The best things in life are free, and yet … it’s also said that you get what you pay for.
Why should any Toastmasters club should pay for a club website on Toastmost.org, when Free Toast Host is free? Or even pay for a WordPress site, when the basic version of WordPress.com is free?
To be clear, the WordPress for Toastmasters project gives its software away for free. You just need a club webmaster with the tech skills to set up an independent website and install the plugins. And at $30 per year, a Toastmost.org website is inexpensive compared to setting up your own website.
But to answer the question …
Free Toast Host is Free, But …
Free Toast Host is free because it is subsidized by Toastmasters International. This project is not. But for marketing purposes, what Free Toast Host gives you is more like a web page than a full-fledged website. Also, people have been complaining for years about the lack of a responsive design (where web pages adjust for display on a mobile device).
A WordPress design is more mobile friendly and includes many features that promote search engine optimization and social media integration. The software doesn’t do all the work, but a good club webmaster can take maximum advantage of those tools.
In other words, WordPress gives you more ways of attracting people to your website and converting them into visitors and, ultimately, members.
Finally, the functionality of WordPress website can be extended with optional plugins. This extensibility is how WordPress for Toastmasters adds agenda management, features to help clubs conduction online meetings, and so on.
WordPress.com Is Free, But …
WordPress is free and open source software (available through WordPress.org). Its major corporate backer operates a site where you can sign up for a free personal website: WordPress.com.
WordPress.com gives you the basic web publishing features for free, but you have to upgrade to a paid account in order to add plugins. You won’t be able to turn on the agenda management features of the WordPress for Toastmasters project on a free account. And even a paid account won’t duplicate the pre-configured features of a Toastmost website (such as mailing lists and an autoresponder for “prospective member” inquiries relayed from toastmasters.org).
Some clubs swear another volunteer-run service, easy-Speak, which has many virtues in terms of agenda and club management but not much polish in terms of club marketing.
Finally, some clubs improvise their own technical solutions with Google Sites and Google Sheets, or Wix, or their own website custom programmed by a resident techie. The WordPress for Toastmasters solution started as a hack for a single club and and is published as open source software, which as an open invitation for programmers and designers to add their own improvements.
The Toastmost Alternative
To get a Toastmost site, you must 1) sign up for the WordPress for Toastmasters email list 2) create a Toastmost user account 3) fill out a form that asks for your details like club name and when you meet.
The learning curve is not zero, but I keep trying to simplify it — and am available to answer questions. I’m also looking for people who can help with documentation and training materials, or who will share feedback on where the documentation and/or the software itself aren’t as good as they ought to be.
If a generous sponsor should come along to allow me to make the Toastmost service free, that would make me very happy. Until then …
David F. Carr for Toastmost and the WordPress for Toastmasters firstname.lastname@example.org