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How to make an effective low cost website for your charity or non-profit organisation – part 1

Today I encountered another organisation paying way too much for way too little in terms of their hosting account. This is a real pet peeve of mine and something I see all the time!

I suppose people purchase these services for 2 reasons:

1. Lack of knowledge about what’s considered a good deal when it comes to making your own website

2. Ease of use – a lot of these services include a free ‘web builder’, so people feel they can make a website even if they’re not website savvy

But – what you end up with is a greatly overpriced package and a rather naff looking website based on a very basic template. You miss out on many features that you could be getting for less money elsewhere!

So, let’s put an end to this waste of money which is all the more important when it comes to charities and non-profit orgs who’ve worked hard to raise the funds in the first place.


Making a website for your charity/non-profit org

To do list:

PART 1 (covered in this guide)

1. Buy your hosting & domain name
(*if you already have this you can move on to step 2)

2. Install software to run your website

3. Edit some settings in the software and choose a design for your website

PART 2 (covered in the next guide, coming soon)

4. Add content to the website

5. (Optional) Set up email addresses at your domain name (i.e. yourwebsite.com)

6. (Optional) Do a little extra legwork to get more traffic and better results in the search engines like Google


1. Buying your hosting & domain name

Buying hosting and a domain name is just like buying anything else on the web. You add your details, give them your payment info and your order is placed. The process is quite self-explanatory (but we’ve included some extra detailed instructions below for anyone who’s unsure).

We recommend Bluehost hosting because they provide a good quality service with lots of features for a great price (currently on special at just $3.95/£2.50 per month). Oh, and you get a free domain included (.com, .net, .org, .info, .biz or .us).

(Even if you already have a domain, we’d recommend getting a free domain as well, then you can use it to create another website or set it to redirect to your existing domain name.)

> Go to bluehost to order my domain and hosting now
(*opens in new window)

If you need some more help with the process of ordering your hosting and domain you can read our extra details below, otherwise you can now move on to Step 2.

*Super detailed guide for non ‘web-savvy’ users:

1. On the Bluehost home page, click the big ‘Sign Up Now’ button.

2. On the next page, enter the domain name you would like to use, choose the domain type from the dropdown list (.com, .net, .org, .info, .biz or .us) then click ‘Next’

3. The next page is where you enter your contact details and payment info and choose your package. If you want to pay the lowest price you have to sign up for the 24 month package. It’s a good saving so it’s recommended to go for the full 24 months, but if you really can’t afford it, the shorter term packages are still very good value.

There’s also an area where you can choose to pay extra for Domain Security, Site Backup Pro and Domain Whois Privacy. Chances are you won’t need these things, so you can untick those boxes, but you should read the details to see if those services might be of use to you.

(The Domain Privacy option may be worth it as unfortunately spammers can find your email address if you use your own details on the domain name ‘Whois’ data which is basically just a public record of who owns the domain)

4. Complete your order at Bluehost and soon you should receive an email containing your account login information (usually your domain name plus a login password)

…which brings us nicely to the next step…


2. Install software to run your website

WordPress is the best choice of software for running your charity/non-profit website.

I wouldn’t normally make such a blanket statement but in this case I think it’s true and I’ll tell you why:

– WordPress is FREE

– WordPress is easy to use

– WordPress is a hugely popular website software and it has millions of users all over the world. Because of this it’s very stable and regularly updated and improved

– WordPress allows you to add pretty much any feature you will need via the use of ‘plugins’ – extra bits of software you can install with just a few clicks to give your site extra features, for example – contact forms, photo galleries, shop facilities and lots, lots more

– WordPress allows you to use ‘themes’ which can change the design of your whole site, with just a few clicks. And there’s thousands of free and paid themes available to choose from

Installing WordPress

Once you’ve received the email from Bluehost containing your login details, login to your hosting account at http://yourwebsite.com/cpanel (replacing the yourwebsite.com part with your previously ordered domain name)

Once logged in, scroll down the page until you see the section titled ‘SimpleScripts Installations’ and click the ‘WordPress’ icon

On the next page, click the green ‘Install’ button to install the WordPress software and fill in the details as needed (more info from Bluehost about installing WordPress)

Once the installation is complete, the location of your WordPress installation and your login details will be displayed. Make sure you make a note of the WordPress login details as you will need these to manage your website.


3. Edit some settings in the software and choose a design for your website

Login to your WordPress admin dashboard at http://yourwebsite.com/wp-admin (replacing the yourwebsite.com part with your own domain name)

(The dashboard page can be a bit cluttered so if you’d like to avoid seeing all that stuff every time you login, click the ‘Screen Options’ tab on the top right of the page, click to un-tick any items you don’t need – I’d leave the ‘Right Now’ and ‘Recent Comments’, the rest you can probably get rid of – then click the ‘Screen Options’ tab again to hide those settings.)

Your home page

Because WordPress is primarily used as a blogging tool, by default the home page (that’s the first page people see when they visit your domain name, it’s also known as the index page) is set to show the latest blog posts.

We’re going to be using this WordPress installation as more of a standard website than a blog, so we want our home page to show something else.

First we have to create a page that will be your home page. To do this click the ‘Pages’ link on the left of the screen, then click ‘Add New’.

One the ‘Add New Page’ screen, add a title for the page, for example ‘Home’. You don’t need to add any content to the page yet, you can just click the ‘Publish’ button on the right.

Now we need to tell WordPress that we want that page to be our home page instead of it displaying our latest blog posts. To do this, click on the ‘Settings’ link on the left of the screen, then click ‘Reading’ from the list that appears below.

On the next page, change the ‘Front Page’ setting to ‘A static page’, and choose ‘Home’ as the front page. Set the ‘Posts page’ to ‘Sample page’ (that’s just a page that is automatically created as part of the default WordPress installation, you can change the title to ‘Latest Posts’ or ‘Blog’ later on)

Hit the ‘Save changes’ button at the bottom of the page. Now if you take a look at your website home page (http://yourwebsite.com) it should be displaying a blank page with the ‘Home’ title at the top.

Website design (aka your website ‘theme’)

We’re working on some free WordPress themes specially for charities and non-profits, but they’re not ready yet so for now –

There’s lots of great free designs available for WordPress and you can access them directly from your admin dashboard.

Click on the ‘Appearance’ link on the left of the screen, then click ‘Themes’.

On the Themes page, click the ‘Install Themes’ tab at the top of the page.

You can then search the available themes and filter the results by:

Colour – pick a colour that fits with the ‘branding’ of your organisation. Creating a good brand presence for a charity is probably of as much importance as it is for retail businesses. It helps instil confidence in your organisation when people recognise your brand.

Columns – the number of columns on the page (for example, this page has 2 columns – the main content and the sidebar on the right) and whether or not you want your sidebar on the left or the right. Left is good if you want to use that column for a navigation menu area, otherwise right is usually best.

Width – the width of the content on your website pages – with a fixed width theme, the page will be the same width for all users, with a flexible width the page will stretch or contract depending on the width of the user’s monitor.

Subject – you aren’t likely to need to this for your charity website, but it lets you find themes based on holidays or seasons, or specifically made for photo-blogging websites

Make your selections as necessary. If you’re unsure about what you need, just pick a colour and leave the rest of the settings as is.

After you hit the ‘Find Themes’ button, you’ll be shown the results of your search. Under each little image preview there are links to install or preview the theme.

Once you’ve found a theme you think you’d like to use, click the ‘Install’ link and a box will pop up to confirm the install. Click the ‘install’ button and the theme will then be installed. This only takes a second and on the next page you should see confirmation that it has been installed.

Click the ‘Activate’ link to turn on the theme for your website.

Now visit your website home page to see the new theme – for easy access to your home page there’s a link near the top left of the admin dashboard. This will display the name of your website, this is how ours looks here at Websites For Charity:


Ok, you’ve done it! You’ve made it through part 1 of our ‘How to make an effective low cost website for your charity or non-profit organisation’ guide.

The next step is to add some content to your new charity website. We’ll be covering this in part 2 of our article which will be online soon.

Check back over the next week or subscribe to our posts by email, RSS, Facebook or Twitter to be notified when part 2 is posted.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve got any questions feel free to leave us a comment below.

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