‘What website platform is best for my nonprofit?’ I’ve heard this question asked a lot recently. I saw a poster in a nonprofit Facebook group ask it with dozens of passionate responses that followed. I recently discussed website platforms for nonprofits with a nonprofit in North Carolina and, frankly, horrified to hear their inclinations.
This post is to answer ‘What website platform is best for my nonprofit?’ in the most objective way possible – WARNING…PLUG: At Sensus Media we build custom websites exclusively for nonprofits having gone so far as to create the best nonprofit website to grow your organization at the most affordable price. But I digress…
Back to ‘What website platform is best for my nonprofit?’ Well, that all depends on what your nonprofit is trying to accomplish and how serious you are about your nonprofit’s mission. I’ll also add what your tech level skill is versus your ego. I’ll get to that part throughout.
‘What website platform is best for my nonprofit?’ can be answered through this lens: How committed is your nonprofit to growing and becoming more powerful in your community?
DIY Website Builder Platform
If you’re content with where your organization is and are just humming along, a DIY website builder platform is probably fine. There are countless DIY website builder platforms out there, such as Wix, Squarespace, Web.com, and Weebly, to name a few.
All of these websites work the exact same way with the exact same business model. For a relatively low monthly fee that usually includes hosting, your nonprofit can login to their ‘site’ and you can use their ‘drag and drop’ features to create a simple website, edit your website and post new content. All in all, it’s not a bad deal considering the price. You can pay as low as $100-$200 a year for your site and hosting. For a nonprofit with two to three people or less than $100,000 in annual revenue, this is sensible option.
There are a few cons, though. While these DIY website builder platforms have advanced considerably in the last few years, they simply are not the right option for a nonprofit with over $100,000 in annual revenue.
The DIY platforms are still stuck at 2010 capabilities, which is an eternity ago, digitally speaking. These DIY platforms are not tried and true content management systems, meaning you will find it annoying to quickly update a blog, which is the life force of your nonprofit website. Prepare to spend a lot of valuable time on the DIY platforms to get the website to look the way you want and publish content regularly.
Here comes the major drawback of the DIY platforms. The web is becoming super integrated, meaning different platforms speak to each other. It’s not just about pulling in your Facebook info onto your website anymore. Your nonprofit website should connect to the other digital platforms you use such as accounting software, payment processing, email, CRM systems, etc.
The verdict: a DIY website is fine if you’re a small nonprofit with extremely limited resources and you only need a website to point people to to prove your nonprofit actually exists. Be prepared to spend a lot of time both fixing your site and manually inputting data into your other systems.
Content Management System (CMS)
If you are an established nonprofit with stable revenue, the only website platform you should consider is a CMS. Most people are familiar with CMS—open source, free, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, yada yada yada. Drupal is more for enterprise these days and not that great. Joomla has lost its edge. (I was a huge proponent of Joomla years ago, but sadly had to come to grips with its inability to stay current. How’s that for objectivity?)
That leaves us with WordPress, which—and it took me some time to realize—is far and away the best website platform for your nonprofit and here’s why:
There’s an entire planet of people working on WordPress to make it even better and stay ahead of the curve. This is such an important aspect of technology. With WordPress, you can be assured that your website will ‘work’ and play nice with emerging technologies.
Your website investment will be good for years to come and you will own your site. Wix or any of the other DIY builders could shut down tomorrow and, poof, there goes your website.
The flexibility of WordPress is unmatched. WordPress can be turned into anything really and can be customized to match exactly what your nonprofit needs and is trying to do.
For example, I was speaking with a nonprofit in Colorado and they had no way to communicate outside of physical handouts. Their WordPress site can easily have a dual purpose: a medium to connect with donors and volunteers but also as an intranet to help facilitate communication and make their employees jobs easier. Whatever your nonprofit needs are, WordPress can handle.
WordPress is also known for its intuitiveness so if you have that person with minimal tech skills, they can conceivably get your nonprofit website up and running fairly fast. They have to understand hosting and follow the simple 3-5 steps to launch the site.
Once launched, there are hundreds of thousands of free and premium themes to choose from as well as ‘plugins’ that extend the functionality of your site. Extending functionality is key, as that is what will allow your nonprofit to grow and make a bigger impact.
The DIY platforms are basically ‘brochure’ websites. Those sites are a collection of pages that really just speak to your website visitor about your mission and what your nonprofit does. WordPress allows your website visitors to take actions. These actions, such as a donation, a newsletter sign-up, a job application, a volunteer inquiry, allow your nonprofit to grow and get to the next level.
The verdict: Whatever your nonprofit needs digitally, WordPress can handle the task. If you have a real go-getter on staff, they can handle creating a website. For the best results and for the truly growth-orientated nonprofit, at least consult with a digital marketing agency. Ultimately, choose WordPress for the right long-term investment.
I have to make mention of this one even though it’s a DIY builder. DO NOT GO WITH GOOGLE SITES. Even though hosting is free, you will end of paying someone who is going to charge you labor and deliver a poor product. Your nonprofit will inevitably realize your mistake and spend even more money fixing the problem. (I’m a huge Google fan but stay away from Google Sites).
Absolutely a NO for your nonprofit. Don’t even think about it, waste of money…A responsive website is your app.
Hope that helps. Now go forth and improve your communities. Feel free to contact us about your website needs as well.