Consider this article my most loving smackdown.
If you don’t have an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate installed on your website, you and your organization are missing out.
You might be losing donors. Or you might be losing search engine traffic. Or maybe both.
Both Google and potential supporters expect only the best from your organization, and that expectation includes a secure website.
Others might get overwhelmed by this topic, but not you! Because I’ve compiled everything you need to know about SSL certificates and HTTPS right here below.
What It Is
HTTPS is a secure way of transmitting the data associated with your website.
On most browsers (even those on phones), you’ll see a lock icon in the address bar. Sometimes, the entire address bar might turn green!
What makes that lock icon appear? An SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.
An SSL certificate is like a passport. The certificate includes information about your organization, as well as specifications about the type of encryption that is used to transmit your website’s data.
To get an SSL certificate, your organization will probably purchase one through a third-party vendor. (More about getting an SSL certificate later on in this article.)
Why You **Need** It
As a political science major and former ACLU staff member, our right to privacy is super important to me.
Your organization has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to the website visitors that trust you with their information.
If your site collects general personal information, I highly recommend you get an SSL certificate.
If your staff are logging in to the website to access other online tools, you probably need an SSL certificate.
If your site collects financial, health or other sensitive personal information, you’re required to have an SSL certificate.
Not sure where your organization falls on this spectrum of information? Go ahead and get an SSL certificate. You can’t go wrong with protecting all your website’s data.
Why You **Want** It
A secure website will help you recruit supporters!
First, Google gives preference to websites that use HTTPS. That means that an SSL certificate is an easy SEO boost for your organization. (And believe me, not all SEO boosts are so easy!) Better SEO = More visitors on your website = More supporters.
Second, that little lock icon is fairy dust to donors. They love the reassurance that your organization is professional and thorough when you handle their information.
How to Get It
Start with a reputable vendor.
An SSL certificate’s primary job is to reassure donors that your organization is legitimate and responsible. That means that the “issuer” (read: the vendor) is an important part of the equation.
Look for vendors that specialize in SSL certificates.
Your hosting company may offer a cheap SSL certificate, but if you can afford it, I recommend an SSL-specific vendor. The better the vendor, the better the certificate, the better the experience for your visitor.
Better certificates include more information about your organization, stronger encryption, or just fewer browser security alerts interrupting your visitor while s/he is on your website.
Vendors I like:
- My SSL certificate for https://smartnonprofitwebsites.com is from DigiCert*.
- There’s an open-source option called Let’s Encrypt. You will definitely need your web developer to install it.
Once you purchase your certificate, you will need help installing it. Check with your web developer.
(Need a good web developer on your team? Check out my website support services.)
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* This is an affiliate link. I've been a happy DigiCert client for many years.