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Get Your Non-Profit Online for under $125

By March 1, 2010 June 21st, 2011 2 Comments

This post will be the first in a series focused on getting non-profits with limited resources online. Check back for future posts.

The Online Imperative

Many non-profits work in the world of  immediate need. For them, it is a luxury to think of technology upgrades, social media connectivity and custom websites. But in our modern society, communication is key to sustaining support for these organizations and the web is key for effective communication.

The goal of these posts will be to get your non-profit online in as few steps as possible with the greatest reach and simplest maintenance in mind. We will accomplish this through a variety of open source and low-cost tools to manage your web communications presence.

Step #1 Website

There are a few pieces to line up to get your website online: Domain, Hosting and Software. There thousands of people out there willing to sell you all of these at a wide variety of prices, so I am providing recommendations based on my experience only.

Domain (yoursite.com) – Choosing a good domain name is the first step in building an effective website. It saves everyone a lot of time and mental energy if you choose a memorable and easy to spell domain name for your site. Try to avoid hyphens, exotic domain extensions (.biz or .xyz) as the people you are trying to attract to your site might end up somewhere else. Chances are that your desired domain name with a .com extension is taken, so get creative, you acronyms to your advantage and utilize the old standby prefixes and suffixes like ‘my’, ‘go’, ‘online’, and ‘web’ when you really can’t find a good option.

It is ideal to combine your domain name provider with your hosting provider (see below), but when that isn’t possible, large companies like enom.com and godaddy.com tend to be the most affordable and easy to use options.  Bluehost.com will include a free domain name for life with your new hosting account.

Hosting (the servers) – Once again, there are plenty of people willing to charge you a wide variety of prices for hosting. Many offer proprietary content management systems (or CMS, covered below) or website building tools that lock you into their methods and capabilities. These are to be avoided for the large part especially as a cost consideration in this tutorial.

The other choices involved in hosting are the platform (windows or unix) and other database and email services. I recommend a unix based service that allows for mysql database hosting and full control over email accounts. I use Bluehost.com for many reasons including cost, customer service and features. There are other comparable providers and some are even cheaper, but I am sticking with my experience here. You can click on the link above to sign up at their site. Their hosting runs about $6.95/month and is the greatest cost involved. Off to a cheap start huh?

Software – Many people are immediately intimidated at the complexity of web design based on a fear of code. Html, php, and javascript will all be utilized to build your site, but there’s no reason for you to know anything about it. That’s because website management has by and large moved to a Content Management System (CMS) model. The difference is that you only need a web browser and internet access to maintain your site as opposed to costly software and you are not locked to your files being stored on one computer.

There are many fine CMS’s out there, but I exclusively recommend WordPress. Technically, people will tell you WordPress is blogging software and not a full-blown CMS. Millions of people using WordPress to manage their website would disagree, as would I. Out of the box, wordpress can manage most sites any small non-profit would need. The benefits of WordPress include a wide developer community, free templates, free plugins to extend capabilities and tons of great tutorials…like this one! And best of all, this open-source software is free!

If you chose the right hosting provider above, then they likely offer ‘one-click’ installs of WordPress. If not, you can download it from WordPress.org and follow the installation instructions. The goal here is to do this without programmer intervention. However, when you need help, a one or two hour investment in an experienced web designer may save you 20-40 hours of headaches.

To install WordPress with Bluehost, you log in to your account, click on SimpleScripts down the screen and select WordPress from their list of applications. It will ask you for some details and bam! You’ll have a website ready to configure.

Our next post will focus on the configuration process for your website.

Money paid so far: $6.95/month for hosting 1 year = $83.40 (but maybe you found a better deal!)

Next post: Configuring your new WordPress website

Scott Bothel

About Scott Bothel

I'm a digital marketing consultant living and working in the Greater Seattle area. My passion is to help small businesses leverage web marketing to accomplish great things!