Is upgrading to .NGO worth it?

If you’re in tune with the Nonprofit Twitterverse, you may have read that .ORG is going the way of the dodo, and upgrading to .NGO is necessary for any nonprofit that wants to stay relevant. But is it really worth the hassle? The NGOpocalypse isn’t upon us just yet but, at the cost of only about $50, migrating over early (or even just parking your domain) is a great investment in your 501c3’s future.


Finally, a parking job you can be proud of.

Finally, a parking job you can be proud of.


.ORG, the current gold standard for nonprofits, has been around for thirty years. It definitely exudes more legitimacy than .COM or the much-maligned .NET, but there’s still a certain percentage of casual web visitors that will have doubts about donating or even signing up for a newsletter online because unlike .GOV and .EDU, .ORG doesn’t require independent validation. This inability to instill virtual confidence spells trouble for start-ups especially, though it harms all nonprofits that can’t rely fully on person-to-person fundraising (in other words, all nonprofits). The fact that hypothetically any yokel could’ve snagged the domain is the reason why the self-proclaimed “public interest registry” OnGood began to work out the possibility of upgrading to .NGO.

Not that the new validation process is strenuous; it requires little more than an FBI determination letter. Even so, .NGO (and its Latin language family equivalent, .ONG) will help wonderful lesser-known nonprofits surmount the surprisingly debilitating obstacle of proving that they’re not profiteering tricksters. The main drawback to the whole process is that it requires buying the domain from a registrar and opening a profile with OnGood. The former task is getting simpler each month, though some big domain name players, notably GoDaddy, haven’t joined the fray just yet. The latter is somewhat annoying because OnGood is set up so that pages that no one had time to “personalize” for an hour or four look like colonial North Carolina cheese – “sad and full of holes,” as one dismayed colonist put it. If your nonprofit dares to set up a donation option via Ammado, which is actually an amazing service that accepts contributions in 75 currencies, that’s further investment of your poor beleaguered intern’s time.


You might miss .ORG the way those colonists missed British cheese, but don’t look back.


If you are willing to invest four hours and $50, upgrading to .NGO makes enormous sense. There’s no question that early adopters benefit from having their pick of domain addresses and that this “global experiment” will eventually bear fruit in the form of a better philanthropic experience. Even if you’re not down for migrating over just yet, you can always purchase and park your future .NGO home.

Though it may well be three years from now, please consider investing in page-by-page migration when you’re ready to say au revoir to your .ORG, forwarding every document and taking care of those pesky 301 errors. This will ensure that all the SEO juice you worked so hard for will follow you on your .NGO adventure. After all, erasing doubts about the legitimacy of your nonprofit won’t be very useful if people can’t find it anymore!

Looking for tips on keeping your website exciting, relevant, and reassuring to prospective donors? We’d love to help out! Get in touch with our team at Wild Fundraising here.    

Our Children LA: A Roof is not a Home

A Los Angeles nonprofit named Our Children LA is charting an unprecedented course by bringing technology, information, and people of all stripes together to improve the lives of homeless youth.



our children la

Group shot of OCLA’s constiuency. No big deal.


For the last two weeks, our intrepid group of Wild Fundraisers has been helping Dr. Denise McCain-Tharnstrom sew up an abundant amount of content for the new website of Our Children LA. It’s been quite an experience from the get-go! From a content writer (or grant writer’s) perspective, the first task is to find a voice, something particularly challenging for this project precisely because the website expects to serve not only bigwig philanthropists but homeless teens, librarians, social workers, researchers, government officials, and one million hamburgers too. On top of that, nonprofit websites need to appeal to foundation representatives, so a certain amount of Board-approved nonprofit lingo is mandatory. And on top of that, certain sections needed to appear neutral, such as the fact sheets, whereas others needed to be calling an outraged community to action. How did we do? Well, time will tell, but we think we created content that every site visitor will find accessible and welcoming, while sprinkling in some unexpected anti-jargon to help Our Children LA distinguish itself from other nonprofits with similar mission statements.

Over the course of this project, though, what turned out to be the real challenge was learning to stomach the horrible details about the lives of homeless children and teens in Los Angeles. Both foster care and the juvenile justice system, for example, are rigged to funnel disadvantaged kids onto the streets. Other youth get thrown out of their parents’ homes for being gay or pregnant, or run away to escape abuse so vile that they actually rate their ability to remove themselves from it, even at the cost of becoming homeless, one of their proudest accomplishments. A statistic that stuck with us in particular: In a survey of homeless Los Angeles youth, 40% said they felt safer on the street than they’d felt in the home they left behind.



Part of the bank’s 1962 child abuse-themed ad campaign.



Through WIN, Our Children LA’s mobile app, the organization will offer these kids something innovative: Not only technology capable of connecting them with open shelter beds, open soup kitchens, and other resources, but an invitation to collaborate in and even guide community efforts to end youth homelessness. Through WIN – which stands for “What I Need,” a name Dr. McCain-Tharnstrom came up with in the shower – homeless kids and teens will be able to tell well-meaning Angelinos precisely what they need.


slot 1 coming soon



We’re as excited as anyone for WIN’s launch and for the first truly community-wide response to youth homelessness in Los Angeles. Judging from what’s already out there, our hunch is that what these children will tell us they need is so much more than just a roof over their heads. A roof isn’t a home. They need a path away from abuse, foster care, and the juvenile justice system. They need education and a means to heal from trauma, affordable housing and an end to being judged and vilified. If Our Children LA has its way, the voice that finally announces the end of youth homelessness in Los Angeles will belong to the children themselves.


Want to learn more about this amazing nonprofit? Visit or send questions to the Wild Fundraising publicity team.

Whatever happened to American orphanages?

From Moses to Oliver Twist, Batman to Daenerys Targaryen, there’s something about orphans that captures our imagination and our hearts. Orphanages were for centuries at the center of our understanding of what it means to be charitable. Yet about a hundred years ago Americans decided to phase them out. What happened?

Just because you're an orphan doesn't mean you couldn't pose for an awkward family photo.

You had it bad, but just because you’re an orphan doesn’t mean you couldn’t pose for an awkward family photo.


As a starting point, we need to look at why supporting orphanages was once the ultimate charitable pursuit. Charity was traditionally understood as both a religious obligation (in Judeo-Christian religions as well as in Hinduisim, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and many more) and a personal attribute – being a particularly charitable fellow was something to really write home about. In seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing that desperate poor families sometimes abandoned their infants on the orphanages’ steps. Otherwise it was not-so-poor unmarried women who went away to their “aunt in the country” to bring their secret pregnancies to term, desperate mainly to protect their honor. In either case opportunity knocked. These so-called “orphans” were rightfully considered the most unfortunate of the unfortunate. Wealthy patrons, especially royals and their courtiers, practically made a sport of who could provide them with the most generous bequest.

The well-being of the children always played second fiddle to the aspiration to be and appear personally charitable. Even the Inclusa in Madrid, one of the most fabulously well-funded orphanages of the late eighteenth century, was only able to boast a survival rate of about one out of ten foundlings. The practice of substituting gruel and goat’s milk for breast milk and ignorance of how disease traveled in close quarters meant that even survivors emerged weak, thin, and deformed.

By the time the United States began setting up its first crop of orphanages in 1810-1830, social conditions were changing. There were still many wage working families who decided to give up their children. However, children were also actively “rescued” from poorhouses, initiating a trend of taking them away to be placed in orphanages rather than waiting for them to be abandoned. Authorities began to see poverty as moral failure rather than God’s way of allowing them to show how charitable they are. Unwed mothers, the infirm, and criminals were also deemed unfit parents. As before, the term “orphan” was applied loosely, and only 10-20% of admitted children were actually parentless.

The first American prisons and asylums were built around the same time and based on many of the same philosophies the American orphanages were. The orphan “inmates” were taught discipline and lived in poor conditions. Malnourished and exposed to extreme weather and rampaging viruses, their survival rates were similar to those of street urchins who hadn’t been “lucky” enough to be rescued. The older children preyed on the youngsters until they were old enough to be shipped out as indentured domestic or farm laborers. Sometimes “orphan trains” sent hundreds of them from the East Coast to the Midwest at once.

It was considered educational.

It was considered educational.


The majority of the country’s orphanage supporters – mostly churches and civic-minded benevolent societies now, though a few wealthy individual patrons remained – believed that even these dismal outcomes were better than what life had otherwise in store for the children. By mid-century the tragic orphan grew into a popular literary trope. Les Misérables’ Cosette and Cinderella, revamped by the Brothers Grimm, are only two of many examples. “The orphan,” the idea of the orphan, an innocent and helpless child, still motivated people as ever before. Yet a vocal minority began to question if orphanages really were the way forward.

James West, an orphan himself, was one of the latter. His widowed mother had abandoned him at the age of six. Afflicted by a terrible infection that forced him to use crutches, the orphanage couldn’t credibly send West off to a farm and so put him to work sewing with a group of girls. Through his lucky unprofitability, personal drive, and the intervention of a family friend he was granted the privilege of attending school. West became something of a mentor for other orphan inmates. He organized hikes and other weekend activities and even promoted literacy by bribing children with a penny for every book they read. He became a librarian, studied law, and passed the bar in DC.

In 1908 Progressive leader Theodore Dreiser tapped West to oversee his paper’s “Child-Rescue Campaign.” The campaign featured write-ups of different homeless children each month, enticing readers to give them good, loving homes. Thousands wrote with offers of assistance.

West and Dreiser saw it as an indictment of “machine charity” and began to publicly malign the institution of the orphanage. An orphanage lacks “human love,” they complained, and because of this it can never be a substitute for family life. West was a credible witness to this, given his own upbringing. The anti-orphanage movement soon caught the eye of President Theodore Roosevelt. He met with its two champions personally and, inspired, called a national conference on the care of homeless and neglected children, the first of its kind in the U.S.

West, serving as chair of the arrangements committee, launched the 1909 White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children with a bang. Should orphans who aren’t actually orphaned, he asked, “be kept with their parents – aid being given to the parents to enable them to maintain suitable homes for the rearing of children?”

The convened experts unanimously endorsed the novel idea that “orphans” should no longer be taken from their families for mere reason of poverty. They agreed that churches and benevolent societies should pay destitute families money to support children in lieu of paying to maintain an orphanage, and in the extreme case that children do have to removed they should be transferred to foster families who were also to be compensated. Only a few years later, reformers took the even more radical step of embracing publicly-funded solutions. By 1920 all but eight state legislatures had approved pensions for needy mothers.

1926 Prudential Insurance Ad -

A 1926 Prudential Insurance ad, showing a kid whose mother lived in one of those other eight states.  


After Roosevelt’s conference the fight to save poor children easily became one of the most fervent, visible, and beloved of Progressive causes. Ironically, it didn’t seem to matter all that much to the major political players of the Progressive Era. They were more concerned with busting monopolies, giving women the right to vote, prohibiting the consumption of alcohol, and generally putting all of the country’s eggs in the science and education basket. But they realized that they needed a universal issue to appeal to Americans with before they could start laying on the more controversial stuff. In the dismantling of heartless and useless American orphanages, they found it.