I am betting your website and your domain is not one of the things that are keeping you up. While I don’t think this is something worthy of a 3am phone call to your webmaster – I do think you should put a little thought into making sure your property doesn’t end up lost forever.
Just in the past couple months I have been approached by two different non-profits that didn’t have a system of oversight for their domain, and now their property is lost forever. Think about the marketing costs alone of losing your domain (a.k.a. URL). All of your business cards and marketing that you have paid good money for is gone – usually forever. Not to mention the potential of losing all the information on your website.
For non-profits the scenario I see the most is a board member or volunteer purchases the URL with their personal credit card and for one reason or another they leave the organization. In one case that person warned of the potential loss and the board did not educate themselves to the consequences of not taking immediate action. Now thousands in advertising is pointing to a website owned by another group.
After non-payment of your URL there is usually not much of a grace period with the company that holds it (Go Daddy and Just Host are two examples of companies that manage domains). Once expired, that company can sell your domain to anyone, after that there is very little chance of ever getting it back.
Things you can do:
~ Use calendar reminders for your renewals – even if someone else is managing them. Usually payment is due well in advance of the renewal date; this gives you the opportunity to communicate with whoever is managing the account to ensure payment is being made.
~ Take time to understand the dynamics. You may have multiple accounts; it is possible to have one renewal for your Domain and other renewals for hosting or email service.
~ If you are a volunteer run organization consider having multiple people (administrators) manage the access. This really helps when someone loses their password!
~ Non-Profits should take control of the payment instead of relying on volunteers. This is where a debit card held by the Treasurer or President comes in handy.
~ If you have a professional company manage your domain and website ask for your renewal date in writing and their policy for renewal payments. Don’t assume they are going to renew it if you are not paying for ongoing services!
~ If you are using a professional company, get their transfer policy in writing. Here is why: you decide not to continue the relationship because of personality conflicts or cost, most people will be professional and help transfer your information and accounts smoothly – others will want a fee. Again, have it in writing or you may find yourself in a situation where you have not rights to what you assumed was your property.