Websites—quality websites—can be expensive endeavors. But that expense is a justifiable reality, given that, for non-profits operating in today’s electronic world, a website is an invaluable tool for getting out your message; staying in touch with donor bases and attracting new ones; raising funds quickly and easily; and recruiting and communicating with volunteers. And these are all elements that can spell boom or bust for any cause-centered organization.
Of course, there’s the aforementioned issue of money: how does a start-up NPO, likely working under tight budgetary constrictions, afford a new or redesigned site? For that matter, how does even a well-established organization locate and implement affordable changes to its website when the money just isn’t available internally?
It’s easy to invoke the mantra that a non-profit’s leadership should view a website as an investment, not an expense. But unfortunately, the solution is too often not that easy. Therefore, every NPO should be aware of the paths they can take towards securing quality free (or extremely discounted) web services. Consider these ideas before embarking on your search.
Get the word out
Make your existing donor and volunteer bases aware of the fact that you want a new site and you need their help. People passionate about your cause will likely offer lots of ideas you can build on, and there may even be professional website developer in the mix who responds to your call.
Get it funded
If your existing site has an online donation feature (and it absolutely should), allow people to donate directly to a special fund to create a new site or update your existing site. Essentially, leverage your current web presence to build interest and excitement in your quest. Don’t be afraid to be specific in what you want to achieve with a new site, and point to changes you want to make such as weak page elements that are woefully in need of an overhaul.
Get it donated
Although most private web designers and even large firms can’t bear the financial burden of giving away web services for free, they can offer deeply discounted rates for creating preliminary frameworks, offering consultation or providing a set period of hosting. If you do score a donated website, beware of some pitfalls: get firm launch dates and a detailed scope of work. The person or company donating their time may have the best intentions, but when paid work comes their way they may need to put your project on the back burner, which is frustrating but very understandable.
Throw a party
Like a dedicated fundraising element on your existing site, a dedicated event is a great way to raise money for your specific project. Non-profit experts highly recommend this tactic, as it shows potential donors that their gift will make a real, tangible difference to your organization rather than just be added to the coffers and used for general operating expenses.
Apply for a grant
Many NPOs shy away from applying for grant funding but it’s always worth trying, especially as website-specific grants have proliferated in recent years. Just be sure to be very precise in your application regarding the concrete benefits you hope to achieve, which will make your case more convincing.
Take a personal approach
Non-profits have long been aware of the benefits of approaching different parts of their donor bases with specific appeals (the year-end “ask,” for instance). So it’s wise to take a chance and reach out to individuals, especially if you can isolate those who may have a tech-savvy bent as they’ll be much more aware of the power a professional site can have for your organization. And along the same lines of approaching individual donors with your specific request for web services funding, don’t forget to look closer to home: if your NPO has a board of directors, be sure they’re aware of your campaign for a new site. They may be vested enough in your cause to fund it personally or connect you directly with people who may be interested in donating to the project.
Solicit a local business
Like being aware of the benefits of approaching specific donors or donor bases, most NPOs are also aware of the importance of connecting and partnering with local businesses. If your organization enjoys such resources, ask them to donate the money for your website endeavor: to make the appeal more attractive, offer to add a line on the new site that clearly states how important their generous support was to achieving your goal of a new or redesigned website.