Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 2

In the last post we set up free web hosting with 24/7 Hosting and installed WordPress. In this post I want to look at a few of the options and plugins available by using WordPress. The first thing to decide upon is the theme of your site. WordPress has a large number available for free download or for a small cost. It is possible to get a custom-made theme, however I found that the cost for a basic site was around NZ$900 + gst. Once you have decided on a theme, you can get to work customising it. Depending on the theme you may be able to change the color settings, logo and fonts. They all have different customisations available so I won’t go into details here. You can also change your theme at any time, so don’t feel as though you have to get it perfect from day 1.

Helpful tip: Create a new homepage, then go into Settings –> Reading and change the front page settings to look at your new page, and set your posts to appear on a different page. This way your websites home page will stay as your ‘fixed’ content front, and your postings will appear elsewhere. I personally like to use posts for News:

Now you can get into the really good stuff and hunt out some plugins. Depending on your needs there will be between a few to many plugins available to extend the capabilities of your site. A couple that I really like and use are Donate Plus, Events Manager, and Facebook. Bit of an overview on these below.

Facebook. Pretty self-explanatory, this gives your site integration into Facebook. You do need to log into Facebook and create an App ID, but this only takes a few minutes and is free. Pop the information into the plugin and then you can set-up things like ‘Like’ buttons for your pages. This also adds in widgets (not to be confused with plugins, widgets are dragged & dropped into the sidebar of your site) that give you additional functionality to promote your website on Facebook and vice-versa.

Donate Plus. There are a number of options to gather online donations for your website. I chose a free plugin for WordPress that uses PayPal to handle the payments. I will blog more about PayPal and other online payment options soon, it is a little tricky & time-consuming and there are a number of gotchas for new players. The attraction for me of Donate Plus is the ability for donors to set-up recurring payments as well as one-off. There is also a donation wall so you can promote your generous donors, if they tick the box of course.

Events Manager. This is a really big plugin. Lots of options come with it including pages for event locations and the ability for people to manage their bookings. Because we have a number of events through the year this plugin really appeals as it lets you sell tickets to your events, and manage ticket quota’s so you know at a glance in real-time how many you have sold and how many are left to sell. There is a pro version available for around $80 that lets you use PayPal to accept payment online for tickets but even without it there is plenty of value just from having it manage ticket sales.

There really are a huge number of plugins available that can help deliver on your website needs, and it is worth spending a little time investigating all the options.

Next time, online donation options and PayPal.

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Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 1

 

I haven’t been online much in the past month or so as I recently joined the Board of a small charity in Auckland called Glow Kids. Glow Kids provides Conductive Education to children with (primarily) a motor neuron disorder such as Cerebral Palsy or Dyspraxia. One of the key tasks assigned to me with my IT background was to get a digital presence up and running for them, including a website and Social Media.

In this series of posts I want to share some of the awesome tools available to charities to get online and then manage the results, all whilst doing it for FREE! Yes, free.

For those that do not know, I currently work as IT Manager for a large not-for-profit in Auckland so working with limited money & resources isn’t a new concept to me. What differs between my day job and Glow Kids is the economies of scale. The day job does have budget to get certain things done, such as web hosting & design, external marketing ‘experts’ and collateral and the like. Glow Kids, as a small start-up charity has extremely limited funds and resources. The challenge was to move from looking at tools that cost or are for larger organisations to alternatives that are, shall we say, more cost-appealing or fringe.

First up, a website. Two parts to this; hosting and Content Management System or CMS. There are a lot of hosting providers around, but I settled on 24/7 Hosting for a couple of reasons. First, they offer FREE hosting to charities! Secondly, they use Softaculous App Installer. This is a nifty tool that lets you install all manner of web applications with a single click, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Moodle. They are also a Kiwi company with local support. There are a bunch of other services they offer but for me free + easy set-up nailed it!

I decided concurrently to use WordPress as the CMS. This blog you are reading now is WordPress and it is really simple to use. One of the other attractions for me is the number or plugins available to extend the product. I will go into the ones I deployed in a later post. With the hosting company and the CMS platform decided, I filled out a really simple online form and before I could finish my coffee I had an account set-up. We already had a couple of domain names to during the sign-up I moved them over and pointed them to the new service. Took a day to get the account verified as belonging to a charity, then it was a simple matter of logging into the portal, clicking WordPress and within 5 minutes it was done, and we could browse to the root page. How easy is that!

Next post I will go through WordPress in a bit more detail, and share some of the useful tools we have deployed so far.

 

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