Q: Marc, I’m embarrassed to admit that we don’t yet have a website. But do you have any advice about choosing a domain name?
A: Great question! Getting a memorable domain name is a very important step in online fundraising. All fundraising, really. Donors often check out an organization’s website before making a gift. So putting thought into your domain name can help you raise more money.
Generally, of course, you’ll want to choose the name of your nonprofit. But here are some things to think about as you decide.
- Keep it simple
Try saying it aloud. Pretend you’re on a conference call and you say, “Hi, this is [your name] from [your website].”
Can all the other callers remember it right away? Or do you need to explain anything?
Your domain name is your best advertising sound bite, so make it work for you.
- Try to avoid repeated letters that end one word and start the next
For instance, if your name were Mel and you gave salads to the homeless, naming your organization “Mel’s Salads” makes great sense. It looks fine in print. It’s easy to remember.
But www.melssalads.org can make for a confusing web domain. Those repeated “s”‘s can make it hard for people to enter the web name correctly into a browser. It might be better to try something like www.saladsbymel.org or something quirky like www.tossedbutnotforgotten.org
- Avoid numbers
This goes with rule number one. Numbers in a name–“4” instead of “for”–can look cute in a domain name. But if you were being interviewed and gave your website as “www.salads4you.org,” you’d probably feel compelled to explain that it’s the number not the word.
Or the interviewer might say “F-o-r?” Then you’d say, “No ‘four’ but the number not spelled out…”
People would be more apt to remember “confusion” rather than your mission. Not good.
- Try to get the “.com” name
As a nonprofit, you’ll want the “.org,” but go ahead and get the the .com too. No matter how familiar .org may be, people still default to .com when typing in a web address. So help them find you!
While you’re at it, try getting all three .com, .org, and .net. Wish I’d done that for FundraisingCoach.com! The other two are now taken.
These extensions (.com, .org, and .net) have a lot more credibility with people than .info or .me or .us do. On the web, credibility is essential. So you might as well start strong.
- Register other web names
Web domains are cheap. So registering multiple names can be a cost effective way to protect your web presence. One great strategy is to register possible common misspellings of your web address just to make sure people get to their site.
For instance, many people mistakenly spell my last name with two “t’s.” So in addition to MarcPitman.com, I’ve registered MarcPittman.com.
I have a blast registering many other names too, things that sound fun or might be domains I can use at some point. If you think of a tag line for your organization, or a motto, or anything else, it can be useful to register it as a domain, just in case you’ll want to use it in the future.
BONUS: Once you’ve registered your URL, try writing it with “camel back” or “mixed-case” spelling. For instance, instead of www.fundraisingcoach.com, I usually write www.FundraisingCoach.com. The first is elegant in symmetry. The lower case letters can make it look almost sleek.
But the second is generally easier for people to remember. What would you prefer? To look good? Or to have people remember your site?
Those are my tips. Use the comments below to make your suggestions.
[Do you have a question about nonprofits or fundraising that you’d like considered for Question Marc? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Marc – thanks for this great post.
I am working on redesigning a website that was outdated and had a difficult to spell, hard to grasp URL.
I had settled on a new URL, but the .com, .net. and .org of the URL were all taken. Do you think purchasing a .us is going to be problematic?
As you say, it has less “credibility,” but I’d rather not sacrifice the URL I have strung together, based on some research I have done into how people know, talk about, and refer to the organization.
Does anyone have any thoughts?
I’m not a huge fan of .us websites.
One trick is to use “the” or “a” or “thereal” in front of what you were intending to use.
But from the sounds of it…you don’t have that option, do you?
Nice simple overview Marc. For me using .org or .org.local tells people you are a charity. Although there are non charities using it as well. Our org has .co.nz which was an oversight by the person who bought them ages ago. It does not help to tell the story. And first impressions count. So .us may be great to show patriotic intent, Kiwi’s are proud of .co.nz.
I find the .US tld is great for making short and sweet URLs, which are priceless if you are trying to type a URL on a cell phone.
While this domain is really under-utilized, it does serve as a good example: BarHarborUSA.com looks great on my business card, but if you’re typing on a Motorola V series phone bhme.us will get you to the same web page faster.
Jay, great addition to the conversation!
Having an easy-to-type name for mobile users is a great idea. Especially if your site is mobile-browser friendly!
I have been looking for weeks for domain names that would work for my two organizations. All are taken.
The ones I came up with right away are:
1) Nancy’s Mission – a Sanctuary for animals and children. (Mostly dogs and cats, but also goat, hens, etc.) I desire to foster and adopt as many children and animals as God intends for me. No more. No less.
2) Adopt Now – a central location for those interested in adopting children and animals.
There are so many agencies, good and bad, home study, advice, and especially financial help such as ShowHope.org and BothHands.org. I keep finding more and more. There are also scams that I want to earn people about. I want this to be a user friendly one stop place to begin there search.
I also would love for it to be a foundation to raise funds to send to these organizations. Rescues have a hard time getting started.
I dream of helping people who have huge hearts. I have met so many like me that desire to adopt and foster many children and animals, but do not have the funds. I don’t know if I can do much with this one. It is kind of separate from Adopt Now.
AdoptNow.org is owned by a man who owns over 3,000 names who runs an orphanage in Kenya. It is $7,499. I have been told to make an offer of $1000, but I really don’t want to.
Any advice, ideas, or domain names would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Nancy: AdoptNow is sort of plain. It doesn’t stand out. Nancy’s List would stand out more than Adopt Now.
Just checked. That is taken. But NancysLists.com isn’t. That could play off the “Angies List” idea of vetted, trusted resources.
But you could ask others too: what do you think when you hear of my passion? What words or pictures come to mind?
In another search, PleaseAdoptMeNow.com seems to be available…
The .com domain is taken but the .org is available. Would you suggest I go ahead and take the .org or would it be better to rename the website totally?
Great question. The .org is a fine choice…but many will likely type .com by habit.
It could be good to play around with other names. Who knows, you may discover a name you like even more!