How to Choose and Register a Great Domain Name for Your Nonprofit

By: Jason Faber, Product Marketing Manager at CIRA


The digital landscape for Canadian nonprofits is changing. Emerging technologies and trends have made it easier for nonprofits to connect with their audiences across a variety of devices, accept digital donations, and gain greater exposure online through social media and an integrated web presence.


As the digital world continues to grow and evolve, many nonprofits are trying to keep up. While there is plenty of opportunity to succeed online, many nonprofits don’t know where or how to start. Remember that the core piece of your online strategy is your website, and more importantly, the domain on which it lives. If you focus on building this part first, it will act as the foundation of your online strategy.


Choosing a great domain name is simple, but it does involve some strategic thought and a little bit of creativity. As we explored in an earlier blog post, a domain name is comprised of two pieces: the top-level domain (everything to the right of the dot, like .CA, .com and .org) and the second-level domain (everything to the left of the dot, which is usually your nonprofit’s name). 



How to choose a great domain name for your nonprofit


Let’s start with the left of the dot; your second-level domain. Choosing the right second-level domain for your nonprofit plays an important role in building your online brand because it gives your nonprofit credibility and makes it easy for your audience to find you online. Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a domain name.


  • Think brand and keywords

The best domain name for your nonprofit is likely your brand name. This is the simplest, most effective solution. If you’re able to secure your nonprofit’s domain name, you’ll not only own your brand online, but you’ll be able to protect and grow it moving forward.

What if YourCharity.CA is already registered? Don’t worry! Try searching for some variations by adding related keywords like your product or service, location, cause, or sector, such as education, environment, or health. Think about how people will use search engines to find you online. Consider that you want to be found not only by your existing connections, but also discovered by new audiences. 


  • Make it memorable

Choose a memorable domain name and people will never have an issue finding your website. Try to avoid dashes and numbers, as these can confuse people when you tell them your web address. If you must have numbers in your domain name, register both the “2” and “two” versions.



  • Alternate spellings

Is your nonprofit’s name often misspelled? Are there other variations that people use? To avoid losing traffic and to fully protect your brand online, consider registering all variations of the domain name.



  • Build a portfolio

The above three points encouraged you to think about your offerings, locations and alternate spellings. There’s actually a strategy behind all of this: building a portfolio of domain names. YourCharity.CA might be the perfect domain name for you, but registering several options means you can build and protect your brand online while attracting more visitors to your website. 


Let’s use the Canadian Cancer Society as an example. Their main domain name is Cancer.CA, but they also own other .CA domain names including CanadianCancerSociety.CA and RelayForLife.CA that redirect to their main website. Additionally, they’ve secured other .CA domains for projects, communities, and programs such as SmokersHelpline.CA, SoberOctober.CA, and CancerConnection.CA. In doing so, so they are controlling their brand and effectively capturing visitors that are going directly to these other domains.


Another benefit to doing this is that some Registrars offer bulk discounts to customers who want to buy more than one domain at a time, and they can help you redirect your portfolio to your main web address.




Find out if your ideal domain name is available!

Why choose .CA for your domain name

There are many top-level domains to choose from. You may be familiar with .CA, .com, .org and .net. You can even register web addresses ending in .rocks, .music, .pizza, .club, .xyz, and more. With hundreds of choices, this can all seem overwhelming at first. Here’s why you should choose .CA for your nonprofit.



  • .CA brands you as Canadian online

.CA is the only domain that instantly identifies your nonprofit as Canadian. Think of it as a Canadian flag on your digital backpack. Why is this important? Simply put, Canadians love .CA; 83% say they prefer supporting Canadian websites over any others, and your .CA tells them you’re Canadian at a glance.



  • .CA is safe, secure, and trusted

For over 15 years, .CA has been a safe, secure and trusted resource for Canadians online. Not only do Canadians prefer to use and support Canadian websites, but they’re also more likely to perform online transactions with Canadian websites.



  • .CA gives back

As a nonprofit ourselves, CIRA reinvests the money from every purchased .CA domain directly into our Community Investment Program, which funds innovative community projects designed to build a safer, stronger, and more accessible Internet for all Canadians. To date we have supported 78 innovative projects across Canada, for a total of $3.3 million.



  • .CA will give you a better chance of ranking higher in an Internet search

Most people find websites through search engines like Google, Yahoo! or Bing. As part of an integrated SEO strategy, having a .CA domain can help you rank higher in Canadian Internet searches.



  • .CA is more likely to be available

.CAs are reserved for individuals with a Canadian connection, while most other domains (including .com and .org) are open to absolutely anybody. This means it’s more likely that you’ll be able to find the perfect .CA domain name for your nonprofit.



If you are a Canadian nonprofit targeting other Canadians, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a .CA domain. Search for your .CA domain name now!

Domain choice in the nonprofit sector

We were curious about how nonprofits were using domain names as part of their online strategy. In a recent study conducted by CIRA and Framework, we examined and graded the online presence of over 400 nonprofit organizations. The study examined a variety of elements, including their website’s user experience, social media, mobile accessibility, content management systems and domain names in an effort to build a benchmark for success in the Canadian nonprofit sector. Here’s what we discovered about domain names:



  • .CA is the most popular domain choice for nonprofits in Canada

Over half of the Canadian nonprofits surveyed chose .CA for their websites, which coincides with the perception that .CA is intrinsically linked with Canadian communities. Further research showed that 85% of Canadian Internet users prefer to use a .CA over a .com when “getting involved with community organizations”.



  • What about .org?

While most people relate the .org domain to charities and nonprofits, there are no specific requirements that .org registrants are nonprofits, meaning that anyone can register a .org. Still, about one quarter of Canadian nonprofits surveyed use .org for their websites.



How to register your .CA domain name

Hopefully by now you’ve come up with a great domain name for your nonprofit. The next step is registering that domain name. It’s easier than you think. Follow these simple steps and you’ll have a great domain name in mere minutes.



1. Choose Your Domain Name

Step one is to see if your domain name is available by performing a search. If it’s available, that’s great news! In a few short clicks, you will own your brand online. If not, continue to search for variations as we outlined earlier. Search for your domain name now!



2. Choose a Registrar

First thing’s first - what is a Registrar? Simply put, a Registrar is the company with whom you register your domain name. They are the retailers that sell .CA domains, and other common domain names. Once you find an available domain name, the next step is to choose a Registrar. They’re the ones you’ll have the most one-on-one time with as you manage a website or forward a domain name. When you search for a domain name on our website, we connect you with Registrars that you can pay to register the address. Choose the Registrar that best fits your unique needs - you can apply some filters on our site to narrow the list down based on specific services, support features and locations. 


3. Register the domain name

Once you’ve chosen your domain name and selected a Registrar, all you need to do is register the domain name. It’s as easy as that. 



Registering your domain name is a huge step in building and growing your online presence. You now control your nonprofit’s brand and are poised to take it to the next level by connecting with a wider audience online.


Are you ready to register your domain name? Choose your .CA domain name today and brand your nonprofit as uniquely Canadian!


Do you questions or comments about the .CA domain name, or building your nonprofit’s brand online? Feel free to reach out by email or Twitter any time - I’d be happy to help!



About the Author

Jason Faber 
Product Marketing Manager (.CA) 
Canadian Internet Registration Authority

Jason Faber is the Product Marketing Manager for the .CA domain at CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. In his role, Jason is responsible for developing and implementing comprehensive marketing plans and strategies to promote and strengthen the .CA brand. With deep experience in marketing, technology and digital strategy, Jason strives to engage and educate consumers to ensure that they get the most out of their .CA domain and overall web presence. Find out if your ideal .CA domain name is available and register it today. Connect with Jason at and on Twitter at @Jason_Faber.

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