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Ways to Save Money on Your Nonprofit Website

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My previous post, Five things I Wish for Nonprofit Websites, received a lot of approval from readers but some people rightly pointed out that getting professional help with your website can be expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to be. If you know where you can take shortcuts and where it’s worth paying a professional, you can get a pretty good site with a minimal investment.


Content Management Systems

Once upon a time web developers would have to code every website page and then upload them directly to the server using an FTP program – not something the average person would want to fool around with. But today’s Content Management Systems (CMS) make it possible for non-technical people to manage their websites without having to know a lick of code. (Large, complex sites with specific requirements may still need custom coding and specialized technical skills to implement but most organizations don’t need to go to that level.)

Three popular and free systems are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. If you’re not comfortable with technology or are nervous about working on your website’s server, hiring an experienced person to install and customize your content management system is money well spent. Since the software is free, you’ll only need to pay for the labor. Even though it’s easy to find training resources on the web, you might ask if your vendor if they can they provide a training session for your staff. With a good CMS, you can make content updates in minutes without having to pay a contractor to do it for you. 


Website Themes & Plugins

As mentioned above, you probably don’t need to have a new site coded from scratch. You can save a lot of money by basing your site build on a template or theme. (Here’s an example of a theme I used to build this site.) With a theme, most of the coding has already been done – you add your content and usually you can do some additional customization to the theme. The downside is that the customization options may be limited (this varies from theme to theme) and overuse of popular theme styles can give websites a quality of sameness.

However, there are excellent site themes available for under $100 that can be customized for your brand. A good theme combined with plugins, little applications that add functionality, can give your site a bespoke quality without the bespoke price. The quality of themes and plugins varies greatly but a professional can help you select the components that meet your aesthetic and functional goals as well as provide ongoing technical support and updates.


Getting Pro-Bono Help

There are skilled people out there who want to volunteer their time and expertise but it can be difficult for nonprofits to connect with the right person. There are several organizations that can help you with the matchmaking such as Catchafire, The Taproot Foundation,, and VolunteerMatch. You should also do some research in your community for local organizations that offer pro-bono support.  


Pro Tip: When talking to web professionals, do not use technical terms if you’re not 100% sure of their meaning. Trying to sound like an insider when you're not can create a lot of confusion. For the best results, use plain language to state your needs, expectations, and requirements.

For me, fundraising and communications go together like peanut butter and jelly – delicious & filling!

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