If you’re already using WordPress or thinking about using it, WordPress can help make your website do what it’s supposed to do.
The number one goal of any nonprofit website is to help the organization meet its mission.
There are several different kinds of nonprofits, including:
- 501(c)3 charities – your website should help you meet your mission around your particular cause, including driving donations to fund programs and driving volunteer aplications.
- 501(c)6 membership associations – your website should help you drive member acquisition and retention, serve your chapter officers and members, and drive other revenue, including certification applications and other education-based revenue.
- Nonprofit schools – your website should help you drive enrollment.
WordPress is solid, well-built software that doesn’t cost a fortune. Instead of spending thousands of dollars in software license fees each year, you can instead spend that money on programs and other revenue-drivers.
The WordPress community is large and generous with time and resources. There are many free and inexpensive services and educational websites.
WordPress has a large library of plugins, so you can have almost any kind of features you want. Just remember that vetting these plugins is extremely important.
The importance of storytelling on your website
Storytelling is the essence of how we communicate with ourselves and each other. Telling stories about how your organization has impacted lives helps you get more support, financial and otherwise.
Charities benefit from individuals telling stories about how their lives were changed. Bonus points if you tie it back to the donor being the hero, i.e. “your contribution made this possible.” It’s an excellent way to get new and repeat donors.
Membership associations benefit from individuals telling stories about how they have advanced in their field/profession because of their membership and professional development opportunities that the association has provided for them.
Nonprofit schools benefit students telling stories about how the school made them college-ready or career/workforce ready. Faculty and staff can also tell their stories about their contributions to the students’ lives.
Storytelling with WordPress
Stories can be told using WordPress posts and pages. This is the easiest way to do it right out of the box.
Visuals are always great for stories. You can easily store pictures in the Media Library.
It’s also very easy to put videos into posts and pages. If you’re hosting a video on YouTube, then you can just cut and paste the URL into the post/page editor, and the video will automatically show up as an embedded video.
Using WordPress for event management
Events are very common in the nonprofit space. Charities have in-person fundraising events and donor receptions. Membership associations have conferences and other professional development opportunities. Schools have events such as back to school nights, parent-teacher conferences, and athletic events among others.
WordPress has event management plugins that make it easy to advertise and collect sign-ups for events. The Events Calendar is a widely used program, and they even have a nonprofit program where you can apply for a free professional software license.
Content types beyond posts and pages
WordPress is a website content management system. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to think about different content types.
Out of the box, you have posts and pages. However, there are different content types that can also be managed in WordPress.
For example, nonprofits have board members. A board member is a content type. It doesn’t have to be a post or a page. It can be its own content type with its own attributes.
Attributes for a board member could be:
- Title and company
- Term served
- Office status (i.e. Chair, Secretary, or Treasurer)
The importance of having a WordPress expert on hand
Whether you hire a consultant or have an expert on staff, it greatly helps to have access to a WordPress expert.
Typical problems that come up:
- A volunteer designed and now maintains your website, and suddenly they either disappear or simply can’t do it anymore, leaving you stuck. No one on your staff knows how to code or make any significant changes.
- You have a WordPress site but not enough staff knowledge on how to maintain it. Therefore, you have lots of out-of-date plugins, and WordPress itself may be out-of-date. If you try updating something or installing a new plugin, then something on your website might break.
Having an expert that you can count on can help you choose the best plugins, do regular maintenance work which includes software updates, and make coding changes to change a font here, a color there, etc.
WordPress themes and the design of your website
It’s easier than ever to have a good-looking website right out of the box with WordPress themes. There are many good-looking free and inexpensive ones that you can customize to match your brand (i.e. putting in your logo, changing colors, etc.).
Depending on your budget, you can pay a developer to do theme customizations to an existing commercial theme or for a completely custom theme if you need it. The completely custom theme will be the most expensive option.
Whatever theme you choose, make sure to keep it as simple as possible. Many commercial themes come with many different plugins, and those plugins don’t always play nicely with each other. Themes should dictate the design of your website and not functionality.
Plugins should take care of functionality, and as a rule of thumb, they should be independent of themes. One or two plugins isn’t going to kill anyone, and there are always exceptions to the rule. However, when in doubt, themes are for design and plugins are for functionality.
Useful plugins for nonprofits
Nonprofits need the same website functionality as small, medium, and large businesses as well as bloggers and startups. Functions include:
- Search engine optimization – Yoast SEO is good for this; I’ve used it for years.
- Backups – you definitely want to have backups of your site in case something goes wrong and you need to restore a previous version of it. BackupBuddy, UpdraftPlus, and VaultPress are good for this.
- Security – you definitely don’t want the headache of someone hacking your site. Wordfence, Sucuri, and iThemes Security are good for this.
One plugin that I’ve come across that I think is an excellent tool for charities is the Give donation plugin by WordImpress. It integrates with the major payment gateways such as Paypal and Stripe and allows you to easily create donation forms on your website.
The whole experience is much more donor-friendly than an ecommerce shopping cart solution or Paypal button. It’s an actual, one-page donation form.
Integration with third-party software
You might use Constant Contact or Mailchimp to manage your email list and send out newsletters. You might also use Salesforce or CiviCRM to track your constituents.
You may not have a need to integrate these with WordPress, but if you do, then it isn’t terribly difficult. You can generally find a plugin that integrates third-party software with WordPress
One example is a plugin that makes it easy to add Mailchimp opt-in forms to your website. Also, the Gravity Forms plugin has add-ons that integrate with third-party software, including Salesforce.
It may take some looking around to find how to best integrate the software you use with WordPress, but there’s usually a way to do so.
Mark Root-Wiley published a nonprofit WordPress guide called Nonprofit WP.
Idealware published a report about the landscape of WordPress for nonprofits.
Finally, I publish the WordPress for Nonprofits podcast, which launches Monday, September 19. I interview nonprofit employees and consultants about their experiences with WordPress, and they have given excellence guidance and insight.
A dynamite nonprofit website made with WordPress
A dynamite nonprofit website needs to help your organization meet its mission. As long as you understand exactly what you need from your website, then you can use WordPress and its infinite possibilities as a tool to make that happen.
Any questions about your website or WordPress in general? Let me know.