A strong nonprofit website engages supporters, educates visitors about your mission, and accepts online donations. Since your website is such a vital component of your online outreach strategy, you’ll need to choose the right content management system (CMS) to build and manage it.
You may be considering revamping your website by migrating it to a new system or creating a brand new site from scratch. Before making a decision, you’ll want to assess your needs and thoroughly research available platforms before making a decision.
With that in mind, here are three tips to help you choose the right CMS for your nonprofit website:
- Define your website needs.
- Compare top platforms.
- Work with a website consultant.
The top nonprofit websites have more than just solid design and engaging content. They require the support of a powerful CMS platform that allows their websites to be scalable, flexible, and usable over the long term. With these tips, your nonprofit can make an informed decision to find the CMS that fits your needs.
1. Define your website needs.
If you already have a fully-developed website and you’re considering whether to switch CMS platforms, you must verify that a new platform will actually be the best way to solve the issues you’re facing. Or, if you’re designing your website from scratch, you’ll need a full understanding of what you want your new website to do. Either way, you should start the CMS research process by defining your website needs.
Create a list of must-have and nice-to-have features for your website. Here are some features engaging nonprofit websites require:
- Branded donation forms and a secure payment processor to accept online donations.
- Online storefront to accept payments if your organization offers merchandise online.
- Integrations with your social media pages, email marketing platform, CRM, and any other digital systems you use.
- Security features, such as two-factor authentication, the ability to assign restricted permissions to different users, and automated security tests.
- Mobile responsiveness, allowing you to edit your site in the mobile view.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) tools to help your site pages rank on search engine results pages.
You’ll be able to leverage these features to create a user-friendly nonprofit website that facilitates online donations and other transactions, keeps donor information secure, and increases brand awareness.
All of the top CMS platforms available today offer these features, but they differ in some meaningful ways. When assessing your options, pay attention to each system’s intuitiveness and approach to these features.
2. Compare top platforms.
For nonprofits, two CMS platforms stand out as the most effective, well-rounded systems for long-lasting websites: WordPress and Drupal. According to Kanopi’s Drupal vs. WordPress guide, both platforms are excellent options for nonprofits because of their scalability and flexibility.
Both are open-source, user-friendly, and customizable. Plus, they both have a strong user support community. But let’s break down a few areas where each platform truly shines:
WordPress has long been considered the ultimate platform for user-friendliness. It’s accessible for users at all different levels and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge to use. This CMS also offers a vast library of ready-made themes to choose from, with over 11,000 themes available. Because of these features, WordPress websites tend to be easy to get up and running in a short time frame.
Drupal is a powerful open-source CMS noted for its customizability and security features. Drupal offers a smaller theme library than WordPress, but it still has plenty of ready-made themes to work from. Drupal also offers over 48,000 modules that extend the functionality of the core system. And, the platform offers plenty of flexibility when it comes to applying different administrative themes.
As far as security is concerned, Drupal releases frequent security updates and fixes and is supported by a strong team of developers who proactively work to resolve problems.
Comparing both platforms
Both platforms also offer other must-have features to create a powerful nonprofit website, including mobile responsiveness, SEO optimization, and a variety of integrations to help support your marketing strategy and fundraising efforts.
After reviewing each platform, you might feel torn on which one is the right system for your nonprofit. To help make your decision, request demos for your top options. You’ll be able to see what these platforms look like in action and visualize how your team will use them to maintain your organization’s website.
In addition, assess the cost of each platform. This includes the cost of the CMS itself, plus the expense of paying a developer to create or migrate your site and any ongoing maintenance fees. Both Drupal and WordPress are initially free to use, but to create truly powerful, well-designed websites, you’ll need to set aside some of your budget for development and ongoing support.
3. Work with a website consultant.
If you’ve assessed the top options and are still struggling to decide which CMS is right for you, consider partnering with a nonprofit web design agency. A website development firm can assess your current website to determine whether remaining on your existing CMS or switching to a new one is the best course of action.
Plus, you’ll likely require the support of a skilled web developer to help manage your website migration or build project. Plenty of nonprofit-focused web development agencies offer WordPress and Drupal planning and development services to help you prepare a roadmap for updating your website or switching to a new platform that can better handle your needs.
When choosing a firm to work with, thoroughly assess the services and approach of each of your top options. Your partner should offer the following design, development, and support services for the major CMS options:
- User research/testing
- Custom plugin, module, or theme creation
- Third-party/custom integrations
- Accessible design
- SEO strategy
- Website conversion optimization
- Module and plugin upgrades
- Performance enhancements
- Staff training to assist with content migration and entry
Choosing a web design consultant is a lot like choosing the best CMS for your website. Both processes require careful consideration and research before reaching a final decision. Use this process to help narrow down your consultant choice:
- Research top options. Review industry resources such as Double the Donation’s roundup of top nonprofit website design companies or ask other nonprofits for recommendations. Investigate the websites of each firm to see what catches your eye and gain an understanding of the type of services and support they offer.
- Submit a request for proposal (RFP). An RFP is a summary of your organization’s website needs, digital goals, project timeline, and budget. This document gives prospective partners an understanding of what you hope to achieve with your website design project and whether they can meet your needs or work within your timeline and budget.
- Review plans and get your questions answered. After sending your RFP to your top options, you’ll receive their proposed plans for guiding your website design project. Review these proposals carefully and make sure you fully understand each firm’s approach. If you have any questions or concerns, make sure you communicate them to your prospective partners.
- Choose the firm that best fits your needs and understands your goals. At the end of this process, you should choose the web development firm that best understands your needs and aspirations and offers a plan that makes you excited about your website’s future. Also, ensure that your web design partner’s working style matches your team’s to facilitate a smooth, effective collaboration.
After you’ve determined your web design partner, they can help your nonprofit choose the right CMS, train staff members to use the platform effectively, and offer ongoing support services to ensure you’re making the most of the system.
Choosing a CMS for your nonprofit is a decision that can have long-lasting impacts on your organization. That’s why you want to ensure that you choose the right system up front that can scale as your website grows and continue meeting your needs well into the future.
By carefully defining your needs and goals, assessing the benefits of top platforms like WordPress and Drupal, and choosing the right web design partner to help manage your project, you should be able to select the right CMS and use it to its fullest potential.