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Building a Website

Building a Website

If you run a small to medium-sized nonprofit organization, you have most likely toyed with the idea of claiming a space on the web – if you haven’t already done so.

While engaging a company that will set up the site from start to finish is a feasible choice for some organizations, not every nonprofit can afford this option. The many benefits of being online should not be available only to those with ample resources. The following is a quick guide to the process of building and optimizing a website for a nonprofit of any size.

It is best to begin by breaking your project into workable pieces. While this may involve more time on the front end, it will certainly prove worthwhile to understand what each of the various components will need. As I see it, the three main elements in the construction of a site are choosing the domain, hosting the domain, and the design of the site.

Choosing the domain name is the first step in constructing a website. Imagine your domain as the property on which a home will be built. In deciding on a domain name, think of the easiest way for people to remember your site. If your organization is called St. Peter’s Nursing Home for the Aged, use a name like or

The last thing you want is for your domain to be too long and hard to remember, like Once you have picked an appropriate domain, go to or another site that will sell you a domain name. The cost for simple registration is usually around $12 - $20 per year. Be mindful that occasionally a domain is already taken, so have a couple of alternates ready in case your first choice is unavailable.

It is now time to find a host for your site. There are more sites that provide hosting than ever before, and their prices keep falling. Performance Hosting ( and BlueHost ( are two very reliable low-cost providers of shared server space.

For around $7 a month (billed one year upfront), you will be set up with email addresses, multiple gigabytes of storage space, and many of the tools you’ll need to build a truly successful site. Adding on a “shopping cart” for around $200 per year will enable your site to offer online giving in a rudimentary way – from the processing of credit cards transactions to the deposit into an account.

The final, and usually most expensive portion of the construction, is the actual design of the site. Shopping around for low-cost web designers can pay off. Depending on how much content you expect to have, and what kind of design you have in mind, the cost can range from $500 to $10,000 for a basic site; expect to spend $1,000 to $3,000 for a small yet professional website.

When you choose a designer, make sure you have all of the content for the site on hand; the site designer should not be the author of any copy on your site. The designer will work with the webhost to put all of the files on the server space. Once the kinks are worked out - expect some kinks - enjoy the launch of your website!

Of course, building a website is only the first step in creating an online giving program. You can’t build your site and wait for the visitors to come. But in claiming a space on the Web, and building an online home for your nonprofit organization, you are well on your way.


About the Author

Nathan Shaver is an Associate Director of Changing Our World, Inc., a leading philanthropic services firm helping nonprofits and philanthropists successfully plan and implement effective strategies. You may contact the author at:

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