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Best Practices: .org and why Your For-Profit Organization Shouldn’t Use It

This morning I spent four hours on the telephone trying to find services for someone I love. Since we are in the preliminary stages of finding these services I emailed some friends, took their recommendations and then looked up the websites of the facilities and starting calling.

You can tell a lot from a phone call. When you’re a patient, a child, an advocate or a friend needing service the receptionist at the agency you are calling is your first introduction to a facility. Granted, first impressions can be wrong, but when I’m looking to begin a long term relationship with a business I’m going to be calling them with some regularity. Phone calls should be pleasant.

Websites can be an equally important as a first impression. Every part of your site matters. Take, for instance, the domain name. When I see a .com or a .net domain I assume that I’m on a business’ web page. When I see a .gov I know it’s a government page, and when I see .edu I know it’s a school. When we see .org we used to know that we were looking at a non profit organization.

Gone are the days when domainers had to write essays to explain why they needed to own a .org. A few short years ago in order to own a .org website the potential owner would have provided proof of non-profit status. A few years before that an essay was required to own any site.

Clearly essay writing and domain ownership are no longer a duo, but best practices dictate that only not for profit would host their site at a .org address. In order to protect a brand I can imagine a company owning a .org domain and then redirecting the traffic to their .com or .net, but hosting their for profit business on a .org platform would only confuse potential clients and alienate them once they figured out that they’d been snookered.


A web based¬†economy¬†uses trust as it’s currency. Once you’ve been deemed untrustworthy it’s nearly impossible to regain that trust. If your URL is dishonest, or just less than forthright there’s no reason for anyone to trust your content.

Although it’s possible for your business to buy and maintain any URL you can get your hands on, fight the urge to be anything less than transparent, because the web based consumer is a bright consumer and they have a lot of choices.