Net Gain: The Whys and Wheres of the Web: If You Build It, Will They Come?

Jennifer Gauck
June 1, 1998

Staking a place on the World Wide Web is becoming more than a hi-tech luxury for agencies that deal with youth and youth issues. Web pages are helping organizations get out their messages and stay in the loop. As more youth workers, researchers, parents and kids search for information on the Internet, an agency that does not have a Web site may simply remain undiscovered.

The cost of developing a Web site, however, can be more than the benefits are worth, especially for a nonprofit with few resources. Web site designers charge from $10 to more than $20 an hour for their services, and Web sites are not built in a day. But there are actually several ways to build a site for free or to at least keep down costs.

Get a Free Web Page

Whole Earth Networks is a company that actually does build sites for free if you’re a qualified nonprofit. Call (415) 281-6500 or e-mail staffsg@wenet.net for an application. Another organization that provides free Web sites is YouthTree USA. Visit their site for complete information: www.youthtreeusa.com. KidsCampaigns (www.kidscampaign.org) builds free sites for members of its affiliate the Coalition for America’s Children (www.usakids.org); membership fees are low and based on a sliding scale.

Catch a Break as a Nonprofit

Some Web design firms will build a site at a substantial discount for nonprofits. Most of these are local service providers, so it’s best to search specific city or community site guides (like local.yahoo.com/local) or peruse ads in your local paper. One D.C.-based company that does this is Camille Consulting. Call (202) 269-3710 or e-mail camille@patriot.net (their Web site address is camillecg.com, but it’s not very informative). Another possibility lies in for-profits’ philanthropic arms: Microsoft, for example, just made a hefty service donation to the Casanet Web site (www.casanet.org). Find a specific company’s site and look around for the “community outreach” page or something similar. Many companies can be found by simply typing in the company name followed by “.com.” Apple Computers, for example, is at www.apple.com.

Do It Yourself

Sound scary? Web design is simple once you understand the underlying concepts. While building a complex site with fancy, flaming logos and interactive quizzes requires expertise, building a simple site to convey information is easy. A lot of places offer Web design classes (for about $200) that will equip you with the necessary knowledge. In Washington, D.C., TJPA and Associates (www.tjpa.com) train participants at all levels of expertise. Check the ads in your local paper and search on-line to find similar associations in your area. Reading an Internet design magazine here and there won’t hurt either. While most of the high-tech articles are unreadable to the lay person, there’s an occasional story on what makes a Web site user-friendly.

Hire a College Student

Many college students, eager to pad a resume or gain work experience, will gladly work at an organization for free or for a modest stipend. Often they will know how to implement the technical part of a Web page, even if they’re not computer science majors, because they learned it in school or from a friend. Use this to your advantage. It may take more time than hiring a professional, but it is very cost effective.


Gauck, Jennifer and Patrick Boyle. "Net Gain: The Whys and Wheres of the Web: If You Build It, Will They Come?" Youth Today, June 1998, p. 9.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.

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