Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Like many things in life, when it comes to your online presence, you get what you pay for. And unfortunately in the nonprofit world, the “do it cheap” mentality is prevalent.

I understand why—in fact, I have a lot of sympathy for you if you’ve been tasked with creating a website and told to do it for “little to no money.” Many of us who are working for nonprofits are faced with shrinking budgets, donor attrition, lack of experience with technology, and sometimes a board that doesn’t understand the need to invest financially in an online presence. And yet, we all understand the need for an engaging online presence. It’s where our people are—online, on their phones, on their laptops, on their tablets, all trying to reach us and interact with us in some significant way. So we know that somehow, some way, we must have a decent website. Even if it means doing it cheap.

I refer to this as the “executive director’s really smart niece with a computer” or “we’ve got a volunteer working on it” problem. Take your pick—they both say, “I want a web presence, but I don’t want to/can’t/was told not to pay for it.”

We can all identify with this, right? Or at least, most of us can. The problem with this thinking, however, is that you end up with migrant technology workers—people who have great intentions and perhaps even sharp computer skills, but no longevity. We reach out to people who can get us up and running online, but there’s no guarantee they’re going stick around long enough to make sure we stay current. Or that our website is manageable. Or that we know how to make even one small change or update should they need to leave. Sometimes life just gets in the way. A new baby, a college degree, a big math exam, whatever. People have to move on. And sometimes when people move on, we’re left wondering, what do I do with this website now?

Did you know that the average nonprofit has to restart the process of developing their web presence every two years? That’s crazy. These organizations are starting over on the web every few years because they don’t want to (or think they can’t) spend money on experts who will stick with them for the long haul or technology that allows them to stay ahead of the curve. The thing is, though, this constant transitioning from one website to the next can end up costing more in the long run than choosing a company from the beginning that understands what nonprofits need and builds a web platform specifically for them. That, and the ones who ultimately suffer are your constituents because they can’t engage with you in a meaningful way if your website isn’t built with them in mind.

If you stay stuck in the “do it cheap” mentality, you’re going to end up transitioning from one go-to geek or one cheap website to another, and you’ll be on a wild roller coaster ride where you have to go back to ground zero over and over. In this day and age, that’s only going to hurt you—it will reflect poorly on your brand, guaranteed.

The answer to getting off that roller coaster is to focus on consistency and stability. Work with a professional web development company or build your next website on a content management system that anyone in your organization can manage and update—regardless of their technical ability. Invest in a website that is built with your online audience in mind by people who understand what constituents are looking for. 

It’ll cost you far less in the long run and get you impressive long-term results.

Firespring provides beautiful, mobile-friendly websites with built-in fundraising and event management tools that are affordable for nonprofits of any size. You can start your free demo, or get more information by calling 877.447.8941 or email