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Would you like to expand your fundraising options and take your fundraising efforts online? You don’t need a website to raise funds online, but if you’re planning on raising funds for a longer period of time and have more than just a one-time campaign, you should have your own website. Following are some tips on how to get started.

(Looking for an online fundraising service that lets you create your own fundraising campaign and page? Click over to 15 most popular online fundraising services.)

get your own website

Create Your Own Website: Free Options

The quickest and easiest way to create a website is to sign up for a free blog at a site like WordPress.com. Don’t be fooled by the word “blog” – you’ll be able to format it to look just like any website that displays and archives articles/posts. You’ll have a choice of different themes and you can customize the colors and add pictures and graphics.

Your blog will allow you to write messages or articles which will be posted on the site, archived to your liking and it will also have a feature were people can sign up to automatically receive your posts in their email box.

As with any service that offers a free website, your URL (URL = domain = website address) will look something like this: http://yourfundraisingsite.wordpress.com. Some services will have an option to use your own URL for a fee.

You can’t beat the service you get when signing up for a free blog – all software updates are done automatically – and, you’re not paying a dime. You’re free to spend all your time writing about your fundraising efforts and you’ll never have to worry about any programming, or server issues.

You can also simply search for “free website” on the web. There are lots of services that will accommodate your website for free. Be aware though that some will display annoying advertising on your site, or that the site may only be free for a limited time.

Note that some free services will allow you to convert to a paid service with your own unique URL. Be sure to read the fine print about terms and cost for such a plan.

Actions to take: research several services and sign up for a free blog.

Create Your Own Website: Paid Options

If you’re serious about creating a professional web presence and it’s important to you to have a unique website address, like http://www.yourfundraisingsite.com, than you will eventually need to get a paid plan. Don’t worry, there are plenty of plans out there for about $10 a month. Your unique URL will cost you about another $10 to $20 annually.

Besides having your unique URL, you’ll also be able to have any design you like, and add special features.

Having a website with a unique URL will also look more professional, especially if you’re planning to build a site for a larger organization or group.

Selecting a web host:

You can simply start with any of the sites mentioned above or search for “web host”.  Hostgator, Bluehost, Siteground and A2 are popular hosts. For simple websites without a lot of content there are Wix and Weebly to try. (Our site is a WordPress site and hosted by Hostgator which is also a sponsor.) If you decide to get  dedicated WordPress Hosting service, then maintenance, upgrades, backups and security will be included which is well worth the additional cost.

To start, you can sign up for the smallest hosting package; you can always upgrade later. Note: You do not have to buy your domain and hosting service from the same company. Many hosting companies also offer a one-click WordPress installation, if you’re interested in setting up a blog.

Just about every service offers blogging software which is highly recommended because it allows you to update your content easily and allows for multiple logins if you have several contributors. Also, blogging software is set up to easily spread your content around the web. If your host doesn’t offer the one-click install, you can also install WordPress blogging software yourself; it’s free. Another advantage of having a blog is that you can easily change the look of your blog with the use of ‘themes’. There are lots of free and paid themes available.

Buying a domain (URL):

There are many different websites where you can buy your unique URL. We’ve used name.com and GoDaddy.com for domains (search for a “domain registrar”), but make sure you do your own due diligence.

Actions to take: come up with some ideas for a domain (the URL); shop for a web host and try out their customer service by calling, e-mailing or chatting with tech support.

Good customer service and support will be invaluable when it comes to setting up your site or if you run into any kinds of problems. Shop around!

About Buying a Domain:

Don’t get discouraged when shopping for a domain. Most simple and short domains have already been sold. The key is to find something that’s easy to remember, makes sense, and isn’t too complicated to write, or too long.

Just imagine yourself telling someone about your website:

“You can visit our website at whynotfundraiseforourwonderfulgrouptoday-xyzorg.com”
or “You can visit our website at “yournamefundraising.org”. Which one would you remember?

Note: You shouldn’t have to pay more than about $10 to $20 per domain per year or more than $10 for hosting per month to start. Shop around and use online coupons!

If you’re a non-profit be sure to buy a .org domain. Non-profit or not, you should also consider buying at least the popular .com and .org domains, to prevent others from setting up websites with your group’s or organization’s name. You will also be able to forward the .com domain to the .org domain.

Update: You can now buy .ngo domains as well which are available for verified non-governmental organizations only (You automatically will receive the .ONG version which is used in languages other than English.) More info about that on PIR.org.

Actions to take: buy your domain with the .com and .org extensions, but use only the .org if you’re a nonprofit. Consider buying the .NGO version as well (see above). And finally, with your desired domain and webhost in place you’re ready to set up your website!

Now is the time when good customer service comes in very handy: they can help you through the set-up process, can help you with getting your content up, setting up your e-mail addresses etc. That’s why it is so important, that you try out a web host’s customer service and tech support before you sign up.

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