Inside SSF: Keeping Costs Low



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Keeping Costs Low

As a non-profit organization funded solely by charitable donations, one of the first factors we consider when making any decision is cost. We strive to keep our overhead expenses as low as possible so that recipients of our scholarship get every penny possible. Throughout this post, I will discuss how we at SSF keep our operating costs to a minimum, and what tools we use to get the most out of our donations!

Donation Processing

In order to keep as much of our donations as we can, we use a few different platforms to accept donations.

First off, on we have a donation form on our website powered by Donorbox. Using this platform is free for your first $1000 processed per month, which is more than enough for our needs. The only overhead cost is Stripe’s discounted fee for non-profits, which is the lowest rates we were able to find. Donorbox uses Stripe to process its payments.

Additionally, we’ve found that Facebook fundraisers have a great engagement rate, and with $0 in any sort of fees, it’s a perfect solution for small and large non-profits alike!

Communication Platforms

In order to communicate and track our tasks, we use a variety of free tools!

Messaging

First off, for everyday communications and general chatting, we use a platform known as Discord.

Though it’s designed for use within the gaming community, many businesses and organization have recognized the value of its many features, such as screen sharing, group voice and text chats, easily configurable user permissions and roles, and the ability to make multiple “channels” or chats for users based on topic, which is why it’s our main communication platform.

Email

When communicating with those outside of the organization, we like to use our custom email addresses. For example, we have users email us at help@sebsscholarship.org. With our free DreamHost hosting package, we were given unlimited email accounts with unlimited storage. We’ll discuss the details of this package more in the following sections.

Additionally, Gmail also has great business email solutions.

Task Management and Organization

To ensure that everyone is on the same page and is aware of all updates to specific tasks, we use a website know as Trello. Combined with Google Drive, Trello makes it easy to track a task’s progress as well as attach relevant files and carry on discussions related to the task.

Our Website

In today’s world, one of the most critical assets for any organization is their website. This is the face of the organization and must not only look nice, but also be easily navigable for your users. Hiring a developer to build the site may costs thousands of dollars, and site maintenance will likely end up costing more than the initial cost over time. Below are some tips for building your site for a low cost.

Look for Non-profit Hosting Discounts

To make your website available to your audience, you’ll need to use a hosting provider. At SSF, we use DreamHost’s free shared hosting plan for non-profits which allows us to host our website sebsscholarship.org as well as our test sites for free!

Additionally, GitHub allows you to host a website through GitHub Pages for free as well. We use this service to host our SSF Blog and our Identification Assignment Tool. This service is great, however accepting payments through the service is against its Terms and Conditions, which is why we use DreamHost for our main website.

Finding a Web Developer

Having an in-house developer will definitely help any organization keep their operating costs low, especially if your organization relies on volunteer work. For a simple website, you don’t need a software engineer, just someone that’s experienced in HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

At SSF, we have an in-house developer who wrote all of our different websites. The developer is actually a volunteer and updates the site as they are able. That being said, not everyone knows a developer willing to do volunteer work, but it’s worth seeing if anyone is interested.

Can’t find a developer? There are website generators and templates available, however these usually come with a cost. This may be the easiest thing for your organization, but you will be limited to what the generator or template is capable of, and you may not have much control over the look or structure of your site.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel When Making Your Site

When building your website, it’s okay to use pre-made templates. In fact, it can save hundreds of hours of development. Just be aware many templates have a fee for commercial use, but this is often worth the price.

For the SSF Blog, we use an open-source software called Jekyll to build our website based on a series of templates. To make a new post, we just write the post’s main content in a simplified code known as Markdown which allows us to make posts without having to know web development.

Jekyll also allows you to use plenty of freely available templates for your site, so you can get started making posts without even having to code your own templates!

Buying a Domain

One of the most important steps to making a website is to have a recognizable domain. For example, we own the domain sebsscholarship.org. Purchasing a domain name is very easy! We got our domain name for only $12 a year from Google Domains.

An alternative solution is to get a domain for free from DreamHost with the purchase of a website hosting package. Your website will need to be hosted somewhere for others to access, so bundling may make more sense for your organization. We are provided a free domain for one year with our non-profit discount.

Is the domain you want already taken? At this point, the easiest solution is to try to find an alternate domain name. If you’re really set on having a specific domain name, you’ll have to reach out to the domain’s owner and negotiate a price with them. You can use a third-party to help broker the deal, but you can think of the process like trying to buy someone’s house that isn’t for-sale. You might get lucky though and grab a deal!

Summary

By using free and open source tools, we’re able to keep our operating costs to a minimum despite the amount of resources we host online. By implementing all the steps above, we’ve managed to get our total costs for our technology down to only $12 per year total! Looking for non-profit discounts and searching for open source tools can be a huge payoff for any non-profit needing to save some money!


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Have any questions you'd like to ask, requests for articles, or feedback? Email us at blog@sebsscholarship.org.

Written by Levi Muniz on May 04, 2020