Hi Toastmaster Leadership. Some of you have asked me for the Low-Down on what it takes to start a Blog for the purposes of both information distribution and Online Registration. Well, here it is…
A blog is a sort of website. It has some really excellent attributes lending it’s self to easy maintenance, easy to add new features, and fuctions, as well as simple formatting changes if you want the layout colors or fonts to be different from how they look today. It’s easy enough that once set up, the AVERAGE computer user can support and maintain it. It’s really not that hard, nor is it a big learning curve. It will take some time but not that much. Just like with Toastmasters, delegate adding content to others and be creative. There are lots of resources out there to add to your creativity.
Onto to the Building blocks…
- The Domain. This is the first thing you need. It’s a www.(somedomainname).org (not a real domain name). You have to have a company register your domain name and ‘park’ it somewhere so no one else uses it. The domain name can be registered by a web hosting service. I use a company in the Redondo Beach area called Hostica. They are great for what we need. Some people have heard of GoDaddy, and they are good, but located in Arizona, a little more expensive and not as simple service oriented as Hostica. The cost to register a domain name is usually $9-15 a year. You can register for as little as a year, but I would recommend that you register for 2-3 years each time, because it is so low cost, and locks the domain to your division use for a few years. Noone else can take it unless it becomes available and they register it when its expired….You get the idea. $18 for the 2 years.
- The webspace…It’s got to be hosted somewhere. Again, that would be Hostica. Hostica provides me a very cost effective home for websites. They can cost as little as a dollar a month. The Blog requires a special database to keep all of the elements of it’s web pages in order (graphics, tables, users, posts, etc…) so that adds to the cost…Another Dollar a month. Total is $2.00 per month for hosting on a plan that I can get up and running in about 10 minutes. It’s pre-paid for 1 or 2 years, so I can get the best pricing. The cost is $24.00 per year, with SQL, per domain. I will manage the domain, the hosting and the SQL server components. It’s all web based and based on a simple single client access which I am controlling at the moment. You’ll get email addresses, blog space, web space, storage, etc… It’s a really good deal. This isn’t the only way nor the only place to get this done, but it’s certainly easier when it’s someone that’s done this (alot) before helping you.
- The Blog. This is free. Its called WordPress. It’s listed at www.wordpress.org and it’s really a great place to learn more about blogs and how things in the blogoshpere work. Lots to know. Most of that knowlege is not needed for the average user nor for our purposes. There are themes (colors, graphics, layouts, fonts, etc that make up the design across a number of web pages which make up your blog). The themes are many times free or very low cost. It’s a great way to host your content (photos, videos, audio, graphics, documents, postings like this one, and of course, registration forms). WordPress has many themes that are publicly available. I have about 6 which are great for Toastmasters use. Ask sometime, and I’ll send you a sample of what they look like so you get some ideas. There are TONS of other add-in applets that are very useful (see ShareThis, or Catcha, you get the idea) to improve functionality.
- The Forms. The way that online registration works is you need a way to easily create, manage, modify, include in a blog, charge for, collect, generate stats on…Everything that a Toastmaster Division will need to request information and payment for an event or survey. How would you like a bar chart to reflect how many people registered on the 2nd week of your contest to understand how effective your marketing resource has been? Would that help you? Wufoo can do this. The forms are hosted somewhere else. The company that makes these things happen is called www.wufoo.com and they are one of the best in the business for simple needs (non-custom code, no programming, etc…). There are others such as EventBrite, but this is the most Blog friendly…The recommended package with Wufoo is $25.00 per month. That is paid for on a credit card, every month. Your credit card can be used, and eventually, moving your payment over to the Division bank account’s Debit card is a prudent use of resources, and allows the division treasurer to account for these on-going business expenses directly instead of reimbursing the payer.
- The Payment. If you want to collect money, there is no more simple and easily put together package than Wufoo plus PayPal. The fees are very moderate, and extremely controllable from who can access the account, to the audit of who accessed the account to maintain it (it’s really secure on the customer facing side as well…in fact, it’s considered one of the standards of quality for online financial transactions). PayPal is included on Wufoo because they allow a simple way to collect payments, mitigate the risks associated with web security for finances, and really, really trackable (payor, payee, transfers, accounts, etc). The cost to do business with PayPal is a charge per transaction and a portion of the item price. With Toastmaster events, it’s $10-20 dollars so it’s really not much per each event ticket. For an $8.00 early contest fee, it’s $0.35 per transaction, plus 2.2% of the amount ($0.22) so we’re talking about $0.57 per early registration. It’s about $0.60 for a later full fee registration ($10), and that’s not too bad… Your Division will make up the difference with those that register at the door, or the raffle. There is no worry about bounced checks, losing money, or other mis-accounting risks. It’s all done for you online, and reconciled for easier handling. Getting the non-profit status is a little involved, so when you’re ready, let me know.
- I am there to support your efforts. The Toastmasters and the leadership will all learn and benefit from the use of this new online utility. It’s another form of communication and it’s so much more interactive than a plain vanilla web page about your club’s meeting dates and times.
Call me with your questions, comments or concerns. I know that this is a very economical way to get this done. I have looked at many other options and these fit the best together for the needs of the Divisions, and even the clubs.
All the best!