Build Your Free Nonprofit Website with Wetpaint Part Five: Administrative Settings

Build_with_wetpaint_3Today is the last day in our series on how to build a nonprofit website using Wetpaint. In this screencast I give a brief overview of the administrative settings, including adding Google Analytics and setting up a domain name.

As with the past screencasts, you may want to visit the version I have at Screencastomatic, where I've added notes to mark the different segments of the screencast.

I hope that this series was helpful and answered at least some basic questions about using a wiki to set up a nonprofit website. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.


Build Your Free Nonprofit Website with Wetpaint Part Three: Getting Started with Wetpaint

Build_with_wetpaint_7 This week I'm showing you how you can use Wetpaint to set up a free nonprofit website. Monday we looked at why it makes sense to use a Wetpaint wiki to set up a site.

Tuesday we looked at a couple of examples of organizations that are using Wetpaint as a website.

Now I'm going to start showing you how to set up your own Wetpaint site.

In today's 6 minute screencast, I'll walk you through how to:

  • Get your site set up
  • Select your design style
  • Decide on editing permissions
  • Set up your Wetpaint account

One note about the screencast--I created it using Screencast-o-matic, which I like for "down-and-dirty" work where I'm trying to get something up and shared quickly. The audio is a little jumpy in places, but still fine for getting through the basics.  I know the audiophiles will cringe, but sometimes you have to go with the "good enough" solution, rather than the perfect one. In this case, if I'd pushed for perfect, we wouldn't have a post for today!

Also--you may want to visit the screencast on the Screencast-o-matic site. There you can jump to specific parts of the screencast and add notes and comments.

Getting Started with Wetpaint Screencast

Action Items

  • Go to Wetpaint and set up a basic site for yourself.
  • If you want, you can go ahead and start playing around with it. Or you can wait until tomorrow when I go over some of the basics of how to add content. You really don't have to wait, though, as it really is pretty easy to figure out.
  • Come back here and leave a comment or drop me an email to let me know how it went. I'd also like to hear if the screencast was helpful or not and any questions you may have.

In tomorrow's post, we'll start to actually build your content, so be sure you have a few pages of stuff you'd like to put into your site to get started.


Building Your Free Nonprofit Site with Wetpaint Two: What Other Organizations Are Doing

Build_with_wetpaint Continuing this week's series on how you can build a free website for your nonprofit using Wetpaint, today's post is going to give you a guided tour of some sites that other organizations have created. I'm hoping that by showing you how it's already being done, you'll start to see the possibilities for your own site.

Before we get started, though, in case you need convincing that your website is important, take a look at this post from The Agitator. Note, too, that using your site to create an interactive community is a key take-away and one that a few of the organizations in the examples below are addressing. Remember this info as you go through the examples.

Nonprofit Rules
The first stop on our tour is Nonprofit Rules, a website example that's probably the closest to our traditional view of an organizational website. As you can see from the graphic, it includes:

  • A customized banner at the top.
  • Basic site navigation on the left
  • Use of tables to set up columns on the site. This is a feature that is available through the edit menu in Wetpaint.

Nonprofit_rules_1_3  

 

If you scroll to the bottom of the home page, you'll see a few other features:

  • Visitors can leave comments on any page in the site, so Nonprofit Rules can use a page to also ask questions or for feedback.
  • Nonprofit Rules can reply to visitor comments to engage in a two-way conversation with visitors.
  • They can also include attachments to any page in the site. So for your organization, for example, this can mean uploading a brochure that is available for visitors to download.

Nonprofit_rules_2

The Nonprofit Rules site is a good example of a site that is primarily controlled by the organization. Visitors can comment and ask questions, but they aren't actually contributing to the creation of the site. For many nonprofits, this will be the preferred mode of operation, although there are some other options, as you'll see in the next two examples.

WikiFido
The next site on our tour is WikiFido. This site is more of a community-operated website and is closer to the collaborative vision of using a wiki to develop site content with other people.  You'll see that they include:

  • A banner that is a combination of a Wetpaint design template (the bubble motif) and their own WikiFido logo. Not super fancy, but it still looks decent.
  • The ability for members to "join" the site. This means they can get automatic RSS updates when the site is updated. (Learn more about RSS here.) They can also contribute to those pages that the site organizers have set up for that.
  • A "locked" front page--With Wetpaint, you can decide which pages can be added to by visitors and which can't. This gives you some flexibility and the opportunity to be creative in setting up pages that invite reader participation. So the Home page is locked and can only be edited by the site administrators. But members can also create pages to feature their own doggy friends.

Wikifido1

Further down on the home page, you can see how the WikiFido creators invite visitor participation with polls, invitations for reader comments and opportunities for activism on behalf of their cause. You can also see how there is a focus on creating a community of dog-lovers who support dog rescue, not on raising money or reporting on specific events. Wikifido2

Like Nonprofit Rules, WikiFido also allows for comments on each page and attachments can be included as well. They also use the table layout, like Nonprofit Rules, to segment parts of their home page and make extensive use of photos to further attract readers to the cause. Who wouldn't love these cute little dogs and want to do something to help?

WikiCancer
The last site on our tour is WikiCancer, a cancer support site. It's set-up is very similar to the WikiFido site, but has a couple of additional features I want to highlight. The graphic also shows you one of the downsides of Wetpaint--advertisements.

As you can see from the graphic below, WikiCancer uses another interactive feature--a page where visitors are invited to respond to a "Featured Question." They also have RSS feeds set up on their site. The "feeds" are automatically pulling updated news stories from another cancer-related site so that as that news is updated, it is also updating on the WikiCancer site.

The one downside to Wetpaint that you can see in this graphic is that advertisements will appear on each page of your site. This is what keeps Wetpaint free for your use though, so it's something you'll have to live with.

Wikicancer2

One other thing that you can't see in these graphics is that both WikiFido and WikiCancer are using their own domain names, rather than a Wetpaint domain name. I'll show you on Friday how you can set up this option for your own site.

Action Items

Now that you've seen a snapshot of three nonprofit sites created through Wetpaint, here's your homework for today:

  • Visit each of the sites and go through several pages.
  • Make a list of the features that you like and that you'd like to include in your own site.
  • Make a list of the features that you don't like and that you want to make sure you don't include.
  • Come up with a list of questions you may have about the different features, including any features that you'd like to have but aren't sure you can add with Wetpaint. Then email me or leave me a note in comments so that I can address any questions you may have as we finish out the week.
  • Keep working on the content you want to include in your own site. You'll need it for Thursday.

Up tomorrow, I'll have a screencast that will show you how to get started with Wetpaint.


Building Your Free Nonprofit Site with Wetpaint Part One: Why a Wiki Makes Sense

Build_with_wetpaint_4 This week I'm helping Sallie Owen and her intrepid group of small nonprofits look at how to use Wetpaint to build a free website.

Today I'm going to start by exploring why I think a wiki can work as an organizational website and why I think Wetpaint is a good option for nonprofits that want to go this route.

Let me first say, though, that there are other options that can work, too, including using a blogging platform like Wordpress or other site-building resources like Weebly. My goal with this series is really to show just one of the ways that nonprofits can build a site for free. So let's get started.

What is a "Wiki"?
Basically a wiki is a piece of software, either online or stored on your organization's server, that allows anyone to easily create and edit web pages. If you know how to create and edit a word processing document, then you're more than halfway toward having the skills to create a wiki.

Why Use a Wiki to Build Your Website?
The vast majority of nonprofit organizations are tiny outfits, run by people who believe in a cause, but who don't necessarily have a lot of technological savvy. They also don't have a ton of resources so for many of them, getting online may just be a dream. It's a dream they need to make reality though because in a web-enabled world, you need to have a website.

Using a wiki to put together your website is what I'd call a "good enough" solution. Unlike a site you build with the "professionals" you'll have less control over the look of your site and will have less ability to optimize it for search engines. But for most nonprofits, especially really small ones, "good enough" is great, especially if it means the difference between having a website and not having one. There's no question that you need to be online, so if a wiki is what gets you there, then I say "go for it."

A couple of other reasons why I think a wiki can be a good choice for building your site:

  • Easy to set up and update--Wikis are really easy to use and require minimal technological expertise. Because of their ease of use, this also makes them easy to update because you don't have to rely on your "web guy" to do the updates for you.
  • Built-in Two-Way Communication--As you'll see, wikis have built-in comment features, which means that you can get immediate and ongoing feedback from site visitors, something that many web citizens are increasingly expecting from any site they visit.

Why Wetpaint?
So you've decided on a wiki. Why use Wetpaint?

I've played around with a lot of wikis and ultimately I've come to believe that Wetpaint offers the best bang for your buck. More accurately, it gives you the right set of features for free.

  • Design Done for You--One of the major costs of a website lies in the design of its look. Of course, you could design it yourself, but then we could be talking one ugly site. A Wetpaint wiki does the design work for you, with a number of nice templates from which you can choose. You can still "personalize" them for your organization with your own banner and graphics, but a lot of the basic design is already done for you with the templates.
  • Use Your Own Domain Name--A nice free option offered by Wetpaint is the use of your own domain. So instead of "www.mynonprofit.wetpaint.com" you can have "www.mynonprofit.org." I haven't seen this option with any other wiki packages and the fact that it's free is even better.
  • Easy Integration with Google Analytics-- You'll want to use Analytics to track trends, monitor traffic, etc., but you won't want the hassle of trying to figure out how to put it on your site. Wetpaint not only gives you the option (unlike other wikis), it also makes it pretty simple to set up.
  • Good Privacy Controls--For a public website, privacy controls are not as big a deal. But one benefit of a Wetpaint wiki is that it lets you keep your wiki completely private if you'd like and doesn't charge for the privilege. This can be a nice option if you want to use a wiki for your board minutes and materials or for staff information, for example.

What About Downsides?
Like any free solution to a technology problem, there are some downsides to using Wetpaint. I've already mentioned a few--less design control and less ability to optimize your site so that search engines can find it easily. Another downside is ads.

Wetpaint is a money-making proposition, so they have to get their bucks from someplace. To keep it free for your use, they sell advertisements, which means that when visitors come to your site, they'll find Google AdSense ads related to keywords in your site. For most organizations, I think this is probably more of a nuisance than anything. A lot of people just filter out the ads and don't even really notice them. But you may want to put some kind of disclaimer on your site indicating that the ads are not put there by your organization if you're worried that people might associate them with your nonprofit. 

The Bottom Line
I think that a Wetpaint wiki is a more than viable option for building a nonprofit site. It won't have all the bells and whistles of a "professional" site, and it will have those pesky ads, but it's a "good enough" solution that I think offers a lot of benefits for organizations, particularly smaller nonprofits.

Action Items
Today's action item is simple--start thinking about what you want to include in your Wetpaint website. If you have some materials already written up, begin to gather them together. If you don't, start thinking about what you want to include.  Later in the week you'll want these materials handy so you can start filling in the content for your own site.

Coming up tomorrow--I'll give you a tour of a few Wetpaint sites so you can get an idea of how other organizations are using Wetpaint to build an online presence for themselves.