Richard Hamel is the founder/operator of Dot Org Web Works.
Why WordPress for Nonprofits?
When I’m asked why I use WordPress for my nonprofits, exclusively, I often have to take pause. Why? Well, there are simply 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.
Sure, there are a couple of other CMS (content management system) competitors still out there (Joomla and Drupal, to name the two of the more familiar ones). But, they don’t have nearly as many app and theme options as WordPress. Clearly, WordPress is the big dog when it comes to website platforms. 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 64% of the CMS market share, and 38% of all websites. (Nonprofit organizations and commercial enterprises alike.)
- Firstly, WordPess is not-for-profit. It is an opensource collaboration that is free to download and customize to your specific needs.
- Secondly, learning to use WordPress can be relatively easy. (That is, when compared to other competitors or building a site from scratch.) And if you get stuck, there is an extensive community of WordPress users and professionals who will be delighted to offer up 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, WordPess is familiar. Because of WordPress’s dominance on the world-wide-web, nonprofit organization staffers and volunteers are more likely to have worked with WordPress already than with any other CMS platform.
For nonprofit organizations, it is hard to beat WordPress. I sincerely believe that. Since nonprofits are legendary for being understaffed and underfunded, what time and resources that can be expended for the website (which is rarely enough) shouldn’t be squandered on building the website from scratch. That would take extensive knowledge of HTML, Java, PHP and more to accomplish. There are more important areas of website development to focus on.
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.: spreadsheet, word processing and slideshow programs) you should be able to adapt to WordPress in a reasonable amount of time.
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 columns and adding content can be tricky. It can be just “too much” for some.
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 publish.
Although WordPress is extremely user-friendly, can anyone just delve into their more complicated WordPress website and quickly figure out what all the options do and how to use them properly–even with the drag-and-drop interface? No, that would be unlikely. Just like with any other software or application one is not familiar with, the learning curve can be high depending on what they plan to do with it–or how their webmaster has created their website. Certainly, for general page and post creation and editing, WP is rather intuitive with only a superficial understanding of the system’s Dashboard and styling tools. 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 through the click of the “update” button, it is better to upload the newest theme manually next to the current version. This way if the new installation is not yet compatible with your site’s configuration, you can simply resort back to your previous version.
- Configuring the settings correctly: Some of the theme and plugin settings can be a bit selection-heavy. Some of the most popular plugin/apps that will manage your various levels of page accessing, protect your site’s security, and manage your SEO (to name a scant few) will require time spent behind video and online tutorials.
- 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.
Does this mean that, even although WordPress is relatively user-friendly, the organization should employ someone to the staff with advanced website skills such as a professional webmaster?
In most cases, no. Having one of your current staffers or dedicated volunteers, who has a comfortable understanding of WordPress, should be enough to keep the site’s overall content updated and users managed. That said, the organization really should utilize the skills of a website maintenance professional (WMP) on 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 to not only maintain the functioning of the website, but to also 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 pluging 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 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!
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