When I google on some places of interest or NGOs, I am surprised that many organizations, including well known ones do not have a ‘proper’ website or web presence. If you are part of a religious organization or NGO, it is important to set up your own site.
What I mean by ‘proper’ website is:
1. The site has a domain name and not using a free name like sitename.blogspot.com
Domain name is really not an expensive investment. Some hosting companies even provide free domain name if you host with them. If you use a free domain name, it does not give the indication that you are taking your cause seriously. Serious business and organization now would invest in a paid domain name.
An official site should also NOT be a Facebook page.
2. It is a self hosted site (and not on free hosting)
I started my first sites on free hosting. There is very little control if you are hosting on free platform that does not belong to you. You cannot set the site to the professional look and feel that you want.
The worse of all, anytime your site can be shut down and overnight you can stand to lose everything. I known of a blogger who had all his blog posts disappeared when he initially hosted in blogspot. This incident happened more than 10 years ago. This caused him to migrate to paid hosting and never looked back since.
3. The design may not be sophisticated but at least mobile responsive.
Most website themes today, including free ones are mobile responsive. This means that the text will automatically adjust according to the device that your visitor is using. It will adjust nicely on a desktop, table or mobile device.
When you set up your own hosting and purchase your own domain name, you should be able to set up a self hosted WordPress site within minutes. Self hosted wordpress site comes with a lot of free themes. Their default themes are all mobile responsive.
Why it is important for religious and NGOs to set up a proper website of their own
1. An official site to be linked to
If you have an official website, authoritative sources like Wikipedia and Google Maps would be able to link to your official site. Google would usually index the organization’s official site on the top of search page. Without an official site, other unrelated third party sites may appear in the top search results when people are searching about your organization.
You have no control of what they write and no platform to be able to respond. What if the site is writing incorrect or negative things about your organization?
2. To enable a site for others to find out more, drop feedback and issue announcements
There have been a number of times that visitors thought that some of my blogs were official sites of some of the companies. They drop comments, ask for quotations and feedback about the service at my blog….till for some popular companies…. the comments took up too much of my time. Reason being is that the company failed to set up a proper site.
The articles that I have written about the companies were mostly monetized with Adsense (because I need to pay for my expenses too). That means when a visitor views the article, advertisements of competitors would appear.
That is why one cannot control what that appears in other people’s sites. Do not rely on other sites to promote your organization. You must have a site of your own.
Do not depend on news release (which can easily get buried in the news portal’s archives even if it is available online).
3. To avoid other sites replacing the ‘voice’ of your organization or cause
As mentioned in the point above, you need to have a site that your organization can call your own so that it can clearly communicate the purpose, mission, vision, etc.
No one would be able to do it better other than your organization itself.
My experience in setting up a site for my teacher
More than 10 years ago, I set up an official website for my teacher with paid hosting and domain name. As I grow and improve my sites, I also continued to work on her site to improve the layout and contents. But as it is with religious and NGOs related sites, you do not need the best and most sophisticated web design.
The content and the message is important to align with the values of the founder(s) or the intended values of the organization.
Over the years, many people found out about my teacher through the internet. They are able to receive help and guidance, just like I have from my teacher. I feel happy that I am able to indirectly help others through setting up the site.
That is why when I see other organizations not willing to invest a domain name and paid hosting, the audience or people that they wish to reach would be only very limited- perhaps through word of mouth, press release or other blogger’s posts.
Final note is that when your organization have make the decision to invest in a site, please ensure that the domain name and hosting are owned by your organization and you have access to the hosting and maintenance. Issue would arise if the domain is bought and owned by someone who may later leave the organization- there may be potential issue in recovering the domain and hosting account.