Having a website is crucial for any nonprofit organization to effectively communicate their mission, promote their programs and services, accept donations, and recruit volunteers. However, nonprofit organizations often have limited budgets and may struggle to find affordable website hosting solutions. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various web hosting options available specifically for nonprofits and NGOs. We will compare factors like cost, ease of use, security, scalability, and features to help you make an informed decision when choosing a web host for your charity or nonprofit organization.
Types of Nonprofit Website Hosting
There are several main types of web hosting options available for nonprofits:
With shared hosting, your website shares server resources like disk space, bandwidth, and RAM with other accounts on the same server. This is generally the most budget-friendly option, with plans starting as low as $2-$10 per month. However, resources are limited so shared accounts may experience slower speeds during periods of high traffic. Popular shared hosting providers include Bluehost, HostGator, and InMotion Hosting.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting provides more resources than shared hosting, with your website hosted on a partitioned virtual server. This allows you to have guaranteed RAM, storage space, and bandwidth. VPS hosting costs more than shared plans but provides improved performance and scalability. Prices range from $20-$75 monthly. VPS is a good intermediate option between shared and dedicated hosting.
With dedicated hosting, your nonprofit has an entire server just for your website. This provides the highest level of resources, speed, customization, and security. However, dedicated hosting is also the most expensive option, with costs from $100-$500 per month. Dedicated hosting works well for large nonprofits that expect high traffic volumes.
Managed WordPress Hosting
Many nonprofits use WordPress for their website. Managed WordPress hosting provides a solution optimized specifically for WordPress sites. It includes pre-installed WordPress software, automated security updates, caching for better performance, and access to WordPress-specific support. Prices are similar to shared hosting, starting around $5-$30 monthly. Popular providers include WP Engine and Kinsta.
With cloud hosting, your website is hosted on virtual servers that leverage networked, distributed resources for flexibility and scalability. Cloud hosting is facilitated by providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Pricing is based on actual resource usage, so costs may fluctuate month-to-month. Cloud hosting works well for spiky traffic loads.
Web Hosting Plan Features
When evaluating nonprofit web hosting providers, look at factors like:
Storage and Bandwidth
Entry-level shared hosting typically provides 10-50 GB of disk space and a few hundred GB of bandwidth. Higher tier plans offer unlimited storage and bandwidth. Make sure your nonprofit’s hosting plan provides ample resources.
Web Site Builders
Many hosts provide intuitive drag-and-drop website builders like Weebly and Wix to easily create your nonprofit site without coding. Site builders are great for getting online quickly.
Nonprofit hosting plans usually include professional email accounts through cPanel, Google Workspace, or Microsoft 365. Multiple accounts with sizable inboxes are ideal for staff communication.
Scripts and Databases
Features like one-click installation of WordPress or popular CMS platforms, MySQL databases, and PHP/Perl scripting allow you to run dynamic, database-driven sites.
CDN and Caching
A content delivery network (CDN) and caching mechanisms like Varnish speed up website performance by distributing cached copies globally. This is beneficial for multimedia files and high traffic loads.
An SSL certificate encrypts data and activates HTTPS, providing secure visitor connections to your nonprofit site. Most hosts include free SSLs with hosting plans now.
Reputable hosts offer an uptime guarantee, usually 99.9%, meaning your website will stay online except for rare downtime. This ensures your nonprofit website remains constantly available.
Look for 24/7 technical support via live chat, phone, ticketing system, and support center resources. This will help resolve any website problems promptly.
Top Web Hosts for Nonprofits
Some of the top web hosting providers that offer nonprofit discounts and optimized products include:
Bluehost is an affordable and beginner-friendly shared hosting provider developed by WordPress. Nonprofit plans start at $2.75 per month for the first year. They provide a free domain, SSL certificate, and integration with WordPress.
Wix gives nonprofits free web hosting by applying for their Charitable Organization Package. This promotional offer waives the regular hosting fees for eligible charities and foundations.
InMotion Hosting offers shared and VPS hosting plans that are discounted up to 51% for registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Their managed WordPress hosting provides optimized WordPress performance.
DreamHost provides discounted shared hosting and unlimited SSD storage for approved 501(c)(3) nonprofits. They include a free SSL certificate and donate to nonprofits when you purchase hosting services.
SiteGround offers managed WordPress hosting plans with enterprise-grade security, backups, caching, and speed optimization. 501(c)(3) nonprofits can request special discounted pricing.
WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider focused on speed and security. They offer nonprofits discounted rates on their scalable cloud hosting solutions and 24/7 support.
Hosting Considerations for Nonprofits
When selecting website hosting, nonprofits should evaluate a few key factors:
Audience and Traffic
Consider your target audience and expected website traffic. Shared hosting can accommodate most nonprofits getting started. For large volumes, VPS or dedicated hosting provides more resources.
As your organization grows, you may expand programs, donors, email lists, multimedia content, and ecommerce capabilities. Choose scalable hosting that allows room to grow.
Nonprofit sites must protect donor data and transactions. Look for hosts with regular software updates, SSL certificates, firewalls, malware scanning, and backup capabilities.
Some hosts are designed for users with limited technical skills, while others provide more server access for advanced customization. Evaluate your staff’s capabilities.
Adhere to your nonprofit’s annual budget for IT services when selecting hosting plans. To save costs, choose options like shared hosting, discounted nonprofit rates, introductory promotions and annual billing.
Getting Your Nonprofit Website Online
Follow these steps to get your nonprofit website online with hosting:
1. Plan Your Website
Decide on your domain name, site structure, content strategy, design, and functionality needed. This will inform hosting plan requirements.
2. Find a Reliable Web Host
Research top web hosting providers for nonprofits. Look for affordability, positive reviews, nonprofit discounts, and features that meet your needs.
3. Sign Up for Hosting
Select a hosting package and sign up for an account. Many hosts offer quick online sign-ups. For nonprofits, you may need to verify IRS 501(c)(3) status.
4. Install CMS Software
Many hosts provide one-click installs for content management systems like WordPress. Alternatively, upload CMS files via SFTP or cPanel.
5. Point Domain to Host
Use your domain registrar’s settings to change the nameservers or DNS records to direct your domain name to your new host’s servers.
6. Upload Website Files
Via your control panel or SFTP access, upload all your website content like pages, images, CSS, and scripts to your host server.
7. Launch Your Live Website
Once content is uploaded and your domain is pointed properly, your nonprofit website will be live online for visitors to access.
Migrating an Existing Nonprofit Website
If you already have a website and want to switch hosts, follow this process:
1. Select New Hosting
Sign up for an account with your new preferred nonprofit web host. Make sure the plan accommodates your storage needs.
2. Backup Website
Thoroughly back up all your current website files, databases, email, and other content. This provides a copy if anything gets lost.
3. Point Domain
Temporarily point your domain to the new host’s servers following their instructions. This may involve adjusting nameservers or DNS records.
4. Upload Content
Using SFTP or the control panel, upload your entire website including pages, images, scripts, and databases to the new host.
5. Update Config Files
Edit configuration files like wp-config.php if moving WordPress sites to reflect the new host location and database credentials.
6. Test Website
Browse your nonprofit website on the new host server to ensure everything migrated properly before going live.
7. Switch DNS Back
Once site functionality is verified, point your domain name fully to the new nonprofit web host. Traffic will now direct there.
8. Cancel Old Host
Log into your old hosting account and deactivate auto-renewals. You can now close the old hosting account since it is no longer needed.
Choosing the right web hosting provider is crucial for making your nonprofit website accessible, secure, and fast for visitors. Leverage nonprofit discounts from hosts like Bluehost, WP Engine, InMotion, and DreamHost. Start with shared hosting and upgrade as your organization grows. Migrating an existing website takes planning but allows you to enjoy improved performance and rates from a new host tailored for nonprofits. With these tips, you can successfully get your charity or NGO website online to start accomplishing your mission.