A Beginning


I’ve been thinking about this for about a year.  Not this blog post, but the idea of providing websites to UK charities free of charge.  Let me tell you why.

In 2015 I became involved with a charity based in London called Boxing4Life.  They needed a new website and were looking for a volunteer with experience in Wordpress sites.  Wordpress is a popular blogging website package, but more of that later.  I didn’t have a particular expertise in Wordpress at the time, nor perhaps do I now, but I had enough time tinkering with it that I was confident I could help them out.

So Box4Life and I began our relationship, rebuilding their website from scratch.  I wanted to create the new site alongside the existing one then go live with a big bang extravaganza, this also meant, of course, that my early failures would go largely unnoticed.  In order to do this I decided to host their website on my own hosting package.  I also bought them a new domain name so I could create in that new space before moving over.  Both of these things are pretty cheap, and I was very happy to help out.

Their new website went live in May 2015.  It’s a pretty simple affair, a handful of pages explaining what the charity does, some posts giving up to date information and news events, a newsletter system which manages two subscription lists.  Finally, and most recently, we’ve added some integration points to JustGiving to help them raise much needed funds for their excellent work.

What Next?

The whole B4L thing got me thinking.  Mostly it got me thinking “that was fun, I reckon I could do another one or two…”.  Over time that thought turned into something like this.

There must be loads of small charities who either can’t afford a decent web presence, have a web presence that’s not free or are just starting up and could do with help.  With a small bunch of volunteers we could create and host hundreds of charity websites.  I should do this.

First thing I did was to have a look around at who else is already doing this.  I didn’t find anybody.  I found many fine upstanding hosting companies who don’t charge for charities which is a very cool thing, but it doesn’t help them register domain names or create the sites.  OK, so there’s a small gap in the market for charity websites.  Time to ask a few trusted friends what they think of this.  People I can really trust to be honest if this is a bad idea.

Enter the Dragons

I needed people who understand the charity sector.  I also needed people who understood the technology side of website hosting.  Finally, I needed people who I trust to be open about the idea.  Here’s who I went to (in alphabetical order so I don’t upset them!):

Danny is a software developer and business process specialist with 20+ years of experience in various technology sectors.

Mikey is an experienced technologist in the financial services sector, also a passionate entrepreneur.

The other Mikey has huge experience working for 20 years in the charity and NGO sectors.  He also has a background in technology.

What Happened Next?

Well, that’s still happening.  But you can tell at least that this website, this twitter account and this facebook page have happened since.  Next post I’ll talk about how a small, simple idea quickly mushrooms into a scary and complex thing.  And what we do about that.

Tim is the founder of Yonum. He lives in Milton Keynes with his modern, happy family and works in London as an IT manager for a financial services company.