If you need a website for a charity the fastest and cheapest approach is to use one of the great free charity website builders.
Using a modern website platform to provide a starting template is a great solution for small organisations like charities and nonprofits. There are several systems to choose from and they are all reliable, secure and cheap. In this post, we focus on the top website builders. By this, we mean modern 'Software as a Service' platforms that allow you to do the setup yourself without the assistance of a developer.
Note that while the examples in this post are all free to set up, they all have small ongoing costs. If you want something secure and robust you have to expect to pay some kind of ongoing cost.
The top charity website builders compared
Key features of the best charity website builders for charities and nonprofits are explored below.
The White Fuse platform is unique in that it is built specifically for small charities. Other website builders are focused on more generic needs - freelancers, designers, and lots of other types of organisation.
Key features for charities in the White Fuse platform:
- Integrated online donations
- Event management
- Membership subscription management
- Built-in contact database
White Fuse is free to set up if you do it yourself or you can choose from a range of setup packages.
- Plans cost from £65 per month plus any applicable taxes
- Range of integration options
- Built specifically for non-profits
- Very easy to edit content and images
Wordpress is one of the oldest and most established options. WordPress.com is connected to Wordpress.Org but it’s important to not get confused. Wordpress.org offers a free-to-download open-source content management system while Wordpress.com is a hosted option that is easier to setup but has more restrictions.
- Plans starting at $2.99 per month
- Optimised for SEO
- Large support base
- Easy to export site in open-source Wordpress.org format for a small fee
- The main focus is on blogs, with limited options for other types of content
Squarespace is design led and has an easy to use drag and drop interface. The platform is targeted at creative professionals and small businesses but can certainly be used by nonprofits too.
Because of the design focus, it’s best for sites with a small number of pages. On larger sites it can be easy to lose control of user journeys and sites can become sprawling and difficult to navigate.
It’s a useful system if you want to bring e-commerce functionality onto your site (see our blogs on How to fundraise on your charity website with Shopify and starting an online charity shop) because it has inbuilt options and offers good payment gateway integration.
- Subscription starts at $16 per month or $144 per year charged annually
- 24/7 support and a 1 hour response time
- Slick template themes targeted at small businesses
- Unlimited pages and contributors on $26 per month subscription
- Buy G-suite for integrated email accounts (read our review of the Google Apps suite)
GoDaddy is the largest domain registrar, with 60 million domain names under their management. They also offer web hosting and a website building tool focused on very small businesses. One feature that sets them apart is their backup and restore which allows you to save multiple copies of your site. Less attractive is the fact that although there are 300 themes to choose from, once you pick you cannot change it. E-commerce is also not included unless you choose a specific online store website builder.
- 1 month free trial
- Plans from £5.99 to £12.99 per month
- Save backups of your website
- 24/7 support
- Limited mobile responsiveness (disappointing these days!)
- General lack of flexibility
Wix is a strong candidate and one of the most popular for small charities. It claims over 90 million users and is always updating its features. A quick look through their features list shows there have updates every month of 2016 so far which is a great sign.
Two big updates in 2016 include ADI, an Artificial Design Intelligence which claims to be able to build your website for you (we haven’t tried it out yet). It also included a mobile app which makes it even easier to update your website on the go. E-commerce is also a solid part of the Wix offering, using the Paypal payment system. One other notable feature is that, like White Fuse above, this is a free website builder with login features allowing you to restrict pages to members-only.
- Plans from £2.50 to £15.50 per month
- Choose from over 500 pre-designed templates including community and charity templates
- Drag and drop design elements
- Free, very basic subscription version
- Mobile responsiveness is good
You’ll be getting the idea by now. Weebly is another business-focused platform with drag and drop tools. It seems to fall somewhere between Squarespace (simple design focused) and Wix (loads of features). It seems most appropriate for simple sites without loads of content. There is a good selection of clean and image-focused themes.
- Plans from £5 to £33 per month
- E-commerce options
- Edit website from your mobile using their mobile app
- A range of third-party apps to integrate with other services
Choosing the right approach for your organisation’s website is always a tricky decision. Once you’ve committed it’s lots of work to change so we always recommend taking the decision carefully. Even if you get a free website you may also need some external support with the surrounding strategy. Feel free to get in touch to discuss your options more.
If you are a developer or have access to free development resources then open source solutions like Wordpress.org or Drupal could also be a good option. In this case, see our post on the pros and cons of Open Source vs. Software as a Service. If that's you it's also worth noting that a number of providers offer free web hosting for small charities.