Lots of Toastmasters clubs already had a WordPress site, long before I came along. The information below is adapted from an email reply to an inquiry from a club officer who was very interested in adopting the WordPress for Toastmasters software but wanted to make sure she would not lose years worth of club blog posts to a WordPress.com account.
The trick is that WordPress comes in a few different flavors. Like many web developers, I take advantage of the open source software distributed through WordPress.org, adding my own customizations and running the software on my own server. WordPress.com is an online service based on the same software, run by the company that created the software. Moving from one to the other is very much possible, but there are choices to make.
Here is my reply:
Thanks for getting in touch. I have mostly good news for you.
The only bad news is that WordPress.com does not allow you add 3rd party software to one of the free websites you host with them. So you will have to move to either your own web hosting or to the free service I’m offering to Toastmasters clubs (free means I’m counting on ads and donations to support it over the longer term).
The good news is WordPress makes it fairly easy to export the content from your existing website and import it into a new hosting arrangement. So the new site would have all those blog posts you have invested time and energy in. WordPress.com also offers a redirect service for a small fee that will help people find your new site and preserve whatever search engine ranking you have built up by redirecting from the old blog post urls to the urls on your new hosting.
If your club is willing to budget some money for a website, you might consider setting up hosting at an independent domain. Ballpark cost: $200. The web host just needs to support WordPress and allow you to install your own plugins and themes. (See Hosting Your Own WordPress for Toastmasters Website).
Because setting up your own website hosting does require some investment of money and time spent futzing with technology, I came up with a simpler free solution. That’s the option where you click the “free site” link at wp4toastmasters.com, fill out a form at toastmost.org and get a free website with an address like myclub.toastmost.org. You will find it to be very similar to the WordPress.com environment as a publishing and marketing tool for your club. The difference is you will get access to the Toastmasters-specific plugin and the Toastmasters-branded theme I developed. So it will look like a Toastmasters website and include functions like meeting role signup and member performance tracking.
I’d be happy to help you with the transition if you decide to pursue this. I’d encourage you to go ahead and sign up for the free website just to test it. These sites are not public when you first set them up, in the sense that they are not indexed by search engines until you change that setting to make them public. So you can experiment and invite in a few other officers to test it before deciding.
Let me know how I can help.