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[Book Research] How do you manage your nonprofit’s website?

November 19, 2010

[tweetmeme] Although social media gets much of the buzz these days, websites are still central to your nonprofit’s online communications strategy. I am very curious how nonprofits are managing their websites these days:

Are you using a content management system offered by companies such as Convio, Blackbaud or eTapestry? Others?

Are you managing your website manually using a website design software like Deamweaver?

Any nonprofits out there using WordPress.org as your CMS?

How about low-cost, web-based website provider like Webs.com?

Who in your organization is responsible for maintaining and editing your website? Is it staff, or do you rely upon volunteers and interns, or an independent contractor?

Are you happy with your website and what you pay for it? Or is it a frustrating experience that costs more than what you think it should?

How has your website changed during the Era of the Social Web?

I ask these questions because I want to be able to suggest in the book the best website vendors and programs for nonprofits of all sizes and budgets. I have my own ideas and favorites, but I want hear yours. With 1.3 million nonprofits out there in the United States alone, that’s a lot of websites and likely a huge variation in experience. I would greatly appreciate you posting your website link with your comments too. Thank you!

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49 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 7:10 am

    I used http://www.doteasy.com to set up a website, and I use that to edit it as well. It’s not as customizable as I would have liked, but it’s very user-friendly. I’m mainly the one who edits it. We don’t have a webmaster or anything like that, though when I get stuck, we do have volunteers who help.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 19, 2010 7:14 am

      Very affordable. Great. Any chance you’d be willing to share your website address?

  2. Wendy permalink
    November 19, 2010 7:13 am

    We use Wild Apricot (http://www.wildapricot.com) to run our non-profit website. It has an online member database, handles our events and donations, and lets us take online payments. We used to use a wordpress blog with a membership plugin, but it was clunky, didn’t work all the time, and we would regularly lose information due to the mix of paper hard-copy stuff and computer-based stuff. Then we had our website coordinator make a site from scratch using Dreamweaver and PayPal, but it wasn’t the greatest either…too time consuming, and we would forget to tell her to update information until it was sometimes too late. We did quite a bit of shopping around, and Wild Apricot had all the features for the right price (we only pay $25/month!) I would totally recommend it.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 19, 2010 7:18 am

      Great. Thanks. I didn’t realize they offered websites or online fundraising. I thought they were a blogging tool. Great tip. Any chance you would be willing to share your website link? And yes, I use Dreamweaver for my site… the newest version. It’s way too difficult and super frustrating… and expensive. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. Appreciated.

      • Wendy permalink
        November 19, 2010 8:50 am

        To be honest, we aren’t quite up-and-running yet enough to use as an example, but we were referred by http://silencebreakers.org who use the same platform. For disclosure purposes, I think their web person works at Wild Apricot, is how they found them, but I got the tip from one of their board members, and now got our girl to sign up for a free trial. We’re the Lakeshore Youth Alliance, I can give you the address when we have our new one.

  3. MHM permalink
    November 19, 2010 7:20 am

    We use Drupal and CiviCRM. Love them both!

  4. November 19, 2010 7:34 am

    We have been helping nonprofits with their website for over 10 years now. We are a much more affordable solution for smaller organizations. Websites start at $1,000.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 19, 2010 7:36 am

      And the name of your company and some example please? 🙂

  5. November 19, 2010 7:39 am

    We use WordPress to host our site. With all the template choices and possibilities we ditched our $3000 custom designed website for a $75 theme. You don’t need to know code and the interface is always easy! Also when we find templates that work better we aren’t paying hundreds of dollars to switch our theme and the array of plugins to customize is a huge plus!

  6. November 19, 2010 7:42 am

    WordPress! I’ve been tinkering with WP for years, so when I started in communications at my nonprofit, I redesigned our site (which badly needed it) and built it on the system. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who doesn’t enjoy the putzing, but I rather enjoy it, and I’m continually amazed at what I’m able to do with the site.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 19, 2010 7:45 am

      Sweet. Is this is? http://friends-bwca.org/

      How much did it cost to set-up? Monthly hosting fees? A template? Do you have to tinker a lot?! 🙂

    • dkzody permalink
      November 21, 2010 9:07 am

      I like what I see. I think you’ve done a very good job.

  7. November 19, 2010 9:50 am

    We use wordpress for the Mecklenburg Guardian ad Litem Advocacy(GALA) Foundation. I was unfamiliar with editing websites while taking this position, although I knew that’s what I was being hired for. I found it pretty easy to catch on and their are a lot of forums out there to help answer questions you might have. I also went into a little bit of css coding to change some things and luckily had a few IT friends to help me out. Maybe people get frustrated with word press but I’m actually okay with it. We host the website through godaddy.com. I don’t feel that it is too expensive, but I’m also not sure what all of the start-up costs were as I was not here when they first started the website.

    I was brought on as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a year and have had the time to play around with the different options throughout the site. I am wondering who will run the site after I am leave but I am hoping I have it set up well enough that it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for someone to log in and change dates, etc every so often.

  8. November 19, 2010 12:30 pm

    We host our website (www.trustmarriage.com) on our own servers and we use dreamweaver. Our graphic designer doubles as our web designer and monitors and updates the website.

  9. November 20, 2010 8:52 pm

    First off, love the content on your site! Great resource.

    So, I didn’t do all the setting up of the website where I am but we use http://squarespace.com great control over what we want our site to look like and we can use a template (what we are using now) or take complete control over everything. One of my favorite features on it is we can give different departments access and change each of their permissions for the website. Social Media is built right in as is analyitics for the site. If I have any questions send them an email and its been replied to very quickly.

    So far so good.

    Here is the site http://ywamsalem.org

    Cheers and keep up the good work people!

    Ryan

    • November 21, 2010 8:20 am

      Here is another vote for squarespace.com. I have set up two nonprofit websites using it. First was dsagsl.org (although I have not been responsible for it for months) and currently uccc.org. The main reason I chose Squarespace is because of how easy it makes everything and nontechies can learn to use it fairly easily. Plus there are controls for different audiences and a decent built in stats package.

      • nonprofitorgs permalink
        November 21, 2010 8:22 am

        Thanks. Can you please post the website URLs?

  10. November 21, 2010 8:07 am

    We are considering cloversites.com. Does anyone have experience with them?

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 21, 2010 8:13 am

      Interesting. Nice modern design, and $1,000 is not bad as long the “Donate Now”, e-newsletter and social media integration is seamless… and customer service is good and you are not dependent upon them for edits.

      I am increasingly advocating for WordPress.org, but it requires tech knowledge. 🙂
      http://wpmu.org/wordpress-for-non-profits-the-complete-guide/

  11. dkzody permalink
    November 21, 2010 9:05 am

    Although I manage SEAFM’s Facebook page, I am not the one in charge of its website. I find the FB page easy to keep up and add things to, but the person who takes care of the web page rarely updates it as it’s just too much work, whatever that means. I am coming to the conclusion that some people don’t work like I do, and when it is a nonprofit with all volunteers, that can be a hard issue to face.

  12. November 21, 2010 9:34 am

    iWith.org Foundation, we work with 300 website projects for NPO .
    We use Abcore CMS developed by our foundation with the cooperation and contributions of the NPO.
    Our websites:
    http://www.iwith.org
    http://www.bocatics.org
    http://www.abcore.org
    http://www.xarxanet.org/internacional/noticies/eng
    http://www.3inter.cat/news/

  13. November 21, 2010 4:53 pm

    I created my non-profit’s site using the self-hosted WordPress. I have been using WordPress for years, and I haven’t found anything better than it.

  14. November 21, 2010 6:31 pm

    My first website was written in html on Notepad in the ’90s for a nonprofit where I was the Exec. Director. Currently I am managing six websites for myself and people and organizations I am involved with. I would rank myself as an intermediate in terms of development knowledge. I know html and css pretty well but am a php and MySQL novice. I tend to work in code view in Dreamweaver or Notepad ++. I am exploring the possibilities of using WordPress for the small nonprofits I am working with. My thinking is that WordPress has a lot of promise. I am using it my personal website to experiment and learn, with the hope that I can eventually develop sites for small nonprofits that they can manage themselves. An organization that I belong to has done this with WordPress. You can see it at http://cnch.org

  15. missbossy permalink
    November 21, 2010 9:19 pm

    WordPress self-hosted (local webhost – cheap but the occasional service glitch). The org uses the webspace for a number of other apps necessary to the organisation besides the main site.

    For the most part the staff does not have the technical expertise to run the site so it is managed by a volunteer with staff doing more basic posts and link update. All web design, site maintenance and wordpress maintenance, upgrades, hacks and enhancements are done by said volunteer.

    But this is not a sustainable model. The organisation is either going to have to cut back on the expansiveness of the website (which runs almost as a news site) or find money to get paid expertise. If the volunteer leaves the organisation will be stuck.

  16. November 22, 2010 5:44 am

    I figured I’d throw in my two cents to help you with your research.

    I’m the Social Media Intern for AMREF Canada and my job is to build our online presence. We’re working on using social media to drive website traffic since it’s the centre of our online being.

    I’m not too sure about how much money we spend but iChameleon built it for us (like our HQ’s website) and we use their Treeline CMS.

    I’m finding it works well for traditional one-way communications-based strategies. This is successful for us since our core demographics are 50+ and are familiar with that format. Our challenge is to expand our demographic support base by leveraging social media to target Gen Y’s and healthcare professionals in particular.

    I’m blogging about the challenges of transforming our one-way communications strategy to a two-way conversation strategy without losing the support of our core donors. I’d be happy to talk about this in more detail with you. You can read about the process at http://advertisinginsights.blogspot.com.

  17. November 22, 2010 5:48 am

    The Columban Fathers use a mixture, with WordPress as the main CMS and Convio to handle donations, email and constituent info. Not a lot of technical savvy here, but enough to do the things we want to do, which is post a lot of news, and try to help people navigate.

  18. November 23, 2010 8:22 am

    I manage the website for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region (http://www.myunitedway.ca). I give a huge vote for Squarespace.

    In the past, we’ve had our website on Joomla, Drupal, a custom CMS and now SS and there are so many advantages to the tool.

    Custom sites, as I’m sure we’re all aware, can be ridiculously expensive. We set out from the beginning to create an attractive site with more functionality for our donors and volunteers without the price tag normally associated with that.

    We asked Cloudy Reason, a web dev in Florida with a lot of experience building on the SS platform, to build something for us. Aside from it being the best time I’ve had with a dev it was also extremely reasonable coming in under $3,000 (they also built a site for another one of our initiatives for around $1,500 ). When we saw quotes for similar, custom-built sites as high as $60,000, the choice was obvious.

    Now, I know there are solutions like WordPress with a nice template that are even less, but there was another reason SS was our choice that was more important than cost. It also allowed me to confidently bring in a team of (some) non-techy staff bloggers and not have to worry at all about teaching them how to use it.

    I love tinkering with a CMS as many of us here do, but I realized quickly with our last site that many people do not or don’t know how. Squarespace is a simple login and a truly WYSIWYG editor that doesn’t enter a backend at all, it just stays on your webpage once logged in and just adds little buttons overlayed on your content to interact with. So easy and yet so powerful. This was really important to us as we entered into social media and opened up a constant dialogue with our community.

    I also think having a host that creates its own plugins gives you the benefit of ensuring all your widgets run nicely with one another. Most SS widgets are fantastic with great design. I’ll admit, I use a few external widgets on our site and it has made an impact on load times (javascript conflicts and such) which is too bad, but some toys you just have to have 🙂

    Their customer support replies within minutes and is always helpful. They have an iPhone app (which I know several do, but it’s still cool) for updating on the go, built in analytics/social media tools which was mentioned earlier, great pricing plans and widgets that run the gamut from social media to form building to maps to photo galleries and on and on.

    Best of all, it takes the confusion out of the process. I can finally go on vacation once in awhile and not have to worry about seeing a mess when I get back or seeing it hasn’t been updated at all. Which is great for someone in a position which has many other responsibilities than just web (which many of us do).

    Phew, think that’s everything.

  19. November 23, 2010 9:43 am

    Hi, i was recently hired on a new communications position because of the growth that social media has had on everyone. Also, because our non-profit is growing and need to stay ahead of the curb with social media. It was very difficult for everyone to do social media on its own so why not just have one person in charge. Myself along with the IT guy manage the web page. If i want to update information i log on to Adobe Contribute CS4 web server, our template design was donated by a very generous foundation. I still have a lot of work to do as i am building what was not there for my position but i am enjoying all of it!!! I hope this helps for your research and thanks for your help as well!!

  20. November 25, 2010 6:10 am

    Are you using a content management system offered by companies such as Convio, Blackbaud or eTapestry? Others?
    – Yes, we use the Blackbaud Net Community content management system

    Are you managing your website manually using a website design software like Deamweaver?
    – No. I know Dreamweaver has had many improvements over the last several years, but it would feel like a step backwards to me. Historically, I really didn’t like all the “extra code” automatically generated for something that could be much more simply handled, not to mention all the embedded invisible tables to layout a design. I suppose I haven’t really given them a chance since.

    Any nonprofits out there using WordPress.org as your CMS?
    – We don’t use it for our main website, but we are using it for a satellite site to promote events. I absolutely love WordPress. The ability to add plugins for extra features is fabulous. The ease of changing a look and feel is superb. And the ability to monkey around with it leaves developers breathing easy. With a software development background, this is important to me. As the IT support staff, I really like how useable it is for my colleagues without technical expertise to publish updates on the site. I find it much much much easier to publish on it than with our Blackbaud environment, although it doesn’t integrate directly into our constituent database (which is one reason we went with BB). Were I to do it again, I would have most of our website on the WordPress platform and just use the BB environment for the online donations, team fundraiser functionality and profile updates.

    How about low-cost, web-based website provider like Webs.com?
    – No.

    Who in your organization is responsible for maintaining and editing your website? Is it staff, or do you rely upon volunteers and interns, or an independent contractor?
    – We have our staff maintain the website.

    Are you happy with your website and what you pay for it? Or is it a frustrating experience that costs more than what you think it should?
    – Sometimes I think we pay too much for it. And yes, I find it frustrating. However, most of that frustration is due to the fact that I’m not used to having my hands tied as much as they are. I like that it integrates directly into our constituent database.

    How has your website changed during the Era of the Social Web?
    – Not a lot. When we moved to a Blackbaud website environment, we added the functionality to Share an article on Facebook.

    Our Blackbaud website is http://www.adra.ca and our event website is http://www.worldfocus.ca

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 26, 2010 5:03 am

      Thanks very much. I can say this… you get what you pay for! It’s a nice, modern simple site that makes a strong first impression.

      WordPress site is good too. 🙂 Will look deeper into your content when I start writing this week. 🙂

  21. December 1, 2010 7:37 am

    The nonprofit I worked for in the past used the Expression Engine CMS for our site platform (http://www.coffeekids.org) currently I manage the site for the Fairtrade Labelling Organziations International and we use Typo3. We may be changing our CMS to something more globally known like WordPress or Drupal in the next year so our member organizations can get better support. I also know that the organization Fairtrade Africa is using WordPress to manage their site (http://www.fairtradeafrica.net).

  22. December 3, 2010 9:19 am

    I just completed a redesign of the Eleanore’s Project website (www.eleanoresproject.org) using WordPress installed on server space at Dreamhost (gotta love DH for their non-profit discount!). The previous iteration of the website was straight HTML, but it was hard to maintain as I am the only one in the organization with HTML skills.

    Though it’s been live for less than a week, I am loving WordPress as a CMS – It’s a great way for me to integrate regular pages (mostly static content) with our blog (which is starting to get rolling again).

    As my organization is primarily volunteer-driven, I am the main person who maintains our website. Now that we’re using a CMS instead of straight HTML, the director and development chair hope to write blog posts and update static content as needed, allowing me to take more of a backseat role.

    I am really excited about finally getting on board with the social web – after much reticence on the part of Eleanore’s Project folks, I am resuscitating the EP Facebook page and just got started with Jumo (thanks your recent post).

    I know these comments are coming in late, but I thought I’d contribute my 2 cents if it’s useful 🙂 I’ve found your blog to be a great resource.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      December 5, 2010 4:11 am

      Very useful, and good job with the WP site. 🙂

  23. December 6, 2010 8:45 am

    Hi Heather:

    My name is Matt (@mattkoltermann) and I’m the online marketing and development manager at Action Against Hunger (http://www.actionagainsthunger.org). In response to your request, here’s some info about how we manage our website.

    *ARE YOU USING A CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM OFFERED BY COMPANIES SUCH AS CONVIO, BLACKBAUD or ETAPESTRY?
    While we do use Convio’s donation processing, email marketing, e-card management, and personal fundraising products, we don’t use their CMS. Instead, we manage all of our website’s content using Drupal 6, which we’re quite satisfied with.

    *ARE YOU MANAGING YOUR WEBSITE MANUALLY USING A WEBSITE DESIGN SOFTWARE LIKE DREAMWEAVER?
    All content is created and managed by various editors in Drupal; all style, layout, and scripting is strictly separated and manually managed using either Drupal modules, Dreamweaver, FileZilla, Coda (for Mac), or Notepad ++ and is only accessible by administrators.

    *ANY NONPROFITS OUT THERE USING WORDPRESS.ORG AS YOUR CMS?
    We don’t have a blog now, but have considered using a self-hosted WordPress solution for when we do.

    *HOW ABOUT LOW-COST, WEB-BASED WEBSITE PROVIDERS LIKE WEBS.COM?
    No.

    *WHO IN YOUR ORGANIZATION IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING AND EDITING YOUR WEBSITE?
    I’m the “webmaster,” you could say, but about five or six other people all contribute to managing different content areas of the site.

    *ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR WEBSITE AND WHAT YOU PAY FOR IT?
    We’ve outgrown the site’s current design, and have serious plans for an overhaul in early 2011 (in tandem with a back-end upgrade to the long-anticipated Drupal 7) that reflects a longer-term strategic vision for the role our web presences play in online outreach, fundraising, and advocacy. We’ve been experimenting with some new elements of what we plan to integrate into our primary web presence with a microsite we’ve launched for a significant campaign we’re running this holiday season, http://www.ftagainsthunger.org. In 2011, we’ve budgeted more money than ever before for professional web design.

    *HOW HAS YOUR WEBSITE CHANGED DURING THE ERA OF THE SOCIAL WEB?
    In 2010 we hired a full-time online marketing associate whose primary responsibility it is to manage our outreach and engagement strategy using relevant social networks. This has also lead to the integration of our Facebook, Twitter, and Change.org, profiles in strategic places throughout our website, in addition to our email marketing templates. We can do better, though, and plan on more fully integrating the dynamic content created through our social media profiles into our primary website in 2011.

    Please let me know if you have any questions…good luck with your book!

    Matt

  24. December 6, 2010 9:46 am

    I use Joomla and wordpress.Its great.

  25. December 15, 2010 11:53 am

    We host our sites with yahoo, and use no CMS scripts (on 3 of them, 1 uses wordpress).

    I designed and now manually manage the main site for our agency using Dreamweaver. Before joining the agency, I did web design freelance, and one of the first things I did was completely overhaul the existing website (completed a little over a year ago). http://www.ghcaa.org

    We also operate an additional website for our Women’s Health program, it runs on WordPress. http://www.greenhillswomenshealth.org

    Our women’s shelter website – http://www.greenhillswomensshelter.org is similar in operation to our main site, as is the site for our green programs – http://www.putalittlegreeninyourlife.com

    I developed and maintain all four websites.

    I have also begun to heavily utilize social media for the agency (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) in my time here.

  26. December 15, 2010 3:07 pm

    Our website is built in MS Sharepoint (http://www.solid-ground.org) which I do NOT recommend, it is a gnarly beast. Our donation links utilize The Raiser’s Edge. Their front-end interface (through NetSolutions module) has left much to be desired. We are in the process of upgrading the RE stuff to Netcommunity Sparks, which should be much more friendly to us and our donors.

  27. December 16, 2010 8:20 am

    Many of these tools create nonprofit sites that have a moderate amount for the website visitor to see, but little or nothing for them to do. Most nonprofits would benefit more from a site with lots to see AND lots to do. These transactions could be financial (e.g., donations, event tickets, e-store, membership dues, etc.) or non-financial (e.g., volunteer/employment application, discussion forum, e-advocacy, polls, referrals, blogs, etc.). All money should be collected securely within the nonprofit’s website, rather than on a third party site (for 20+ reasons please see http://www.charityfinders.com/FAQ/#faq4).

    CharityFinders (www.charityfinders.com) offers NonprofitSite123, a tool that enables nonprofits to have a world-class, interactive, custom-designed website quickly, easily, and affordably. Here are some sites built with NonprofitSite123: http://www.charityfinders.com/References.

  28. December 23, 2010 6:16 pm

    We use MS officelive.com for our critterscompanion.org webpage. It’s a free service, the only cost is the yearly domain fee. The free service has easy to use templates that works well for the inexperienced webmaster, but at the same time doesn’t have a lot of flexibility or customization. Since we have an extremely low budget, free is all we can afford. Interestingly enough, I’ve found our homepage has some sort of javascript problem that I haven’t been able to figure out and IE 8 and 9 has trouble displaying it, but works fine on Firefox and Chrome.

    We use wordpress.com for our blog, which embeds into our webpage beautifully and allows us to update to twitter and our facebook page.

  29. December 23, 2010 9:45 pm

    We use blackbaud sphere–> a web design company created the basic structure and coding of the site and one or 2 of our team members (the founder and Executive Director) manage the updates.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      December 24, 2010 9:51 am

      They are on my list to call. 🙂

  30. TimothySerrano permalink
    December 28, 2010 11:34 pm

    Mura CMS by Blue River Interactive Group, Inc. keeps a list of organizations with live links to their respective websites, including non-profit organizations, using Mura CMS from its public website at http://www.getmura.com/index.cfm/overview/who-uses-mura/more-organizations-that-use-mura-cms/

  31. March 29, 2011 12:16 pm

    We use Joomla! (open source). The website itself was built by our webmaster and our designers. Since 2010 we are assisted by a website optimizer and a translator for the English pages. They all work pro bono. Because of their assistance quality does not suffer so we can guarantee our donors that 100% will be spent on projects for children and youngsters in townships and on farms in South Africa.
    We are very happy with Joomla because its CMS makes it very easy to update the website. We also use Joomla for our newsletters. Highly recommended!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      March 30, 2011 7:04 am

      Thanks. Joomla! made the book. 🙂

  32. August 30, 2012 5:31 pm

    Great Article… I guess when it comes down to it, most developers are preferential to the CMS they are most accustomed to. Personally, I love MODx… it’s flexibilty, speed, the way it’s organized.

    GoodBlog

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