Question: I’m on the board of a small watershed group and recently our board has decided that we need to create a website to keep our members updated on what’s going on.  The problem is, we don’t really have much money.  What’s the most affordable way to create an online presence?

Answer: First of all, having a web presence these days is not only a good idea; it’s a really great idea.  In the past decade or so, people have gotten so used to going online to find news or information about their favorite organizations; people assume it’s not a real thing if they can’t find out about it online.

Websites are relatively easy to create these days with simple online tools like WordPress.  Of course, if nobody on your board has any knowledge of how to create a website and everybody is scared to death of trying it, it’s probably a good idea to bring somebody in from outside to help you create your website and teach you how to manage it.  As far as how much this sort of thing usually costs, it really depends on how complicated a website you’re looking to build. But ask around-- someone on your board might know someone who can help you out at a discounted rate.  As always, it’s good to interview several web designers before you choose one, and make sure you go to them with concrete examples of websites that you like and make sure the board discusses in advance exactly how much information needs to be relayed through this website.  Also, make sure there’s a person on your board who is taking the lead on this project and always has a good grasp on what stage of development the designer is in and, most importantly, knows how to maintain the site after the web developer hands you the reigns.

All that said, don’t think that just because your organization doesn’t have the money to build a website that you can’t have a robust online presence.  Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress are free and easy ways to help you reach out to people really effectively.  For instance, many, many of your members are probably on Facebook, and if your organization has a page, any news you post will show up in the feed of the Facebookers who “Like” you.  Similarly, setting up a simple blog on Blogger or WordPress can provide a place for your members to go when they do a search for your organization.  And from there, you can post videos to a YouTube account and link them to Facebook or your blog.  You can use Twitter to update people as well. 

So, my advice is to first do some research into creating a website—you won’t regret it!  But if it proves to be too costly, look into these other social networking options while you raise money to one day create the website of your dreams! These platforms are free and with a little dedication to their upkeep, they can be just as effective as a website!

Good luck!