I get this question all the time when I teach newsletter courses. It’s a very common question because (1) the nonprofit staff asked to “do the newsletter” rarely have any graphic design experience and (2) all they have on their computers is the Microsoft Office Suite, so they start with Word or Publisher and quickly suspect (wisely) that those programs don’t easily produce high-quality newsletters for offset printing.

While many printers will begrudgingly handle Word and Publisher files, they still strongly prefer that you use desktop publishing software considered to be industry standards. That means working in one of three programs:

  • InDesign (Adobe)
  • PageMaker (Adobe)
  • Quark Xpress

These programs play nicely with the software that printers use to create the files they need on their end to run the print press. Microsoft products do not play well with others.

Unfortunately, these three programs are not cheap. They all cost several hundred dollars. So what is a nonprofit to do?

The best option, if you can’t afford the software outright, is to get it from a source that supplies discounted copies to nonprofits.

Adobe offers discounts of around 50% to nonprofits through selected members of its educational resellers network. Tech Soup can help you get even deeper discounts, but you have to meet specific criteria and they are currently out of stock on the titles I’m talking about. Quark also offers nonprofit pricing.

If you still can’t get your hands on a copy, ask your printer if he’d prefer a PDF and then convert your file to a PDF. It may save the printer a step in the pre-press process, which could save you a few bucks on your printing bill, but only if your PDF is set up correctly. This solution works best for black and white jobs. Talk to your printer about the settings you need before converting your documents and sending them to print as a PDF.

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