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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 marc@fundraisingcoach.com.]

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