A Guide to Web Hosting for Nonprofits in 2018
Guide updated: September 2018
If you’re running a nonprofit and need hosting for your website, you’re probably wondering things like “Can I get free nonprofit web hosting somewhere?” or “How much will web hosting cost if I have to pay for it? Is it worth it?” This page was created to help answer questions like that and more! As a 10+ year veteran in the Internet and web design space, I’ve worked with almost all of the major hosting companies and have a unique, expert perspective on web hosting in general.
One quick thing: before we jump into this awesome guide to nonprofit web hosting, it’s important to note that this page does contain affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase web hosting from one of the companies on this page, I may receive a modest commission. This doesn’t affect my recommendations in any way at all—in fact, if I don’t like a hosting company, I’ll tell you regardless of any type of incentive (you can read more about that here).
Without further ado, let’s jump right into the subject of nonprofit web hosting and examine a variety of the important issues, companies, and more!
Paid vs Free Web Hosting for Nonprofits—What’s the Best Choice?
This is probably the number one question on most people’s minds when it comes to nonprofit web hosting. Many people who are in charge of a nonprofit or at least in charge of maintaining the website for a nonprofit wonder if there’s a way that they can get free hosting one way or another.
The answer to this question is—yes, you can from some providers, but this usually comes with a catch. For example, the only hosting company that I would even consider recommending that offers truly free hosting for nonprofits is DreamHost.
However, there are some problems associated with this:
- They only offer their lowest tier package for free, which isn’t their WordPress hosting package. You can still host WordPress on it, but it’s not created for WordPress like their actual WordPress hosting
- DreamHost has a terrible management panel. They don’t use cPanel like many other popular hosts and it’s extremely cumbersome to use.
- When it comes to customer service and support, I’ve found DreamHost to be incredibly lacking
So, unfortunately it’s my strong opinion that in the world of web hosting, you tend to really “get what you pay for” and looking for free hosting just isn’t really worth it.
Why is that? Well, mainly because web hosting has become so commoditized over time that the reason it’s hard to find free hosting is because the cost of hosting in general is pretty low. It’s not hard to get a cheap Bluehost plan for $3.95/month or so. Even a top-tier host like WP Engine which is pretty much the best you can get for a WordPress site is only $29/month. Most non-profits, even those that are incredibly small, can afford $5/month for web hosting. And believe me, the support and reliability you get when paying for something is well worth the small expense. So, it’s my strong recommendation that hosting is cheap enough that it’s not really worth the time to search around for free hosting; just find a host that is highly-rated and within your budget, and move on to dealing with more important things!
The Best Web Hosting for Nonprofits—Recommended Providers
The hosting providers below (while not free) are some of my absolute favorites when it comes to reliability, pricing, and support. I currently use all of these companies and I DO NOT recommend junk. To be entirely honest, of all the hosting companies out there—most aren’t that great. There are only a handful of companies that I can truly recommend, and the hosting companies below are some of the best.
Budget option: Bluehost
Bluehost is an excellent hosting company known primarily for their cost-effective yet reliable shared hosting packages. I’ve used them for sites of all shapes and sizes from tiny sites that get very few visitors to sites that get thousands of visitors per day and they’ve been awesome. If you’re running a nonprofit and money is really a concern, Bluehost might be the best choice.
Mid-level option: SiteGround
SiteGround is what I like to call a “top tier shared host” where their pricing is similar to a shared hosting company, but they have the support and server speed of a managed hosting company. They are my absolute favorite “middle ground” provider. Their support has always been super helpful and fast—it’s hard to go wrong with SiteGround. If you’re looking for a web host for your nonprofit site that an upgrade from most shared hosts, it’s hard to beat SiteGround.
Top-end option: WP Engine
If you’re hosting a WordPress site, having managed hosting can make a big difference in terms of the reliability and performance of your site. Because managed WordPress hosts are often built from the ground up specifically for WordPress, they’re often faster and more secure. WP Engine is the most affordable managed WordPress host in my opinion and they’re usually my first choice when looking for premium WordPress hosting. If you need to host a nonprofit website running on WordPress, they are an excellent choice.
Additional Questions to Ask About Nonprofit Web Hosting
In order to help you understand a little bit more about hosting a nonprofit website and what type of hosting might be the best, below are some important questions to ask when looking at different hosting companies.
Are you hosting a WordPress site?
If the answer is yes, then you should consider a hosting company that has expertise in dealing with WordPress. There are a lot of bargain basement companies that offer cheap web hosting, but they usually have awful support. It’s hard to get the message out about your nonprofit and do good in the world when no one can access your website, especially in this day and age. A little bit of money spent on quality hosting goes a long way. Any of the hosts recommended above can do a great job with WordPress, but if you want the best of the best WP Engine is the way to go.
Does your website get a lot of visitors?
If you already have a website hosted somewhere else, it’s important to take a look at how many visitors you get per day, per week, and per month. If your website gets a large amount visitors, it might be worthwhile to consider one of the higher tier hosts like SiteGround or WP Engine to ensure that your site is in less of a “shared” environment so that it can handle the amount of visitors you get. The more robust the infrastructure is of your hosting company and the better they are at managing their resources, the better your site will be for visitors.
Generally speaking, nonprofits don’t get as many visitors to their websites as businesses do, which is why businesses usually opt for small business web hosting that is a little more robust than what nonprofits typically need. However, some nonprofits get quite a bit of publicity, so it’s important to look at how much traffic your website gets when searching for a host. A general rule of thumb is under 500 visitors per day and you’ll be ok on shared hosting or something less expensive like Bluehost. More than that and you might want to move up to something bigger with better caching like SiteGround.
Do you need email hosting for your nonprofit?
Some web hosting companies provide email hosting and some do not. For example, WP Engine doesn’t mess with email because they simply focus on hosting the website and that’s it (which makes them an even better web host). There are companies like Rackspace that can provide cheap email hosting, so if a hosting company doesn’t provide email hosting it’s not a huge deal, but it is a consideration when you’re comparing hosts.
Can I host my nonprofit website in the cloud?
There is actually one very good option for hosting nonprofit websites in the cloud, and that’s Microsoft Azure for Nonprofits. They actually offer $5K/year in Azure credits to qualifying nonprofits which doesn’t just involve hosting but other Azure services too. The main problem with this (and why I still recommend going with one of the other companies mentioned on this page) is that the support for Azure isn’t the same as a shared or managed hosting company. This means that if you aren’t tech savvy with spinning up servers and managing cloud instances, you might be overwhelmed by the Azure platform. Some people might be able to handle this, but many nonprofits operate on a small staff and don’t have the luxury of having someone on staff with the experience to deal with Azure.
Can you afford $5+ per month for hosting?
As mentioned above, you often get when you pay for when it comes to web hosting and a lot of time can be spent looking for free hosting when it would just be easier to sign up for an affordable plan and move other more important business. Bluehost can generally be had, depending upon the term, for $3.95/month or less, and SiteGround isn’t might higher. When it comes to having reliable hosting with reliable support, I’d definitely rather spend a small amount on it and move on to solving bigger and better problems.