There is much talk about 'new' web tools, gimmicks and advanced ideas. But when you really look around the sector, there are thousands of charities that either don't have websites or have websites that don't really help them very much. Unfortunately, I still meet charities that say "why should we have one?" or "we can't afford it". I even know of one that wouldn't pay the few pounds a year to own its own domain name.
There are two essential points here. First, whether you can afford one or not, you absolutely should invest in your own domain name or URL. Think of it as future-proofing. This means that at some point you can set up a site branded in your name. If somebody else takes it, you will be stuck with a web name that is not your charity name or is not easy to find.
You may think there isn't anyone around who will want to buy your name, but with 180,000 charities and all the corporates competing for URLs there may well be somebody with your name in a different area. You can register a domain for as little as £2.50 a year. Can you really afford not to?
Second, you really should have a website. Despite all the hype, a website is a key marker in the sand. It tells people you exist, who you are and what you do. For many funders, donors, supporters, volunteers and clients it is becoming the first place to research an organisation.
More than 80 per cent of people in the UK now use the internet. Having a website is like having a postal address or a phone number. It allows people to find you, contact you and simply to know that you exist.
So having your own URL and website, however simple, is a basic and essential marketing tool, and these days none of us can afford to ignore it.
- Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant