Tech Advice

Getting your nonprofit organisation online

Think of the sort of charities that you would support. The one charity to which you would happily give every penny you could, if you had the money to do so. It’s probably a charity like Oxfam, Greenpeace, RSPCA, Women’s Aid, or one of the many Cancer Research Trusts.  It’s probably even going to be one of the larger ones, the ones you see on TV.  The work they do, the work they want to do, it’s going to be something you would support.

If you believe those charities are worth your donations, your money, your time, whatever you choose to give, give whatever you can to them. As someone who has worked in the charity sector since 2005, I have to say it has been one of the most rewarding areas I’ve been a part of. Charities do fantastic work and are often at the heart of the community, but some of them – almost always smaller, local charities – don’t get the support they deserve. Some of those charities are so vital to the community that they effectively are the community. These smaller charities rarely ever have the resources of the larger national and multinational peers, and getting them access to the same playing field is difficult at best.

One of the things I’ve done to help smaller charities is give them the resources to build their online systems beyond their website, including email and social media platforms, and I’ve used a variety of tools to achieve that.  Hopefully those tools could help your own clients or your own organisation, so here they are for your benefit.  If you have any more, head on down to the comments and add them, or hit me up on social media and let me know

Just to note

While I do use some of these services and I am an affiliate of some of them, I am not being sponsored by any of these companies for this post and there are no affiliated links here.  This post was originally published over on my professional site back in March 2018, but I've moved it over here since I closed the blog on that site.

Website and Hosting

You do have a website, right?

I'm going to assume that you've got a website or you're planning one when writing this post.  I could talk about the number of charity and nonprofit websites I've worked on, or wax lyrical about how I could improve your organisation's online presence, but there are better ways and posts where me to do that.  This is about services that you could benefit from as a charity, so I'll leave the selling of my services for another time.

Your website needs to be hosted in order to be accessed by the public, and some hosts can be expensive.  Larger charities will have the same kind of deals with hosting companies as profit-making companies may, and will have the capabilities of building a strong infrastructure.  Smaller charities, unfortunately, often don’t have that luxury.

Kualo, my hosting provider for both this and my professional sites, offers free hosting for any UK based charity. They offer their Solo shared package, which would normally cost £6.99 plus VAT (£8.39 including VAT) free of charge. Whilst they don’t provide a free domain, they do offer a substantial 10GB storage with unlimited bandwidth, 10 email accounts, free domain-verified SSL Certificates (with LetsEncrypt), Site Builder, App Installer, and daily site backups which can be restored with ease.  For their Charity hosting, they also provide LiteSpeed Cache and Cloudflare Railgun, which is usually only available in CloudFlare’s Business plan, which can cost $200 each month.

Security is a high priority with Kualo. Their Solo package is one of Kualo’s shared hosting offerings (you can find more information on shared hosting packages can be found on the “Why do I need hosting for my website?” post), but Kualo uses “account isolation” to minimise the risk of security breaches. It also means your site probably isn’t going to be taken down by someone else hogging the resources since each site is allocated its own resource pool (such as RAM and CPU usage). Patches for software such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are automatically rolled out across the system when new releases are made, which will secure your system until a full update is performed by whoever makes the software.

Kualo is also green powered, with its data centres operated with 100% green sourced power, regulated by Ofgem in the UK and certified by Green-e in the US. They have strong energy efficiency policies in place, which means using Kualo as your host of choice can aid in lowering your organisation’s carbon footprint.

Obviously, there’s a catch: The free hosting is limited to their Solo provision, so if you want more storage or capacity, then you would need to pay. As well as that, you must register your primary domain with them. If you have two or more domains, you can register the others with any provider you wish, but your primary domain must be registered with Kualo. UK domains cost £8.99 per year plus VAT (£10.79 per year including VAT) with Kualo, but considering you get completely free hosting with it, that’s pretty good value. You also need to place a notice at the bottom of your home page or on your About page on your site that acknowledges Kualo as your hosting provider.

Email and Office Productivity

It’s important for a charity to get a secure email service, and while Kualo offers 10 mailboxes with their hosting, I have never recommended their service for charities. I must point out that this is in no way a reflection on their services. But with two of the biggest companies in Tech offering their online office suite for free for eligible charities, the question I find myself asking clients is which service do you prefer: Microsoft’s or Google’s?

Both Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits and Google Nonprofits offer you full access to their respective email and web-based office productivity suites. Google also offers YouTube for Nonprofits under its provision, as well as $10,000 of free AdWords spending each month. There are qualifying conditions for this, so make sure you speak with a Google agent to find out more.

To register for either of these (or both, if you’re feeling particularly saucy), you need to be registered with a TechSoup partner organisation. In the UK, that would be Charity Digital Exchange (previously TT Exchange), but those outside of the UK are also eligible as long as they sign up through their country’s specific partner – check out the TechSoup website to find out more.

Charity Digital Exchange also offers discounted software licenses that you can install on your organisation’s computers. Since Microsoft only offers their web-based applications to eligible nonprofits, it may be worth looking into getting their desktop Office software for machines.  They also offer software from many providers, such as Adobe, Norton, or Zoom. Registering with Charity Digital Exchange is free, but you must be able to provide quite a bit of information about your organisation, including financial accounts.

Social Media and Graphic Creation

Social media has had a major impact on the world, especially in the last decade or so.  In fact, the social media landscape has gone through seismic changes since the days of SixDegrees, supposedly the first social media site created way back in 1997.  It’s almost unrecognisable, for better and for worse.

From the few thousand people that accessed sites such as Friendster and Myspace, to the 1.6 billion daily users that Facebook welcomes, social media has taken over.  Integrating it into your business’s marketing strategy is more important than ever, and probably even more important if you’re a charity with few resources available to you.  There are millions of people are ready to see your content and learn about your organisation, and making it suitable and attractive for viewers can take a lot of work.

Services like Canva are here to help.  Canva is a freemium design tool for those with no skills or experience in design software, or those who want to quickly create graphics and posters to use in any marketing campaign, not just on social media.  You can use Canva to create gift certificates, calendars, invitations, recipe cards, banners, and adverts, in preset and custom sizes.  Some of the preset sizes are perfect for use on all social media profiles, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest.

Recently, Vistaprint launched Vista Create as a competitor to Canva, and integrated parts of it into their print product service.  You can still use it to create digital graphics with multiple templates and sizes available.  Both services have a free tier as well as a paid tier with better features, and qualifying nonprofits are eligible to get a premium team account with each of them.

You can find out the eligibility criteria for the Canva for Nonprofits programme or the Vista Create for Nonprofits programme on their respective websites.  You need to register with a free account first, and the nonprofit offering will be applied to that account.  To do so, you need to prove your eligibility as a charity by sending information to show your status (Charity registration, constitution, or recent public accounts would suffice) with the account you registered with.  Both Canva and Vista Create limit their nonprofit accounts to 10 for the group, which makes it perfect for smaller organisations.

Adobe offers a similar service called Adobe Express.  This would be covered under your Nonprofit offering as provided through your local TechSoup partner (for more information, have a look at the “Email and Office Productivity” section above).

Have any more to add?

Chances are the content in this post will change and be updated soon enough.  The previous post included nonprofit rates for donations through services such as PayPal, but since there are few reliable services that have a free nonprofit tier, I have removed it from this post.  If you think it would be useful, let me know and I will add it back in again.  Alternatively, let me know of any services you think would be useful and I will add them.

I’m always looking for new services that could help non-profit organisations and charities, so if you have any to add, head on down to the comments and let me know.

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