Switching off

Final version of VolResource front page

It’s finally time to move the first website I created into full retirement after almost 25 years {1}. VolResource was designed to provide an easy source of useful, practical information for the voluntary sector – charities, community and campaigning groups etc – without having to wade through loads of unnecessary verbiage or promotional material. At the time it was extremely difficult to navigate the Charity Commission website, for instance, NCVO only ran to a handful of rather sparse pages, and web searches were hit and miss as Google was still in its infancy.

Conceived while I was working at Directory of Social Change {2}, managing their finances plus some IT and admin responsibilities, serious work on the idea started after I moved on in December 1998.

An enduring interest in information and communication matters became a real interest in resources for the sector through the Voluntary Sector options route to the Open University Business School Professional Diploma in Management. Combined with good IT skills and experience in writing and designing community publications, the project was able to get off the ground.

The motivation for the project, lifted from VolResource’s About section, page 2

The first web pages were published in March 1999.

First go at a front page

A rather bunged-together first attempt, with accountancy software featuring strongly due to the ‘Challenge’ I had run a little earlier at DSC, looking for programs suitable for charity use. The superfluous graphics were removed quite quickly, but it took a little longer to understand accessibility issues and remove the dotty background, which was only there to make the site distinctive!

Below, a sample page from the last version featuring on basic web hosting, provided by ISP Free-Online {3} along with an internet access account.

Time for the news

The scope of the site grew and started including a news section. This got spun off into the dedicated VoluntaryNews site (October 2000), using the Kerchunga program developed by Springwater Software (a brother’s project) for a number of years. Then to WordPress in time for extreme annoyance when the taxonomy system, used a lot in structuring the site, was changed (broken) – perhaps version 2.3 Sep. 2007 per Wikipedia {4}, although this doesn’t quite tie in with the resulting switch to the less user-friendly Drupal for three years (Dec 2009 to Dec 2012).

A blog was the next step, using the Moveable Type system and VolResource web address to start with (summer 2005). Then moving to WordPress on CharityBlog.org.uk – domain registered January 2006. Last blog item posted Dec. 2015, site de-activated Dec. 2020. {5}

Looking at this screenshot from the pre-WP days, some of it would in later days have been the basis of a news item rather than a less focused blog.

A pilot blog in 2005 using Moveable Type

An email newsletter followed in 2001, when I stopped working for Plantlife. It largely shared VoluntaryNews items, starting fortnightly but the volume of material prompted a move to weekly. Final issue was in December 2016 – the website continued with news and events announcements directly placed by charities until August 2017.

Here’s a sample newsletter contents list:

Nov. 2011 newsletter contents index

The numbering system is a bit odd, but this enabled having some crude links to each section. Sections could vary greatly in size from week to week – above has more ‘e-resource’ (tech related) and less core news than average. A key criteria used for keeping the newsletter readable was overall number of A4 pages when printed! And a top skill was being able to extract the main points from over-flowery news releases or long reports, from a quick read/skim.

Cutting the static

VolResource stayed as a ‘static’ site, maintained using Dreamweaver software, for longer than others in my care. This was partly down to accessible design considerations in a switch to WordPress but also keeping download file sizes small as internet connections were still poor in rural areas and other parts of the world – the resources were well visited from outside the UK. Moving to a new platform (eventually in late 2013) meant a lot of work in copying material, and updating and rationalising the content. Getting the navigation menus right was also tricky when using any WordPress theme (design template) that had a reasonably small footprint. Plus overly-complex menus could be too much for the allocated server resources.

Put into storage

Complete sites of both Voluntary News and VolResource have been archived as they were at closure, with CharityBlog items and newsletter back issues also existing in some electronic form. These are kept for own reference and amusement at present, but arrangements can be made in the unlikely event that anyone else wants to consult them.


  1. VolResource had been in low maintenance mode for a while, with the automatic link checker the only reason for updates.
  2. Directory of Social Change runs training and produces publications for voluntary organisations, and was particularly known at the time for info and advice around fundraising. I knew of DSC from their early days, when they actually were producing a set of books looking at social change. One of the four areas covered was Play, the author being the top admin bod at Friends of the Earth when I first volunteered there. DSC’s sister body Charities Advisory Trust (best known for its Card Aid operation) was also an early client for my freelance bookkeeping work.
  3. Part of what is now plus.net
  4. WordPress 1.5 was probably the first version actually used for CharityBlog, but may have initially installed 1.2.
  5. Some overlap between the two blogging systems it seems. The first entry in the archived WordPress database is October 2005. Also of note: the domain is currently being used by a charity worker for a personal blog – yet another with the unrealistic idea of creating their own directory of UK charities!

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