Having an online presence is vital for any charity today. It's the first place many people will go to find out what your charity does and they may question a charity that doesn't have a website. If you have just launched a new charity or you're fundraising for a short-term project, there's no need to invest in a fully-hosted website right away. You can get a free website up and running in just a couple of hours.
Planning and Long-Term Considerations
Evaluate your short-term and long-term website needs. If you are fundraising for only a few months, you may not need a website a year from now. However, if you have just started your own charity and plan to be around for the long-term, you will probably want to migrate to a fully hosted website with its own domain name as soon as you can justify the cost.
Look up available domain names for your charity. Most charities and non-profits use a .org domain. For example, the Red Cross uses redcross.org and the American Cancer Society uses cancer.org. To find available domain names, go to the Public Interest Registry website at PIR.org, which manages all .org domains.
Use your charity name if it's available. If it's not available, try using your charity's acronym, an acronym with your location, or words related to your work. Register your domain or make a point of registering it as soon as possible. Domain names cost about $10 per year. You can buy the domain name now and get a Web hosting service later.
Creating a Free Website
Browse any of the free website platforms available online. Some websites, such as Tumblr.com, WordPress.com and Weebly.com, can be used by anyone. Other websites, like Crowdrise.com and JustGiving.com are specifically for charities.
Evaluate your available skills. If someone in your organization has Web design and development experience, it may not matter which platform you choose. If you plan to migrate your free website to a fully hosted domain using WordPress, using WordPress.com now will make it easier to transfer later. If you prefer a user-friendly interface like Weebly.com, you can upgrade from its free plan to your own domain name later without changing your current website at all.
Read the terms and conditions of the website platform you've chosen before starting work. Some platforms may appear to be free until you try to launch your website, or may require payment for the features you want to use. Most free platforms bring in revenue by placing ads on your Web pages. If this is inappropriate, consider buying a Web hosting plan with your own domain name rather than using a free service.
Use the onscreen tutorials to build your Web page. Create an About page telling people what your charity does. Include a Contact page with your phone number, email address and location so people can get in touch with you. If your charity has tax exempt status, put this information on your Contact page or About page as well.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.