A Free Website For Your Washington State PTA
Having a website for your local PTA can be an important way to let your community know what your PTA is all about. It can help support your mission, fundraising, and membership campaigns. There are many options available to help you create and host your own PTA website, but this post is going to focus on a simple and free option available to all Washington State member PTAs, Member Planet site builder.
Creating a Site
Site builder is a graphical website creation and hosting tool and can be found under the "Engage" section. You will need to either be an Administrator for your PTA group or be assigned a role that has the Site builder Edit permission assigned in order to create a website.
Once you've launched Site builder, just select NEW SITE to get started.
Once you've selected a theme, you can begin to customize your site. There is even a Member Planet support page that has lots of details on how to customize everything to your liking. Now that it's looking great, you're ready to publish.
Your newly published site will have a web address that looks something like https://myptaname.memberplanet.com/.
Creating a Custom Domain Name
Now that your site is up and running, perhaps you want a friendlier web address (a.k.a. URL) for it. Something like https://myawesomepta.org/. This part is completely optional, but if you decide to go this route you'll need some paid services. The cost can range from less than $15 a year to $315 a year, depending on how you set it up and the size of your PTA.
Register Your Domain Name
To begin, register your desired domain name at a domain name registrar. There are many to choose from, but some examples include Google Domains, Namecheap, and GoDaddy. I'll be using Namecheap to demonstrate.
Visit https://www.namecheap.com/domains/domain-name-search/ and search for your desired domain name. Hopefully your name will be available, and if if is select Add To Cart. This shouldn't cost more than about $15 a year (you can see I'm getting my first year for $9.18).
Namecheap offers free domain privacy so feel free to keep that option in your cart, but decline any other services. You won't need things like web hosting and SSL certificates since Member Planet is handling all of that for you.
Now that you have a domain name, you have two options. The first option is to just make it so that any time someone visits https://myawesomepta.org they are redirected to https://myptaname.memberplanet.com. This won't cost anything more than the fee you've already paid to register your domain.
The second option is to update your Member Planet site settings to actually use your custom domain. This has the benefit of keeping your custom web address as users interact with your site. It's a more elegant solution, but it will require you to upgrade to the paid version of Member Planet which is currently going for $100-$300 per year depending on the size of your PTA.
Option 1 - Redirect Domain
To configure a simple redirect, log into your domain registrar's site (the site where you purchased your domain name). Most have a simple setting that allows you to easily configure redirects. Here is a screenshot of this configuration in Namecheap. Notice that I created an entry both with and without "www." since some people are used to typing this by default.
Option 2 - Custom Domain Name
Begin by ensuring you've purchased the upgraded version of Member Planet.
Next you'll need to add a new DNS record. If using Namecheap you'll find this under Advanced DNS. If you previously set up the domain redirect in Option 1, be sure to delete those records. Add a new CNAME record with Host "www" and Value "[myptaname].memberplanet.com" replacing [myptaname] with the value from your Member Planet site URL.
Finally, head back to Member Planet site builder settings and select Add a custom domain. Add your custom domain (such as www.myawesomepta.org), save, and then republish your site.