There’s a lot of generosity in tech community to non-profits, and sometimes it’s a little difficult to put all the items together. Even if you have a $5000 of free compute resources from a cloud provider, that doesn’t actually translate into a website or backups or anything with actual mission value to a non-profit without some technical expertise.
So here’s my offer. If you’re a 501(c)3 non-profit in the United States and need a little help getting things off the ground reach out to me and I’ll help tie together a basic package of completely free tech resources together. You can give me the documentation, I’ll get you a basic website and email together to get you off the ground.
Caveats and Warnings
You will need a magic typewriter letter
First off the magic piece of paper that makes this all go round is an IRS determination letter. You have one, you can get free stuff. If you don’t, you can’t get free stuff.
The IRS determination letter usually comes after you file a huge pain in the butt called the IRS form 1023, and looks like something still typed by hand from a 1960’s typewriter, but it’s a magic piece of paper. Essentially, while lots of technical organizations have no problem giving away another free seat on a platform which has a marginal cost of basically nothing to them, they care a whole lot if they have to start spending resources determining what charitiable orgs are legitimate and worthwhile to support. And with the IRS form 1023 such a pain to fill out, it’s a pretty decent shorthand for them to evaluate. If you’re willing to spend the time and able to convince the IRS that you should be a non-profit, then it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not secretly a fly-by-night squirrel timeshare con.
But you may say; The IRS said “Churches that meet the requirements of IRC section 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS.”
Great, you’re totally right. That doesn’t mean that these tech companies have to give you anything. They want to see the letter.
But you may say; my political direct action group is doing way more good for the world than any of those other sham 501(c)3s!
Great, you’re probably right. That doesn’t mean that these tech companies have to give you anything. They want to see the letter.
But you say, that’s such a stupid hassle for a brand new non-profit getting off the ground!
Great, you’re right. And that might mean that the best thing for your organization to do is get a free @gmail.com account and start serving people with imperfect tech. Many great non-profits started out without a website, email, or live video streaming. Particularly if you’re just starting to explore the need that you’re thinking needs to be met, you should explore that space before and get crisp on your mission before you worry about getting an official website.
You will need to support the technology
Here’s the other thing. I’m excited about giving new (or new to free technology) non-profits a push for a running start. I’m not excited about being a free IT guy for eternity. I’ll get you a domain, a website and email up and running, which is most of the hard part. When it comes to adding new email accounts, adding a photo to a website or making an email newsletter you’ll have to take care of that internal to your org.
To use the pizza as a service metaphor in tech; tech companies will give you free ingredients, I’ll make that into pizzas for you, but you’ll need to throw it into the oven yourself. I’m a one person Papa Murphy’s take and bake for technology, not a full service restaurant.
Alright, we on the same page? Here’s what I can help throw together. Or just follow these links and do them yourself.
The Non-Profit Package I’ll Help With
You got your magic letter? Alright, let’s go!
My first step is to setup an account with you at TechSoup. They’re a central clearing house for a bunch of other discountet things that you might find useful down the line, like discounted mobile internet hotspots for internet access in the field or discounts on QuickBooks for accounting at home.
For this, however, we want them as they’re the non-profit verification partner for
Email (and calendars, video, filestorage, and a billion other things): G-Suite for Non-Profits
You have a @gmail.com email account (or know other people that do)? You know how that also let’s them store things in Google Drive, have a YouTube channel, manage a calendar, write documents and a billion things? That’s G-Suite, except it also means your email addresses are [email protected] (or whatever the domain is) rather than @gmail.com
Domain Registration: Dreamhost
Dreamhost offers a free shared hosting plan for non-profits, which includes a single free domain registration per year.
Now when it comes to websites, there’s more than a few free options.
Google Sites at a custom domain - If your needs aren’t complex, and you just need something to get out information, a contact form, maybe a few blogs posts Google Sites is a quick and low maintenance website. Google does all of the heavy lifting; making a shiny template that works on mobile devices, drag and drop interface, updates, managing heavy load if you have an unexpected influx of traffic. I don’t do shiny things well myself, and appreciate Google making it fairly simple. If you have concerns about your organization’s technical ability to maintain a website after I launch you, Google Sites is the simplest to maintain and update. It’s set and forget.
Wordpress at Dreamhost - If you need to do whiz bang kinds of things then using the shared hosting plan at Dreamhost is an option. Note that while Wordpress is the most common site management on the internet, it’s also the most attacked. If you choose this, you’ll need to be sure to taking backups, installing security updates, and troubleshooting compatibiliity issues with plugins that you don’t with Google Sites. You also need to do more to monitor load and upgrade to a larger hosting plan down the line if you have too much load. More flexibility and also more work.
GitHub Pages - GitHub Pages is free. I use it for this blog, and managing the website for a local security conference. Free for anyone, and it’s rendered into static files which makes it much faster to load (no processing on the server side) and much harder to hack (no server side processing to hijack). It does take a learning curve and isn’t drag and drop editing. Works great even on mobile devices. If this was just a placeholder for basic info, it’s exactly what I’d spin up for something quick and simple but it means you’ll need to learn some basic git command and markdown formatting. If both of those are totally new to you, I’d probably recommend one of the other two options above.
So how do I contact you to hit up?
Fill out this form below and I’ll get back to you