Whether your charity already has a website that you’re paying for or you’re planning one, here’s how to take advantage of your nonprofit status and get everything you need for free.
I’m going to outline here how to establish a quality and functional web presence. Or how to get your nonprofit online for free. I’ll be going deeper into a number of the free services I’ve included in my free resources for nonprofits page.
Free Web hosting – Your Website
In order to set up your website you need a web host. A web host is the company that runs the computers that hold all your website data on them and connect it to the internet. I recommend a company called Dreamhost. They give a free full featured hosting account and one domain name to 501c3 nonprofits.
Start by reading their how to sign up page and then go to their sign up page and sign up for a Hosting account. There is only one hoop you have to jump through – fax a copy of your 501c3 status to them. And then your quickly, usually a day or two, up and running with your free web hosting forever.
Free Domain Name
As you sign up you will be faced with your first tough decision. What to use as your domain name.
Your domain name is sort of like your street address but it guides people to your website instead of a physical building.
You can use whatever fits for your organization as long as it’s not already in use. Start by checking if your organizations name is available, if it’s not try some variations, add your city name at the end, consider abbreviations.
If your organizations name is short and available get it! If it’s long and cumbersome you should consider some sort of abbreviation. Try to keep it short. Shorter domain names are easier to type and easier to remember. You can have a .com .net or .org domain name. .com is the most popular and .org is most common for organizations. Dreamhost gives you one free, but for another $10 per year you can pick up another, so don’t sweat the decision now.
Free Content Management System
Now that you have your web hosting set up you need something to actually host. This is where you will want to set up the infrastructure of your website, the content management system (CMS). The CMS acts as a framework for all your site content – it’s like the cover, binding, and blank pages of a book on which your content will be printed.
I suggest using a free CMS called WordPress. Fortunately, Dreamhost makes this really easy to install. Check out their WordPress how to at http://wiki.dreamhost.com/WordPress.
Once you have WordPress installed you will need to do a little setting up with wordpress to get it how you like it. Be sure to take a look at the WordPress First Steps guide at wordpress.org.
Once you’ve figured out how to use your content management system all you need to do is start adding content. I would suggest starting with an About, Newsletter, Donate, and Contact Us page. But really the sky is the limit.
And that’s it! You now have a fully functional website for free.
Check out my free resources for nonprofits page for more freebies.
What’s your website? If you work at a nonprofit post your site address below and let us know what web host and content management system you use.