Build a Non-Profit Website for $100

Charitable work has been an important part of society for hundreds of years. A lot has changed over that time, but one thing that’s always been true for most nonprofits is the scarcity of resources.

Nonprofits often run on very tight budgets, funded by limited grants and donations. Often demand for a nonprofit’s services will increase at the same time their funding is decreasing, forcing them to stretch out their budget more and more to keep running.

Choosing exactly how to stretch that budget can be tricky, potentially opening up that nonprofit to criticism. While donors may want their funds to go straight to the benefit of the nonprofit’s clients, that can’t always be the case. In order for a non-profit to provide the services and programs they do, the organization’s overhead and administration needs to be funded as well. Staff salaries, office supplies, and fundraising events are just a few of the expenses nonprofits incur.

And marketing is one of those expenses that’s crucial for a nonprofit’s continued existence. Without marketing, potential donors and clients would never hear about the organization. How can an organization help anyone if no one knows it exists?

But while the problem of scarce resources for nonprofits has been a constant for hundreds of years, one thing that has changed for nonprofits is how to get the word out about their programs and services.

In the 21st century, hardly anyone turns to the yellow pages to find local organizations anymore. Instead, the first resource most people will turn to is the Internet. That’s why it’s so vital for nonprofits to have a website.

But creating a website can be a daunting task when you’re so limited in resources. Many organizations just don’t have the budget to spare, or have no one on staff with the technical knowledge to set it up.

That’s why we’ve put together this guide for absolute beginners who need to set up a website on a shoestring budget. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll have your own web presence up before you know it!


Nonprofit-Website-100

Build a Non-Profit Website for $100

Charities and nonprofits make the world a better place for all of us, and to carry out their mission in this digital age, they need a website. But money spent on flashy graphics is money not spent helping others. Luckily, there are a host of online options for charities to make a big impact for $100 or less.

Web Hosting and Domain Names

What is web hosting?

  • Imagine a charity as a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Store owners rent a physical space from someone else.
  • Users rent storage space from a web hosting company in a similar way: websites run on their server.

What does “shared web hosting” mean?

  • Several different websites are powered by the same server.
  • Shared web hosting is usually the cheapest option.

What is a domain name, and why do I need one?

  • A domain name is like a street address. When you type in “www.google.com” to go to Google, “google” is the domain name.
    • Websites need a domain name for readers to find them.
  • Consider the extension (the end part of a web address).
    • Not limited to “.com” or “.org”.
    • There are many web suffixes available, from “.charity” to “.foundation.”
    • These types of suffixes tend to be more expensive, however.
  • Pick something short, memorable, and catchy.
    • CleanWaterForSeventeenVillagesInSouthEastAsia.com might accurately describe what your nonprofit is about, but it wouldn’t make a good domain name.
    • Something like “17villages.com” is short, catchy, and easy to remember.

What charities should keep in mind before choosing a host:

  • The number of visitors they expect to see.
    • This affects the bandwidth they’ll need.
    • More visitors require more bandwidth.
  • The server uptime record
    • Find out the web host’s uptime record to check its reliability.
    • A server may brag that it has 99% uptime, but over the course of a year, that’s 3.65 days/year that they’re down.
      • 99.5% of uptime translates to 1.83 days of downtime per year
      • 99.9% uptime is equivalen to 8.8 hours/year of downtime
    • Use a free uptime monitoring service to find this information.
  • Inquire about a host’s backup policies.
    • If something goes wrong with your website, will you be able to restore your site from a backup?
  • How is their customer service?
    • Do they offer 24/7 phone support?
    • Call or email them as a potential client and see how they respond to you.

Web Hosts Helping Others

DreamHost

  • What they offer nonprofits: Free Hosting
    • Available if proof of tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) is provided.
    • This saves you $107.40 per year.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • Must be a nonprofit, charitable organization registered in the United States.
    • This free hosting plan only applies to a single account.
  • Get the discount: http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Non-profit

Grassroots.org

Specifically designed to connect nonprofit organizations with technology.

  • What they offer nonprofits: Free Hosting, partnership with Bluehost
    • Grassroots.org members can take advantage of Bluehost’s service.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • Will need to be a Silver or Gold Guidestar member (sign up at guidestar.org).
    • Grassroots supports WordPress sites.
    • Grassroots.org membership is available to all U.S. and Canada-based nonprofits.
  • Get the discount: http://www.grassroots.org/free-website-tools-bluehost-web-hosting

TSO Host

A UK-based company that provides cloud website hosting, managed VPS hosting, and dedicated servers to bloggers, businesses, and developers.

  • What they offer nonprofits: Free Hosting
    • For UK-based registered charities.
    • Websites get 10GB of web space, 150GB monthly bandwidth, and 5 email accounts to go with the domain name.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • Charities/nonprofits also have to post a banner for TSO Host on their site.
  • Get the discount: https://www.tsohost.com/web-hosting/charity-hosting

Designers Doing Good Deeds

Some web design companies offer specials for charities and nonprofit organizations.

Grassroots.org

In addition to free hosting, they also give charities access to free web design.

  • What they offer nonprofits: Access to volunteers
    • Grassroots.org partners organizations with dedicated web design volunteers, ranging from student designers to consulting firms.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • Before accepting a volunteer, you get a chance to look through their portfolio and assess whether their skills/style match your needs.
  • The Website: http://www.grassroots.org/free-website-tools-web-design-volunteer-program

Use WordPress to Your Advantage

Themes

  • Danko Charity
    • Focused on raising funds for charities.
    • Makes integrating with a PayPal account very simple.
  • Simple Non-Profit
    • Easy to use and allows charities to showcase programs and events.
  • Foundation
    • Can post photos or videos of charity with the slideshow feature.
    • Comes with sample content already pre-loaded.

Plugins

  • PayPal Donations
    • Can create a payPal donations button on site with either a widget or shortcode.
  • Volunteer Project Manager
    • Easy to create and manage volunteer projects.
  • Show Support Ribbon
    • Display a customizable “Show Support” ribbon, badge, or ribbon for the charity’s cause.

A Quick (and Free) Way to Build a Presence Online

Social Media

One of the easiest ways to connect with people is through social media. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr service millions of people, and all of them are free to use.

  • Start by creating a Facebook page.
    • Go to this URL: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php
    • Select the “Cause or Community” category.
    • Enter the name of the charity/nonprofit and click the “Get Started” button.
    • Fill out the forms that follow, including your charity’s “About” section and upload a logo.
      • What’s written in the “About” section will help search engines find the charity’s Facebook page.
    • Once the page is live, connect with Facebook friends to help spread the word.
  • Set up a Twitter and Google + profile much the same way as you would a Facebook page.
    • The wider presence your charity has on social media, the more attention you can direct toward your cause.

Google Helps, Too!

Advertising is a great way to spread the word about your cause, but ad space costs money. Enter Google Ad Grants.

  • The nonprofit version of AdWords, Google’s online advertising tool.
  • Eligible charities can create text-only ads for their nonprofit missions, and receive up to $10.00 worth of advertising per month.
  • There are some restrictions:
    • Maximum cost-per-click limit is $2.
    • Daily budget is set to $329, which is about $10,000 monthly.
    • Campaigns must be keyword-targeted.
    • Campaigns only appear on Google search result pages.
    • Ads must be text-only.
  • To be eligible, charities must:
    • Hold current and valid charity status, as determined by their country
    • Acknowledge and agree to the application’s require certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use
    • Have a functioning website with substantial content
  • Certain organizations are not eligible for Google Ad Grants:
    • Governmental entities and organizations
    • Hospitals and medical groups
    • Schools, childcare centres, academic institutions and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible).
  • Fill out an application here: http://www.google.com/nonprofits/

Charities don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a big impact on the lives of others. By partnering with the web hosts and designers mentioned above, nonprofits can spend the money they save on their websites and use it to bring about even greater changes in the world.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

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