Richard Hamel is the founder/operator of Dot Org Web Works.
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.
Sure, there are a couple of other CMS (content management system) competitors still out there (Joomla, Squarespace, Wix and and Drupal, to name 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.
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.)
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. (This may be the best reason to choose WordPress for nonprofits.)
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.
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, so to speak, WordPress.org (also known as “the real WordPress”) is the popular version that allows you full 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 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.
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.)
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 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:
Does this mean that the organization should employ someone on 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 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.
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.
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!