How to build a low cost Nonprofit website

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Let’s face it, every Nonprofit needs a decent website. When someone first hears about you, the first thing they will do is check you out online. A quick online search and they will find (or not) your website. So it’s important your site gives a good impression and that you do in fact have a good Nonprofit website!

There will be several hurdles you face when trying to get a Nonprofit website up and running, in no particular order… where to host your website, where to buy the domain name, how to actually create the website, planning and writing the content, keeping the site up to date and the daunting task of social media management.

Making a content plan

So where to start? I suggest starting with a blank piece of paper, write down the single most important purpose of your Nonprofit website. Are you trying to bring in donations, are you trying to find volunteers? If there is one thing your website will do, what is it?

Based on this you can draw out a sitemap that will provide the basis for the pages on your website. It might look something like this:

Example Sitemap for Nonprofit Website
Example Website Sitemap

Once this is complete, you can start to plan out what goes on each of these pages. Imagine the “Get Involved” page for example, what do you see when you look at this page. Write it out as clearly as possible.

Example: We will have 3 ways to “Get Involved” with our Nonprofit, including volunteering, giving donations and being a partner. I want to show a picture along side some introduction text.

As you work through each page on your sitemap, you should be painting a clear picture of how the website will come together. So after finishing this you should have 3 things:

  1. A single sentence to explain the most important purpose of your Nonprofit website.
  2. A sitemap showing the page structure.
  3. A written explanation of the content on each page.

Building your Nonprofit website

So let’s assume you aren’t hiring a fancy agency to design you a spectacular Nonprofit website, but will instead be putting one together yourself or a trusty volunteer will be helping you. If you do need help you might like to find a volunteer first, idealist.org can be a good place to start for this.

First thing to decide will be which platform to use. There are a lot of choices here, including free platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla. DIY building websites such as Wix.com or Doodlekit.

To make a long story short, we prefer to use WordPress, the main reasons for this are:

  • Community – WordPress has an incredible community that help each other, there are so many forums, articles and other resources to help you get started.
  • Low cost – WordPress themes are low cost, or even free.
  • Interface – Generally speaking WordPress is easy to use and has a well thought out interface.
  • Hosting – There are  lot of hosting platforms available for WordPress, and even help you to install it.

So feel free to check out all the different options, but if you choose WordPress, the next question will be, which theme can I use? This is where your content planning comes in useful, because you can choose a theme that best matches your content.

I would start by searching out some free themes on www.wordpress.org and also look up some paid themes on www.themeforest.com or a simple google search. Of course you could always use one of our themes like Salt Theme or Theme. When choosing the theme, a few things to consider are:

  • Does it match the content I want to add – take a look at the theme demo, is it fit for purpose?
  • Is the theme well supported? Can you reach out to the developers to ask questions if you need?
  • Is it multi-purpose? Some themes are designed for a million different purposes, this might mean the theme is overly complicated and harder to use, especially for a newbie.
  • Does it have a good rating? On theme forest especially check out the number of sales and the star rating it has?

So after a long search, you have settled on a theme you like, and downloaded it. The next thing will be how to get it online?

Buying a domain name

To get your website online, you will need a domain name. This will be the web address for your Nonprofit website, and you’ll need to live with it for a few years, so choose carefully. Pick a name that is short and simple, and matches your organisations name or purpose. It might be best to go with a ‘.org’ rather than a ‘.com’, but in the end the most important thing is to choose a name you’re happy with. Use a who.is tool to check whether the domain name is available.

Usually it is easiest to purchase the domain name along with the hosting, as you’ll either get a special deal and it’s easier to manage everything in the same place, which leads us nicely on to…

Selecting a Web Host

Hosting can actually be one of the bigger expenses over the next few years. Again there are a lot of different choices here, but assuming you’ll be using WordPress for your Nonprofit website, you should consider the following things when choosing a hosting company:

  1. Choose a hosting company that has servers where your audience is located eg: U.S, Europe, Asia etc.
  2. They are specialized in WordPress, and make sure it is clear they have WordPress hosting.
  3. They should provide at least daily backups of your site.
  4. They have the right price for you. Having the cheapest price might sound good, but make sure they don’t put some limits on your site, which can cause it to be inaccessible. Choose a price which you think it fair, not just the rock bottom price.
  5. Ask for Nonprofit discounts, usually you should get at least 30% off the regular price.
  6. They have an auto-install option for WordPress.
  7. Great support, make sure you can actually speak to someone and they answer promptly. It is important when you need them they will answer your email or message.
  8. They can register the domain name you want.

There are a lot of hosting companies out there, so use the above points to make a good choice.

Putting your site online

So once your hosting and domain name is purchased, you have downloaded your theme and you know what the content of your site will be, it’s time put everything together.

Use your hosting companies support team to help you get WordPress installed and your domain set up, that’s why you chose a hosting company with great support after all! To install your WordPress theme, you can use our quick guide here.

Now the real work begins, you need to starting writing up content about your organisation. My suggestion is keep it simple, build the site up overtime, start with a couple of pages and keep adding them week by week until you have all the information you need. With WordPress you can keep pages as drafts until you are ready to publish them. Or you can use a plugin to show a coming soon page and build it behind the scene.

In my opinion if you are new Nonprofit, you can just keep adding to your site piece by piece, don’t worry about it doing this publicly over time. If you already have an existing website, keep that in place until you are ready to swap to your new one.

The key to turning your website into a useful tool that fulfils your overall goal, is to keep working at it and keep adding content, page by page and post by post.

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About the author

Alex

I am entrepreneur currently living in Asia. I love building engaging and impactful web platforms! A web enthusiast and tech nerd, I write on this blog to try and pass on some of the knowledge I have been lucky enough to use to earn a living over the last 10 years.

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