Web hosting for nonprofits: free vs cheap options for your site
In this article, I will cover the 5 best hosts providing web hosting for nonprofits. Alongside that, I have put together a list of things to consider when choosing the one for you.
In this digitalized world, it’s important to have an online presence. Even for nonprofits. A website can help you to increase your organization’s visibility, spread your message or even collect donations.
As a nonprofit organization, your hosting options are most likely defined by your budget. However, don’t worry. They’re far from limited.
To answer the most common question: yes, some providers offer free web hosting for nonprofits. Alternatively, there are a lot of cheap options for only a few dollars a month that provide great value for the money.
To help you find one best fitted for you, I picked the 5 best web hosting for nonprofits options. Here’s how they stack up.
Web hosting for nonprofits: ranked
- DreamHost - best free all-around web hosting for nonprofits
- InterServer - free choice for advanced features
- Hostinger - best cheap all-round web hosting for nonprofits
- Bluehost - easy to use WordPress option for hosting nonprofit websites
- HostPapa - very inclusive plans for smaller websites
Before you make up your mind, you might like to give a look at the list of factors to consider, when choosing the best hosting provider for you.
|Features||Free SSL, domain, domain privacy, and daily backups|
|Best for||Free and highly secure WordPress-oriented hosting for nonprofits|
DreamHost is one of the industry giants known for its easy-to-use native management panel, reliability, and great performance. It’s also one out of very few well-known providers to offer completely free web hosting for nonprofits.
To qualify for the free plan, you have to be a US-based 501(c)(3) organization. That’s the only condition you have to meet with DreamHost.
But what does the free plan include? DreamHost is very transparent - you get a Starter shared hosting plan +an email account.
Here’s what it includes:
- A free domain, SSL certificate, and an email account,
- 50 GB SSD storage,
- Unmetered bandwidth,
- Pre-installed WordPress,
- Free website builder.
For a free plan, you get all the necessities you might need. However, if you don’t meet the requirements or for any reason you might need bigger storage, DreamHost’s regular plans are very well priced.
The provider offers two shared hosting options - Starter ($2.59/mo) and Unlimited ($3.95/mo.)
Both plans offer a free domain, an SSL certificate, unmetered bandwidth, WP website builder, and pre-installed WordPress.
- The Starter plan ($2.59/mo) includes 1 website and 50GB of storage. Unlike the free version, this one does not include a free email account. That’s an extra $1.67/mo. It will be best suited for any small-to-medium-sized website.
- The Unlimited plan ($3.95/mo) includes unlimited websites and storage. It’s a great choice if you plan on having more than one website or the site is on the larger side.
If you do not fit the requirements, the best price for most resources lies with the Unlimited plan with a yearly billing option. This way the plan will be only $2.95/mo or $35.40 for the first year.Check DreamHost Pricing Now
When it comes to performance, DreamHost proves to be very reliable with an uptime of >99.99%. If it wasn’t for 1-minute downtime, the provider’s uptime would’ve been perfect.
Why did I mention that 1 minute? DreamHost is the only provider on this list that gives a 100% uptime guarantee. But be aware that maintenance is not included, meaning a few minutes to reboot a server is absolutely normal and expected.
Looking at the average response time, we find it at an impressive 231ms. As long as this time falls under 600ms, you're good. A time lower than that means that the server where your site is hosted is amongst the fastest ones out there.
At the same time, good performance continues when we examine how much traffic can DreamHost handle. The provider managed to pass the full 50 Virtual User (VUs) test.
DreamHost’s response time (blue line) experiences only a few slowdowns, which had no significant impact on the provider's speed. The provider was very fast, did not fail any requests, and handled 50 visitors just as well as it would 1.
Lastly, DreamHost servers are located in the US alone. This means that you can expect your site to perform best in the US too.
Simply put, the performance is very good - DreamHost is among the most reliable providers in the market.
DreamHost combines great functionality, generous resources like storage and bandwidth, and reliable performance. If your needs are reasonably small, its Starter plan is arguably the best free web hosting for nonprofits offer in the industry.
- 100% free plan for US-based 501(c)(3) organizations
- Very reliable 100% uptime guarantee
- Affordable prices for standard plans
- Free hosting for nonprofits in the US only
|Features||Free SSL, cPanel, and automatic backups|
|Best for||Free "unlimited" plan for nonprofits|
InterServer is a no-nonsense hosting provider: transparent, reliable, affordable, and ever free if you meet the nonprofit's requirements. While performance is not its strongest point, the provider compensates it by offering “unlimited” plans.
Just like DreamHost, InterServer also offers completely free hosting for nonprofits. And just like the previous provider, InterServer also requires you to confirm that you are a US-based 501(c)(3) organization.
If you meet this condition, InterServer will set up an account for you on its Standard plan.
Here’s what the free plan includes:
- Unlimited storage, bandwidth, and emails,
- Free domain, SSL and CDN,
- InterShield security and Inter-Insurance recovery service.
While the free plan is very inclusive, there is one peculiar thing - InterServer requires you to mention that your site is “Powered by InterServer” with a backlink to www.interserver.net. If you fail to do so in 30 days, you will be charged for the hosting package.
If that’s something you don’t agree with or if you simply do not meet the requirement, InterServer offers 3 shared hosting packages with prices between $2.50/mo and $19.95/mo.
All the plans initially offer the same perks as the free plan mentioned above. Excluding the free domain. However, what distinguishes plans from one another is their ability to host bigger or smaller sites.
- The Standard plan ($2.50/mo with a discount) can handle small-to-medium traffic sites like a small nonprofit website.
While there are two more plans, they are meant for business use, as they give more server resources. These have no additional value to nonprofit websites and are simply too pricey to consider.
If you don't classify for the free plan, you should consider the Standard plan. By choosing a yearly billing, the plan will be $2.50/mo or $30 for the first year. Alternatively, you can go for a month-to-month option where the plan will cost you $2.50 for the first month and renew for $7/mo.Check InterServer Pricing Now
The provider promises a 99.9% uptime, and it stays true to its word. I examined the provider for 3 months, and in that time, it maintained an impressive 99.99% uptime.
However, its response time could be better. While an average response time of 662ms is nothing to pull your hair out for, it does surpass the market’s average of 600ms.
Testing the InterServer’s ability to handle increased traffic showed that the provider could not handle the full 50 Virtual Users (VUs) test on the free plan. However, the first pass was with 35VUs, and that’s still very good.
Looking at the graph, it becomes clear that while InterServer handled 35VUs, this is the maximum its cheapest plan can handle. The response time (blue line) was pretty unstable and had a direct correlation with the number of visitors (grey line) on the site. The more VUs joined in, the slower the provider got.
However, as long as your traffic doesn’t exceed ~35 000 monthly visits, you have nothing to worry about.
Just keep in mind that the provider’s servers are housed in the US. This suggests that the best performance can be expected for US audiences too.
InterServer showed a pretty good performance. Unless you need superb page speed, it will satisfy your needs with ease.
Although the overall experience might not be flawless, InterServer is a reliable provider that offers a generous set of free features for nonprofits.
- 100% free plan for US-based 501(c)(3) organizations
- The entry plan offers “unlimited” storage and bandwidth
- Good security measures
- Free hosting for nonprofits in the US only
- Paid plans do not include a free domain
|Features||Free SSL and speed-oriented tools|
|Best for||A budget hosting for nonprofit organizations|
Hostinger is a customer-focused hosting provider with excellent performance. While the provider does not offer free web hosting for nonprofits, the plans are cheap enough to not dig a hole in your pocket.
Hostinger is a good example that low prices don’t mean low quality:
- Hostinger is very easy to manage. The provider has developed its own hosting and website management interface called hPanel. The panel has a great layout and is easy to navigate.
- If you’re planning on using WordPress as your content management system, Hostinger has implemented the latest PHP and LiteSpeed web server to improve the page loading speed.
- If your audience does not reside in the US, Hostinger allows you to choose a server location (UK, Lithuania, Netherlands, US, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brazil) that is closest to your audience. This helps to fight the latency.
In short, Hostinger is a well-rounded hosting provider that delivers high quality for a low price.
Now talking about what you can get, the provider offers 3 shared hosting options with prices ranging from $1.39/mo up to only $4.99/mo for the most inclusive plan.
Each plan gives you a free SSL certificate and an email account. However, the entry plan is the only one that does not include a free domain.
- A Single plan ($1.39/mo) is a decent option for a smaller nonprofit website: one website, one email, 30GB storage, and a bandwidth limit of 100GB.
- The Premium ($2.59/mo) plan removes all the limits on websites, emails, and bandwidth. It also includes a free domain and 100GB storage. This is ideal for multiple sites or a larger nonprofit website.
- The Business plan ($4.99/mo) includes everything that Premium does. Additionally, you get automated daily backups, CDN, and 200GB storage. While this plan is very well priced in comparison to the other two, it is too expensive for a nonprofit organization.
To run a single small-to-medium-sized nonprofit website all you need is a Single plan. If you commit to a 4 year billing period, the plan will be $1.39/mo or $66.72 in total. Be aware that this price does not include a domain, it is an additional $8-10 per year.Check Hostinger Pricing Now
Hostinger’s performance is quite impressive, and the reliability is top-tier: the perfect 100% uptime. This becomes even more impressive when you know that the provider gives a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
The response time has seen some stuff. While 511ms average response is far from ringing any warning bells, it’s a little close to the market’s average of 600ms. Nothing at all to worry about, but good to know.
If you had any doubts, even for a second, Hostinger’s ability to handle increased traffic on the site eliminates them all. The provider handled the full 50 Virtual Users (VUs) test with no signs of struggle whatsoever.
The response time (blue line) was pretty flat for the most part and only had a few jumps, which in sum, did not slow down the provider. Seems like 1VU or 50VUs Hostinger doesn’t care.
To make sure that the performance remains just as great regardless of where your visitors reside, Hostinger allows you to choose one of 7 data center locations. You can either go with the US, Netherlands, Lithuania, UK, Indonesia, Singapore, or Brazil.
With Hostinger, you get top-tier stability without sacrificing speed, which is a rare thing these days.
Fast, functional, and highly affordable, Hostinger is among the best picks for beginners and seasoned customers alike. Nonprofits will definitely benefit from great performance and ease of use.
- Cheap plans
- Very good and reliable performance
- Easy to use hPanel
- Higher prices with shorter-term billing periods
- No domain with an entry plan
|Features||Free SSL, domain, and native panel with cPanel|
|Best for||Beginner-oriented hosting for smaller sites|
Bluehost is one of the best-known providers in the web hosting market. Its easy-to-use native panel and very inclusive plans make it well-fitting for all kinds of projects. While the host has no specific offers on web hosting for nonprofits, the prices are still relatively good.
But why should you consider it to host your website?
- There are plenty of convenient features. If you’re a beginner, you will probably find Bluehost’s intuitive control panel to be of great help. It provides helpful tips to easily launch your website if you choose to go with WordPress. If you’re more familiar with cPanel, the provider also includes that too.
- All Bluehost’s plans include a free domain that is also set up automatically for you.
- If you’re not familiar with website building and designing, Bluehost offers you a free website builder. All you do is answer a few questions, make a few decisions, and you’re done. What’s even better is that the builder is actually a part of WordPress integration.
In short, Bluehost sees simplicity as the main virtue. The website’s set up as well as management is made to be as easy as possible.
Now talking about plans, Bluehost has 4 shared hosting options with costs ranging from $3.95/mo up to $13.95/mo.
Although you don’t get the nice speed enhancements in all the plans, you do get a free domain, SSL certificate, and unmetered bandwidth.
- Basic ($3.95/mo) websites will be perfectly fine with the Basic plan, which allows you to host one website and provides 50GB of disk space.
- Plus plan ($5.95/mo) is great if you need more than one website. Unlimited storage comes with a free month of Office 365 email.
- Choice Plus ($6.95/mo) is just like Plus, but it adds domain privacy and convenient backup features. While more secure than Plus, this plan is slightly too pricey for what it offers. Especially when we consider renewal rates.
- Pro ($13.95/mo) adds dedicated IP and improved spam protection on top of what Choice Plus offers. While this is the most inclusive plan, it adds no additional value for a nonprofit website than Basic would.
The best plan for a single nonprofit website is Basic. This plan requires no additional expenses, and by choosing a 3 year billing period it’ll cost you only $142.20 in total.Check Bluehost Pricing Now
When it comes to performance, Bluehost does not disappoint. While the fact that the provider has no uptime guarantee is a little concerning, with an uptime of 99.99%, Bluehost proves to be trustworthy.
The response time is also just as very good. The provider’s average response time only rounded up to 361ms. Not ever ⅔ of the market's average.
Now what’s a little saddening is Blehost’s cheapest plan’s ability to handle increased traffic. The host was not capable of handling the full 50 Virtual User (VUs) test. Its first pass was with 15VUs.
Based on the graph, we can see that the number of visitors (grey line) played its part and had significantly increased the response time (blue line.) This means that the provider will slow down whenever your site gets traffic spikes.
While not the best, 15VUs is still pretty intense traffic that could result in 15 000 monthly visits. More so, the host handled this traffic without failing a single request. That’s pretty good!
Lastly, I must note that Bluehost has servers in the US exclusively. What this means is that you can expect the performance to be the speediest in the US too.
Performance-wise, you can trust Bluehost to reliably deliver content to your visitors, as long as the traffic is moderate.
Bluehost is a great provider for both WordPress enthusiasts and hosting beginners. Affordable prices are backed up by reliable uptime, which is a solid ground to represent your company on.
- Free domain and SSL with the entry plan
- Free and functional website builder
- Easy to use native management panel with cPanel integration
- Slightly more premium prices
- Lack of uptime guarantee
|Features||Free SSL, free domain, and cPanel|
|Best for||Easy to manage web hosting for beginners|
While not the most popular provider on this list, HostPapa is no newcomer in the web hosting world. Even though it does not offer free web hosting for nonprofits, the provider’s generous plans, beloved cPanel integration, and very reasonable prices are what make it a great option for the job.
The provider is primarily business-oriented. Regardless, any organization, including nonprofit ones, should give HostPapa a look.
- HostPapa uses cPanel for the website set up and management. cPanel is widely known for its simplicity, so you won’t have to spend your time learning the specifics of it.
- All plans include a free domain and SSL certificates, so you don't have to worry about that.
- If you’re a beginner or are just looking for some insights on how to successfully host a website, HostPapa offers free one-on-one training sessions. For 30 minutes, you can chat with a professional and ask all you wish to.
Simply put, HostPapa is beginner-oriented. Its management area is very simplistic and easy to orient. You can also make use of a free training session for no cost at all.
Now jumping to HostPapa’s offers, it has 3 shared hosting plans priced between $3.95/mo and $12.95/mo.
All plans include a free domain, Cloudflare CDN, SSL certificates, unmetered bandwidth, and free email accounts.
- Starter ($3.95/mo) allows hosting 2 websites and includes 100GB storage and 100 email accounts. It is more than enough for a small-to-medium nonprofit website with smaller traffic.
- Business ($3.95/mo) allows hosting an unlimited number of websites and includes unlimited storage and email accounts. You should consider this plan if you’re expecting higher traffic.
- Business Pro ($12.95/mo) offers everything that Business does as well as includes domain privacy protection, Wildcard SSL, and auto backups. While very good, this plan is slightly too pricey to consider.
For a well-rounded nonprofit organization’s website hosting, you should consider the Starter plan. The plan offers very generous 100GB storage and even allows hosting 2 websites. If you commit for 3 years the price will round up only to $142.20 in total.Check HostPapa Pricing Now
After examining the performance, it is clear that the provider is very reliable, yet being fast and managing increased traffic are not its strongest qualities.
In almost 2 weeks of examination, the provider managed to keep uptime at a perfect 100%.
HostPapa’s response time, however, was not so perfect. While an average response time of 1.19s is not the end of the world, it is slightly concerning. After all, it is double the market’s average.
Furthermore, it seems that the cheapest plan is not built for very intense traffic. The provider did not pass the full 50 Virtual User (VUs). The first pass was with 15VUs.
Just by looking at the graph, it’s clear that the response time (blue line) has significantly increased the more VUs (grey line) have joined. However, this is not the biggest issue. What’s more concerning is those 8 failed requests. This means that traffic any bigger than this, and the provider will crash and fall.
To be fair, I must point out that continuously having 15VUs on your site could add up to 15 000 monthly visits, which is reasonable traffic.
Lastly, to your visitors’ experience, you can choose a data center closest to your audience. HostPapa has 3 locations to choose from - the US, Canada, and Europe.
In short, HostPapa is extremely reliable, but bigger traffic is not something it specializes in. But if you’ll be running a smaller website, the provider should be more than capable of handling it.
- All plans include free domain and SSL
- Perfect 100% uptime
- Free one-on-one training session
- Response time could be better
- Prices are slightly more premium
Web hosting for nonprofits: final recommendations
When it comes to hosting a nonprofit's website, ideally, you would like the hosting to be free. While there are a few free options on the list above, most providers do not provide such service. But worry not, all the hosts mentioned above are very budget-friendly, so you can choose the one for you without having to sacrifice a limb.
Here is an overview of each provider’s advantages:
- DreamHost provides the most functional free web hosting for nonprofits.
- InterServer offers “unlimited” web hosting for nonprofits, free of charge.
- Hostinger offers highly performance-oriented services for cheap
- Bluehost is a very easily managed provider with a focus on WordPress
- HostPapa is an inclusive and easily managed hosting for beginners
How to choose a web hosting for nonprofits
It is never a good idea to pick a hosting plan without proper research. No matter if you're looking for a church website hosting or some other nonprofit organization solution, resources like storage, bandwidth, and security, as well as performance, are not just entries on a list of features. It’s what determines the success of your website.
While ideally, the provider gives you a website with generous storage, and bandwidth, free of charge, that’s not always the case.
Usually, the free plan is a basic entry plan with all its resources, which is more than fine for most smaller websites. However, if you’re planning on running a big campaign or a fundraiser and are expecting a lot of participants, such a plan might lack resources and power.
So if you’re planning a small-to-medium-sized website, free plans will be enough. However, if that’s not the case, you might want to consider paid options. When choosing a paid plan, consider these factors:
- How much storage you’ll be needing? The more design elements or images you’ll have on the site, the more storage you’ll need. Average WordPress site takes up to 5GB of storage. The rest is whistles and bells.
- How much bandwidth will you be needing? Are you expecting high traffic? If so, you must look at the bandwidth. This defines the maximum amount of data that can be transferred in 30 days. The more visitors on the site, the more data is requested from the server. To figure out how much bandwidth you need, use this equation: estimated number of visitors x website’s size in GB x number of pages on the site x 30.
- What level of security do you need? If you’re planning on accepting donations, which means dealing with money and sensitive personal information, you really want that extra bit of security. Alongside the basic SSL certificate, check if the plan includes DDoS protection, automated backups, web application firewalls, and malware scans.
In sum, free web hosting for nonprofits can offer pretty good storage, bandwidth, and even security tools. However, be mindful that those are not guaranteed. Before you choose the free version, see if it has all you need. Sometimes you might be better off paying a few dollars a month than none.
Creating a website is only half the work. Once the site is live and running, you want it to perform as well as possible. To avoid getting a cat in a bag, you should check how well the provider is performing. What is the uptime? How quick is it to respond? Can it handle some traffic? You need to answer these questions before you make the final choice.
- Uptime - while ideally, you expect your website to be live all the time, that’s simply not possible. Servers have to have regular checkups, and for maintenance reasons, your site might be down. Just not for too long. Look for a provider that offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Anything over that is great and anything below - intolerable.
- Response time - this is a measure that shows how fast the server is to react to the visitor’s request to open a site. For the best user experience, you should aim for a time no longer than 600ms.
- Traffic - this is slightly tricky to test unless you find an article like this one. In this article, I have tested each provider's ability to handle increased traffic. Chances are that you’re expecting to attract quite a bit of traffic. Surely you don’t want the website to crash when it has reached its golden age. For that reason, see how much traffic can your chosen plan handle. Due to different amounts of storage, RAM, CPU, and bandwidth, even the same provider’s plans will handle different masses.
So while good performance should be a given, that's not always the case. To save yourself a potential headache in the future, look into what you can expect, in terms of performance, with each provider and its plans.
It is not easy to find a good web hosting option for nonprofits. However, now that you know what to pay most attention to, you should be able to make an unbiased decision.
Web hosting for nonprofits FAQs
What is better, free or paid web hosting for nonprofits?
If your needs are simplistic and the budget is tiny, free options are better. However, if you have room to grow and money to spend, paid options offer better functionality.
Is free web hosting reliable?
Only some free hosting options are reliable. For instance, free hosting from DreamHost or InterServer. Otherwise, free options tend to be lacking in features, server performance, and customer support.
What are the most important features of nonprofit web hosting?
The most important features for nonprofit web hosting are resources (storage, bandwidth, and security tools) and performance (uptime and response time.) You want the website to be accessible and fast and keep your users’ data safe and protected at the same time.
What TLD is best for a nonprofit organization website?
The best TLD for a nonprofit company is either .ORG or .NGO. For a universally trusted top-level domain name, pick .ORG. If you want a domain name that is specifically intended for non-government organizations, pick .NGO.