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Guide to starting a new Rotary Club website

Introduction

Every Rotary Club could benefit from having their own club website. If people are looking for your club, chances are that they are looking for you online. If the public are interested in membership, attending Rotary club events or simply making a donation the club website is likely to be their first stop. 

Rotary Club Website Basics

A Rotary Club website need not be complicated. A few basic details will meet the requirements of most visitors. At very least a Rotary Club website should include the following details:

  • Name of Rotary Club
  • Details of where and when the Rotary Club meets (be specific - include a post code)
  • Explain what Rotary is about, and give examples of the projects and activities that your Rotary Club supports
  • Make it clear that your Rotary Club is interested in new membership enquiries
  • Give users one or more ways to contact you (telephone or email are sensible options)
  • Link to other useful Rotary websites - like rotary.org, rotaryinlondon.org and ribi.org

Keep it fresh - or keep it generic

A trap many Rotary Clubs fall into is creating an elaborate website that requires a lot of attention and failing to keep it up. It's not necessary to have fancy features on your website... tools like a calendar are useful, but can make your club look unprofessional and disorganised if the calendar is not kept right up to date. A casual visitor may even think your club is no longer operating at all. It's better to display a fairly generic list of events/projects which your Rotary Club supports on an annual basis - as this won't require constant updating.

Which kind of Rotary Website to choose...

In the same way that each Rotary Club has autonomy, each club can choose how to setup and operate their club website - there are no fixed rules. Depending on the level of skill and time available can determine which kind of website approach should be chosen. There are many different ways to get going. A number of options are shown below:

RIBI Template System

This is a good entry level solution which is popular with many Rotary Clubs in Britain and Ireland. Each club can use the system for a £50 donation to the Rotary Foundation. The system was setup by Rotarian Chris Sweeney from the Rotary Club of Conwy. The RIBI templates require no technical knowledge at all, and users who are comfortable with using Hotmail/Yahoo Mail have all the skill required. There is a good online tutorial available and if you get stuck support is available via email and support forums. More information on the RIBI Templates: http://www.rotary-ribi.org/tutorials/index.asp

Example: http://www.rotary-ribi.org/clubs/homepage.asp?ClubID=854

Rotary in London Template System (based on CMSimple.dk Open Source CMS)

This option requires a little more effort but gives a Rotary Club more control than the RIBI Templates. You can choose to host the website code or Rotary in London can assist by hosting the code on the Rotary in London website server. The CMSimple system was built in Denmark but is available in a number of languages including English. It comes with a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor and allows you add pages and subpages. Content is backed up and there are features like uploading photos and graphics.

More information: http://www.cmsimple.org/

Example: http://www.rotaryinlondon.org/clubs/hampstead/

Prepackaged online Content Management System

This option gives you even more freedom over your Rotary Club website content. There are a number of providers (see list below) and as these content management systems are widely supported there are loads of useful plugins that can be added - these can help you display calendars, maps, photographs or run polls or surveys. You also have freedom over the appearance - you could download and add a template or adjust the appearance yourself. These services are all hosted by their provider so you don't need to pay for or organise hosting.

List of options:

Example: http://www.stpetesunsetrotary.org/ (using Wordpress)

Build your own Rotary Club website from scratch

This is the most complicated and time consuming option, but gives you ultimate freedom and control of the website. In order to pursue this option you would most likely need a member of your club with experience in this field, or a friend of the club with the skills. You have free rein over how and where to host the site, which language to use and what it looks like and how it works. Do always bear in mind the risks of what would happen if the only person that controls the website was to suddenly leave the club!

Example: http://www.putneyrotary.org.uk (built with PHP/MySQL)

 

Domain Names and Hosting

A domain name is the basis of link to where the website lives. This website, www.rotaryinlondon.org, is on the domain name "rotaryinlondon.org". It's not critical for your Rotary Club to own a domain name, but it can be useful and make your club more credible online. It also prevents anyone else from buying it. Domain names are not expensive (less than £30 per year) and there are many websites which sell them online. 

Websites need to "live" somewhere on the internet. This virtual space is referred to as "website hosting". Although some hosting is provided free (normally in exchange for advertising appearing on the page) it's preferable to pay a reasonable amount and subscribe to a hosting package with good features and support. You will only need a hosting package if you want to create the site from scratch or host your own Wordpress site, the template options listed above are hosted by their providers so you don't have to arrange hosting.

Support

While the District Webmaster will not build a website for you, support is provided to steer clubs in the right direction in choosing and pursuing the most appropriate club website solution, and to avoid common pitfalls.