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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Google Sites - Professional Presence On No Budget!

Often if you need something “extra” there is no “extra” money around to pay for it. This is especially true of community-based non-profit organizations, and I have been hanging around with several of them these past few months.

One of the areas of need is setting up a website and using it to collect information or receive money. From my perspective, making a potential donor go to the trouble of writing a check and mailing it is asking a lot. Asking a potential volunteer to send you an e-mail message, especially when you need to know specific things, is also problematic. Being able to do this with an on line form is so much smarter.

Google Sites has developed an easy-to-use platform for website design. You can incorporate things such as forms (through Google Docs) and you can collect money (using Google Checkout). Except for the discount on Google Checkout, this is all absolutely free!

Here are links to three websites that I personally set up over the past several months: is my latest project designed to replace an existing website: was used to register and manage about 100 volunteers for the fabulous celebration on New Year’s Eve in Alexandria. They have a real nice public site (, but needed special information for their volunteers. So we just linked to this from their main site. This is the first site I ever worked on and it is still evolving. But now, thanks to the Google Sites platform, others can make changes and add content. We manage the parade from this site and several other major events. It isn’t necessarily pretty, but it is very functional.

You, too, can do this stuff; and you don’t have to go through a big learning curve or take a lot of time either. You can set up what you think looks good, get feedback from colleagues and friends, make corrections, and make your site something special. The FNA Volunteers site took three or four hours, the others took longer because of the content. Now you don’t have to be a slave to an IT person or a web designer (and if you have the resources, once you get a site the way you like, you can turn it over to someone else to “pretty it up”). C’est ça!


Unknown said...


What comes through in your recounting of the adventures of web design is you were able to fulfill the needs of your organization using powerful tools without incurring cost AND you learned more about the development of a site first hand.

This knowledge will benefit the planning and execution of future pages and modifications to meet changing needs.

Before discovering the platform and tools, it would require finding a web designed (or a teenager) to work up a site and to maintain it. How many tweaks and modifications were needed in the beginning to actually get the site you envisioned? How long to get updates? ow many are skipped because of time or money? Now you can do it in an hour or two over the weekend.

Good stories - great results!

-- Jack

Thoughthebrowser said...

In The Mythical ManMonth Rick Brooks wrote, "Software is the ultimate artform, you can make anything!" Joe, not only have you made it, but you can go back and improve when you think of something more. Cool!

Unknown said...

I took Dick's advice and jumped into Google Apps. I admit I need the help of a webmaster to get started but once the basic formatting was established I was able to design and edit all the content on the site. It's a little overly basic for the established web designer but I think that worked in my favor.

The whole project took 2 weeks and cost me zero dollars! My webmaster said the set up was so easy, he couldn't find it in his heart to charge me.

Please visit the beta site at:

Julie Perlmutter

Kyle Horst said...

You have done some great work here and I appreciate you promoting the use of Google Sites. If you have an eye for graphics you can make some very appealing Google Sites.