Richard Hamel is the founder/operator of Dot Org Web Works.
Why Choose WordPress for Nonprofits?
When I’m asked why I use WordPress for my nonprofits, I often have to take pause. Why? Well, there are so many good reasons. I suppose the pithy answer here would be, “why re-invent the wheel?” WordPress and its far-reaching providers of themes and plugins have already done the heavy lifting with the technical parts. Thus, allowing for more of the website’s budget to be concentrated on outreach and fundraising.
There are other competitors to CMS, including Squarespace, Joomla, Wix, and Drupal. But, they don’t have nearly as many app and theme options as WordPress. Clearly, WordPress is the big dog in the website platform arena. And that makes a big difference.
Take a Look at WordPress
Let’s take a quick look at WordPress. It is the choice for nearly 65% of the CMS market share, and 43% of all websites. (Nonprofit organizations and commercial enterprises alike.)
- Firstly, WordPress is not-for-profit. It is an open-source collaboration that is free to download and customize to your needs, easily.
- Learning WordPress is relatively easy, especially since the introduction of Gutenberg Blocks Builder in December 2018. Even more, when you get stuck, there are extensive communities of WordPress users and professionals who will be delighted to offer solutions. Help is available through the WordPress Support Forum or through the forum and pro-support hubs of specific theme and plugin applications.
- Moreover, there is a vast industry of themes and plugins for you to choose from. Many of these options are free or low-cost.
- Finally, WordPress is familiar. Because of WordPress’s dominance on the World Wide Web, nonprofit organization staffers and volunteers are likelier to have worked with WordPress than with any other CMS platform.
For nonprofit organizations, it is hard to beat WordPress. I sincerely believe that. Nonprofits shouldn’t waste the little time and resources they have on building a website from scratch, since they are usually understaffed and underfunded. Moreover, WordPress does not require extensive knowledge of HTML, Java, PHP, and more to accomplish one’s design goal.
Today, the WordPress interface allows nearly anyone to jump right in. Sort of. (Please read below.) If you are even a little competent with general computer applications (e.g.: spreadsheets, word processing, and slideshow programs) you should be able to adapt to WordPress in a reasonable amount of time.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com. What’s the Difference?
In your search for the best CMS for your organization, you may have noticed that there are two WordPress alternatives. No, not WordPress for nonprofits versus WordPress for commercial endeavors, but “dot com” and “dot org” options.
In a nutshell, WordPress.org (also known as “the real WordPress”) is the popular version that allows you complete control over your nonprofit website. The .com version is a service that encompasses more than just the open-source software discussed above. While WordPress.org is a CMS platform that you download and build within your hosting service, WordPress.com is a managed service using its own hosting environment. (Specifics on the difference between the two can be found here.)
With that said, we use the far more popular WordPress.org. It allows us to utilize specific themes and plugins with less interference and more options.
WordPress Will Be Around
WordPress has a solid reputation and has come a long way since 2003 when it was considered just a blogging platform. The introduction of a more intuitive Dashboard in 2008—and followed by further developments in 2010—had effectively put WordPress within the CMS arena.
DOWW Makes WordPress Even Easier
Although WordPress is easy to use on simple website designs, building custom, engaging pages takes skill. Creating special formats and adding content can be tricky. It can be just “too much” for some, even with the addition of Gutenberg.
That is why our websites also employ the use of drag-and-drop technology. Our theme’s “website builders” allow the over-committed staffer or time-constrained volunteer to develop a new page or post by just sliding content into place. Then it’s just a matter of applying your SEO and publishing. (Although Gutenberg has come a long way to assist in this regard, it still falls short.)
How WordPress for Nonprofits Drag and Drop Works
Can a person easily understand the functions of a complex WordPress website and effectively use them, even with the drag-and-drop interface? That would be unlikely. Learning to use new software or applications can be challenging, especially if the website is complex or the user has little experience with it. Certainly, for general page and post creation and editing, you should have no problems. WP is intuitive; with only a superficial understanding of the system’s Dashboard and styling tools, you’ll be able to get to work. But, then there are general maintenance requirements and site configurations that will challenge even the more tech-savvy staffer. These include:
- Updating the theme: Although this task can be achieved by clicking the “update” button, it is often better to upload the newest theme next to the current version manually. If the new installation is not yet compatible with your site’s configuration, you can simply resort to your previous version.
- Configuring the settings correctly: Some of the theme and plugin settings can be a bit selection-heavy. To optimize your website’s security, access levels, and SEO, you may need to watch video tutorials to understand how to use some of the popular plugins and apps.
- Applying proper SEO practices: This is a discipline within itself. You can build a page or post perfectly, but if you don’t brand it so that search engines can locate it, then it is the “tree falling in the woods not making a sound” analogy.
- Page speed: Search engines are becoming less and less tolerant of websites that do not load quickly. Website optimization for search engines is a must.
- Accessibility compliant: Making your website accessible ensures that all users, including those with disabilities, have a good experience and can easily access your information. Websites that do not comply may be held responsible. In the U.S., digital accessibility lawsuits continue to rise, and you do not want to be in the cross-hairs of litigation.
Does this mean that the organization should employ someone on staff with advanced website skills such as a professional webmaster? In most cases, no. One of your staff who knows WordPress well should be able to update the site’s content and manage users.
That said, the organization really should utilize the skills of a website maintenance professional (WMP) at a specified time per month, or on an as-needed basis. (And if your chosen WMP has nonprofit experience, the better.) It will be the job of this WMP not only to maintain the functioning of the website but also to peer-review content and make suggestions.
This sort of recurring maintenance is usually facilitated through a standard maintenance service program.
So, what does WordPress not do?
Each year WordPress and its extended family of theme and plugin developers keep adding more and more applications and tools for you to consider. And with its continued growth, there is no reason to believe that will change. Or, that the WordPress platform will become antiquated before you’ve even fully learned to work program to your liking.
The parts of the website that are not technical but intrinsic and unique to the organization will still require a “customized” or hands-on approach. This would include branding, UX planning, content development, and SEO (search engine optimization) development of the website.
That is where Dot Org Web Works can help you most.
How We Can Help You Create Your Nonprofit Website
Creating an effective charity website requires a skill-set like any other profession. This is what we do, and we would love making a difference with you. With your intrinsic knowledge of your nonprofit organization, and our experience at website development for charity organizations, together we could build that website that you’ve envisioned—affordably and within a proper timeline. Let’s talk!