We work with a lot of new nonprofits and often times they have lots of questions about domain names. This blog post will cover domain name basics for nonprofits.
What’s in a name? For an organization, a good name means the difference between making a lasting impression and being quickly forgotten. The closer you can get your domain name to your own organization’s name, the more likely people will be able to search and find your site. In fact, a domain name is so important, often new businesses will choose a company name based on whether or not the URL is available.
With so many domain names currently taken, how can your nonprofit find a memorable, true-to-brand online address? Here are a few steps to help you select a domain name for your nonprofit that will get results.
Planning a Name
Before you can pick a domain name, it’s important to first understand what you’re choosing. A domain name, also known as a URL or web address, appears at the top of web browsers after the protocol, which shows as http:// or https://. HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol and HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. If possible, use HTTPS, both Google, and your users prefer the extra layer of security. The subdomain is www and the top-level domain is the last three letters, which can be .com, .org, .net, or a wide range of other options.
In total, your domain name is www.x.xyz, with “x” being the custom name you choose and “xyz” representing the top-level domain you select. So, for the nonprofit YWCA, for instance, “x” would be YWCA and “xyz” would be .org for a final domain name of https://www.ywca.org. Local YWCA organizations choose a local variation of this. For example, the Minneapolis YWCA can be found at https://www.ywcampls.org/.
Choosing a Domain
If you haven’t yet named your nonprofit, you’ll likely want to make sure it’s available before you pick a name. You can do this through a variety of sites, including Instant Domain Search and Name.com. If you have an organization named Reading Rockets that helps youths learn to read, for instance, you may find that ReadingRockets.org is taken and choose a variation of that. Or you could add a qualifier to that, such as ReadingRocketsforKids.org or ReadingRocketsTopeka.org, if your organization is specific to the city of Topeka.
But if you’ve already registered a name, don’t worry. There are plenty of top-level domains now that you don’t have to be stuck with .com or .org. You can view the full list here—however, be aware your supporters may try your name plus .com or .org first, so a variation of your name, such as ReadingRocketsforKids.org, might be preferable to something like ReadingRockets.free.
Finalizing Your Name
Once you’ve found the perfect name, you’ll need to register it. There are numerous sites that sell domain names. Domain registrations are typically only good for one or two years. You can also choose automatic renewal and you’ll likely get a reminder before expiration.
After you’ve attached your domain name to your website, you’ll then be ready to start promoting. Make sure you have your domain name on every traditional piece of marketing collateral you print, including business cards, letterhead, and brochures. You should also set up a blog linked to your domain to make sure you’re regularly posting fresh content that will help you rank prominently in search results.
A good domain name is essential to success in nonprofit marketing. Make sure you choose one that’s memorable and work hard to get the word out. You’ll find you naturally get visitors once your well-chosen domain name combines with your other marketing efforts.