Setting up a discourse forum for a non-profit?

I was thinking about setting up a forum for my local tool library where people could post build photos, share skills, etc.

I like the forum software lines uses, and was thinking it might be a good option. Being a non-profit, there probably won’t be much budget for this. I was wondering what the most budget friendly option would be to get a forum up and running and see if it gains any traction in my local community? Thoughts, suggestions? Are there free hosts anywhere?

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Self-hosting it on top of a system like sandstorm for example which is designed for this kind of thing might be worth looking into. Most of these systems are designed so you can rent a cheap instance from somewhere and run it there, or so you can take an old laptop or a raspberry pi and set it up to run on that instead.

I don’t mean to call out sandstorm as better than others, if you’re comfortable with basic linux system administration you won’t need something like it per se, but I’ve been considering moving some of my services over to one just to remove the maintenance overhead involved in keeping things patched and running smoothly.

Others that I’ve heard good things about are:

Edit: but the basic idea is that you put one of these systems on a laptop in your space, or install it on a rented server, and then installing apps like discourse is similar to installing an app on your phone. The maintenance is automated, updates and security patches are installed for you etc.


Digitalocean has a one-click install for Discourse, which I highly recommend because it is rather difficult to set up from scratch. You will need a medium size instance at minimum to power it.


I set up a small forum using once - it was super easy, and certainly inexpensive. If you eventually find that your needs exceed the capabilities there, it’s easy to move hosting sites.

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Any idea if the $5/month 1gb instance is sufficient to get started (just to see if there is any uptake before spending too much money on this endeavor)?

Thanks for those pointers. I hadn’t thought about self hosting from within the space, but that might be the cheapest option (if I can find a Linux box up to the task).

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Looks like they’ve updated their info a bit since I last did this. They’re now saying you need 2gb of ram, and there’s a $10/month plan that provides that.

If you’re trying DigitalOcean, contact them and you may be able to get a bunch of credits.

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TechSoup offers a generous $2,000 renewable annual credit for Amazon Web Services products, including EC2 virtual servers. Our non-profits have used this for years with great success.

I would also add that they have a Discourse AMI in their marketplace, similar to the DO droplet described above.


@frankchannel - You can definitely host on the $5/month plan. There is a thread on the Discourse Meta forum about it.

I run North Coast Modular Collective’s discourse on it and just followed the 30-minute guide to get rolling.