have increased on average by between 15 and 20%. We wanted to provide healthy, cheap, and nutritious recipes in a format most people recognize – a food magazine.”

The response has been fantastic, with 5,000 requests for a hard copy within the first few days of launch and over 500 monthly readers of the online magazine.

“Even though we are a charity that receives no statutory funding, we feel strongly that these magazines, and our own quarterly charity magazine Kidney Matters, are provided as a free resource for people who need them, to help them live their lives to the full .”

This is a belief shared by Parkinson’s UK. “Ultimately, we want to make sure people are able to live better with the condition, and to feel supported and less alone. The magazine allows us to do that.”

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