So you want to make a charity website? Great idea!
With the ubiquity of the internet, the increasing speed of wireless connections like 4G and WiFi, and the massive amount of ways to spread the word, there has never been a better time to launch an online charity.
I started BeanBeanBean.com in 2017 after being laid off from my job as a user interface designer. Since then, this site has helped supply over 15,000 meals – all while educating almost 150,000 students! And while I still have a lot to learn myself, I'd like to provide some tips for any aspiring social entrepreneur:
Most businesses aren't profitable right out the door. Your charity will likely be no different. In fact, BeanBeanBean took over a year before the revenue from advertising began to match the cost of donations.
You might be asking: What about user donations? What about corporate sponsors? While both of these are valid methods of funding a charity website, they are not very effective early on.
That's because people are wary of donating to new and possibly untrustworthy websites. Not to mention that a substantial userbase is a prerequisite for any corporate sponsor to be interested.
Estimate the time it will take to become profitable, and then be prepared to foot the bill out-of-pocket until then.
Making money with advertising is tough, but likely a necessity for any web-based charity. The trick here is to maximize revenue while minimizing annoyingness.
My recommendation is to avoid pop-ups, pop-unders, or any ads that appear scammy or focus on adult content. While these types of ads will offer a greater payout, it will hurt the longterm reputation of your site – as well as limiting the types of users who can visit it. I've had several emails from teachers thanking me for the unobtrusive ads on BeanBeanBean, stating it as a primary reason for using this website as opposed to others.
Also, whenever testing out a new advertising network, always makes sure to run a website speed test. I use Pingdom for this purpose. I've had to opt out of several high-paying networks just because they slowed my site speed down to a crawl.
When you're just getting started out, don't worry about finding an attorney and stressing over things like trademarks and copyrights. Just start making your project and adjust your needs over time.
You're also not a big soulless corporation – so don't act like it! Make your website personal. Give it a unique touch. Try something weird.
I'm a big proponent of for-profit charitable organizations. While your profits are taxed and users' donations are not tax-deductible, you are given much more freedom to do as you choose. Your startup costs are significantly lower and your paperwork burden is greatly reduced – meaning you can spend more time helping, and less time dealing with the headache of bureaucracy.
Plus, it's the perfect win-win. The more your organization grows, the more people are helped – and the more financially stable you become. As long as you're completely transparent about how much money is being spent on charitable causes (and you aren't attempting to redirect an unfair share to yourself), this is a completely viable and very rewarding type of business to pursue.
Article by Ethan Dirks, creator of BeanBeanBean