Whether you have a well-established charity, or a brand new non-profit organisation, setting up a website is great for exposure. The first step in getting started is to purchase a domain name, and then you can get on with the exciting part – your website build!

We’re going to run through the basics of a domain name, how charity domain names came about, and how to choose the perfect domain name for your charity.

What is a domain name and why do you need one?

A domain name is the part of a URL that your users will need when they search for your site. To help boost brand identity, we recommend that your domain and charity name are similar, if not exactly the same. This is so it’s easier for users to associate your domain with your charity name. In turn, this will make it easier for be searched for, too.

A brief history of .org domains

Before we dive into charity domain names and our recommended best practices of registering one, it’s important to know where .org domains came from and how this evolved over time.

The .org domain extension was introduced in 1985 and is still a popular choice among numerous domains like .com, .net, .edu, and .gov.  The restrictions on who could register .org domains were loosened in 1995 – meaning for-profit businesses could register a .org domain too. Fortunately, it still has a reputation of being a not-for-profit domain extension.

Later on came the introduction of .ong and .ngo top-level domains in 2015, by Public Interest Registry (the same firm that manages the .org domain). The intent behind .ong and .ngo was to provide domain name options specifically for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The .ong domain stands for "organisation non-governmental", while .ngo stands for "non-governmental organisation.".

These new domain extensions were created to complement the existing .org domain and give NGOs more options for their online identities. The .org domain is open to any type of organisation, while .ong and .ngo are specifically for NGOs.

Who can register .ong and .ngo domains?

The key difference between .ong and .ngo is who is eligible to register domains:

  • .ong domains are restricted to NGOs. To register a .ong domain, a charity must exclusively be non-profit, non-governmental, and work in the public interest.
  • .ngo domains are available to non-governmental organisations as well. However, they are also open to government entities and hybrid partnerships between governments, companies and NGOs.

How to pick a domain name for your charity

The single best way to develop your charity’s presence online is to set up a website. This can seem daunting at first, but trust us, it’ll pay off. Nothing goes better with a website than a domain name, and you literally can’t set up your website without one – so there’s that too. But how do you pick a domain name for your charity?

1. Use your charity’s name

Choosing a domain name is not as tricky as it sounds, especially if your charity already has a registered name. We spoke about it briefly before, but it’s important to secure the domain name that matches your charity name. Not only does this signify to searchers that it’s your site, but it helps users find you time and time again.

The easiest way to see if the domain you want is available, is to use a domain name search tool. In the event that your desired domain name has already been taken, there are ways to find out who owns it. If you want to know more about this take a look at our previous post ‘how to find out who owns a domain’.

2. Pick a domain extension

A domain extension, or a top-level domain, is the end part of a domain name. For example in our domain www.fasthosts.co.uk, .co.uk is the TLD. And this is a very important part of your domain name. There are multiple different types of domains and each can aid you in a different way.

When it comes to picking a TLD for your charity domain, you have a few more options to choose from. There are actually dedicated TLDs made specifically for non-profit organisations, and these are a great way to show what your business is all about. The most popular top-level domain used by charities is .org. As a generic TLD, .org has long been a favourite for charitable organisations. For instance, the Cancer Research domain looks like this cancerresearchuk.org – using the .org gTLD.

If you want to go one step further, and show users that you’re based in the UK, .org.uk is another great option. It is also used by some big UK charities such as Macmillan, the BHF, and Marie Curie to name a few.

Other charity domain TLDs include:

  • .charity
  • .npo (non-profit organisation)
  • .ngo (non-governmental organisation)
  • .ong (an alternative to .ngo)

3. Register your domain name

Finally, in order to set up your domain, you’ll need to go through a domain provider. There are lots of providers available on the market. The one you choose will depend on your budget, and if you want any other packages alongside your domain name such as WordPress Hosting. Starting prices for domains can be as little as £1, and it only takes around five minutes to get one set up. Overall, the process of registering a domain name is easier than ever, and there's nothing stopping you from getting started right away.

Things to consider for your charity domain

Choosing the perfect domain name for your charity or not-for-profit is an important decision. Although our domain naming guide covers everything you need to know, here are some tips on how to select an effective charity domain name.

1. Make your name reflect your mission statement

Your domain should communicate, or clearly reflect your mission, values and/or cause. To do this, come up with keywords and phrases that make sense for what you’re raising awareness about. With this, you can make your domain name memorable and help communicate what you do.

2. Make your charity name memorable

Keep your domain name short, simple, and easy to spell. Avoid complicated words or random letter combinations. Stick to 1-3 commonly spelled words that flow together nicely (this may involve some experimenting).

3. Include relevant keywords

Work keywords like your location, cause, or target audience into your domain. This helps with SEO and makes your site easy to find.

4. Avoid hyphens and numbers

Domains with hyphens or numbers can be hard to communicate when spoken aloud. They may also make your site seem less professional. Plus, if you use numbers, people may not know if they need to use letters or digits. Only use hyphens if necessary, or it makes sense to.

5. Ensure you have an SSL certificate

Get an SSL certificate installed on your domain. Fortunately, our Web Hosting packages come with one for free – so you won’t have to pay extra. SSL certificates encrypt the connection between your website and visitors, allowing for secure transmission of data, as well as showing trust and legitimacy. Even if you don’t plan on having a shopping functionality on your website, it still communicates with the user that your site is secure.

Now you know how to pick a domain name for your charity, why not register one today? If you need any assistance with your website build, we can help with that too! If you want to talk through your options, our sales team is more than happy to help.