Revised with new information as of October 16, 2017


A free resource for nonprofit organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
public sector organizations, and other mission-based agencies

Jayne Cravens, www.coyotecommunications.com

 


  Basic Web Development & Maintenance
  for Nonprofits, NGOs, Government Offices
  & Other Mission-Based Organizations


 

Your organization must have a web site. If anyone suggests that you don't, that your organization can get by with just a Wordpress blog or a Facebook page, run away from that person immediately. The core of an organization's or program's online presence is still a Web site - it's what all of the organization's other online activities point to.

The consequences of not having a web site? You make it hard, even impossible, for people to be able to find official information about your organization or program online: to find your address, your phone number, a list of your events, how to donate, why to donate, what you do, how to volunteer, and more.

Without a web site, your organization also gives the impression that staff have difficulty managing basic communications activities - a negative impression that you probably don't want potential donors, potential volunteers, the media and others to have.

It's NOT cost-prohibitive to have a web site. If your organization already has computers (even old computers), you will not need to purchase additional software to have a basic Web site.

Who is in charge of your web site

A mistake many organizations have made in their Web site development is handing over the entire Web development process, from content creation to regular maintenance, to a consultant, or another company, or to just one employee or volunteer. This leads to many, even most staff, seeing the web site and other online activities as something completely external to what they do - the volunteer manager, the program director, the box office manager, etc., may not feel any ownership of the organization's online activities, even though all of those people are affected by what the organization does - or doesn't do - online. Instead, everyone in your organization should have continuous opportunities for input into Web site development and maintenance - every staff member, paid or volunteer.

Everyone at your organization, particularly department heads and managers of programs, should feel ownership of influence on some part of the web site; the volunteer manager should have a section that is hers (or his), the program director needs to feel ownership of the part of the web site focused on clients and particular clients, etc. Encourage your organization to integrate Web development and management into the work of ALL employees, not only those who produce content for publications and are involved with any communications or outreach activities, but also your program director, volunteer manager, and anyone who has anything to do with those your serve or the public at large.

Everyone at your organization who works with the public or partners in any way should also have input into all of your organization's other online activities as well, like online social networking, online discussion groups, etc... but those recommendations are on another part of my web site.

Initial web site development

Your focus on your initial Web site development for your nonprofit, NGO, government agency or department, school, or other mission-based initiative should be to immediately get ONE page up on the web about your organization ASAP. This can be done in less than an hour if you have a credit card or the ability to pay online:

  1. Register a web address - a homepage URL, or domain name - with a service that does such. The URL of my web site's home page is coyotecommunications.com. Your nonprofit, at least in the USA, will want a URL that ends in .org rather than .com. You don't need a web site to register a web address. Register your web address by making a list of URLs you want and then looking at the Who Is database to see if any of your desired URLs are available. The web hosting service you choose may be able to do this for you, but make sure that, as a result, your organization owns the URL, not the web hosting service. My hosting organization is hostgator.com, FYI. I've used Network Solutions and Dotster as well for domain registration, but they also offer web hosting. Here's much more detail about Choosing A Web Site Host & URL. When considering your Web address, your Web address should be:
    • not use an "underscore" (my_nonprofit) or a "tilde" (my~nonprofit); it's difficult to say such addresses over the phone, and many people will get your address VERBALLY from a staff member
    • as short as possible
    • easy to say over the phone (sometimes, this is more important than keeping it short)
    • easy to spell

  2. Pay a web hosting service to host your web site, if you haven't already. As I noted above, I use hostgator.com. I've used Network Solutions and Dotster as well for domain registration, but they also offer web hosting. Here's much more detail about Choosing A Web Site Host & URL.


  3. Write and put up one web page immediately as your home page, that has only your organizationís logo and:

    • organizationís name
    • organizationís address (including city, state and country)
    • organizationís phone number
    • organizations main email address
    • organizations nonprofit registration number
    • a message that says your full web site is coming soon

    It is super easy to find a volunteer that can do this for you!

You now have one page on the web. Anyone who types your URL into the web will come to this page, and see your key information.

And now you are ready to develop your web site. Your next objective is to get a simple, easy-to-navigate site up quickly, a site that provides the basic, essential information about your organization - all of the above, plus a staff list, announcements about upcoming events, directions on how to get there, a list of programs, how to volunteer, etc.). Once this basic site is up and regularly maintained, the web site can be expanded and advanced features can be developed and implemented.

The tips below offer advice for the most basic "starter" information for a first web site, and are focused specifically on people who are NOT "techies." These tips are also meant to help those who aren't directly involved in web site development to still feel involved and in control of some or all of the process:

Also read: E-Commerce: The 8 Corners
"Like the Kudzu in my Maryland yard, the more you try to bring sense to the Internet hype, the denser it seems to get. The only thing growing faster is the number of people who believe that the digital world somehow overcomes and changes the fundamentals. P.T. Barnum was intimately familiar with the breed and swore that one was born every minute." A must read for anyone wanting to know what the Web can and CANNOT do.

Also: old versions of your web site will be available at The Internet Wayback Machine / archive.org. You will be able to achieve at least one iteration of your web site from each year that it's been available on this resource. This is very helpful in retrieving information someone deletes off of the web site and didn't back up. It also helps you create a record of your organization's history. Do NOT let any web designer put coding into your pages so that they will NOT be archived by this resource!

 

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