Ask Nonprofit WP: How do I help my different website audiences with a single site?

I’m wondering if you can help me think through the plan for getting the nonprofit I work for (as marketing/comm manager) a website focused on funneling our different audiences towards specific actions (a site focused on better user experience to build an engaged community), making sure our site is well-supported and healthy, and setting up a good foundation for any future web dev needs.

It sounds like what you’re looking for help with is possibly the #1 challenge of many nonprofit sites. They don’t simply have a “customer” to cater to but instead a wide array of stakeholders with different backgrounds and relations to the organization.

I hope that if you work through the processes and technical recommendations for planning your nonprofit site and recommended plugins and themes, you won’t be led astray toward overly complex systems and harder-to-support themes and plugins. The biggest piece of advice I can give you for tech is to keep it simple, probably simpler than you’d even like. Your visitors want your site to be as simple as possible so long as it meets their core needs.

Keep It Simple!

When trying to do really complicated things (like custom layouts not provided by your theme or rube-goldberg-esque data processes on the site), that’s where I see things go wrong. If you can settle for a site that 100% works and is 75% of what you were hoping for, then I think you’ve succeeded. That last 25% (and especially the last 10%) is just really hard to get without a lot of professional help.

The same really goes for content too. Use fewer pages than you think you need. Keep your menu short. Avoid jargon. Those will all help your audiences find what they need fastest and with the least stress. I often recommend reviewing the menus of similar organizations that you think work well and using those as a starting point. If at all possible, follow that up by testing your menu with a few stakeholders. 5 minutes of watching someone use your website is incredibly eye opening (you can’t understand it until you see it!).

Find Help

I don’t know where you’re located, but I’d try to do some networking at meetups and WordCamps to find people to help you. Lots of people go to those looking for help, and I know I’m always happy to help people try to find someone when they show up.

If you’re a small organization, this one hour webinar I presented for Washington Nonprofits offers lots of great tips for getting started with a new website. For larger organizations planning to hire a web consultant or agency, sign up for my twice-a-year Anatomy of a Website Redesign course from NTEN.

If you’ve had successes building a simple DIY site for your nonprofit, share your best advice in the comments to help your fellow nonprofits!

Ask Nonprofit WP: Where can I find free “premium” plugins for nonprofits?

The reason I am writing this is to request you if you could please connect us with any site or company/organization that provides FREE premium plugins or resources for a WordPress website.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any sources of free premium plugins for nonprofits right now. Many plugin companies will offer some type of discount if you ask nicely, but most formal programs I was aware of no longer exist. šŸ˜¢

I would also just caution you to be very wary of any free plugins you find through searches like “free WordPress plugins” or “free premium WordPress plugins”. Without few exceptions, those free premium plugins have been intentionally infected with malware to hack your site.

I’m sorry I can’t offer more guidance. All I can really say is that it never hurts to ask for a discount or free license from a company after explaining what you do. Most will say no, but some may say yes! The WordPress community is generally made up of lots of really nice people who do like to give back.

Nonprofit WP keeps a list of known free and discounted software for nonprofits, including a few themes and plugins.

If you’ve had luck getting a company to donate software to your organization, share it in the comments to help your fellow nonprofits!

Ask Nonprofit WP: What plugin or service should I use for fundraising and visitor engagement?

We are looking for an plugin or service like engaging networks but without the huge price tag as we simply cant afford it. We basically need a call to action function template service so we can created campaign pages people can share (with a good social media layout) and ability to have subscription to our mailchimp and donorbox included.

It sounds like you’re looking for an all-in-one type solution for fundraising and actions. That’s a common need, but one I don’t find is very well suited for WordPress. One partial exception is the GiveWP plugin which provides a donation platform with some basic CRM capabilities. There are also lots of other 3rd-party solutions out there like EveryAction, NationBuilder, and Salsa that you could look at. I find that people aren’t in love with any of them, but they enable you to do things that would be extremely hard to put together on your own.

Just about anything is possible to do with WordPress, it’s just a matter of time, skill, and resources. That said, the more complex your needs, the most it makes sense to consider a 3rd-party tool. Custom website functions require a large initial development budget with likely ongoing maintenance costs. It definitely makes sense for certain organization to build a solution perfectly tailored to their needs, but it’s not a decision to make without considering all the potential trade-offs first.

Especially if you’re a smaller organization, though, a prebuilt solution with all the features you need included will probably be more cost-effective and stable than building the same thing in WordPress.

If you do choose to go with WordPress-based solution, I would recommend you:

  1. Identify a full list of all the features you need first
  2. Search for high quality plugins to handle each task separately (at least for tasks that don’t need to be aware of each other). The list of recommended plugins on NonprofitWP may be useful for this step.

If you organization has found a 3rd-party engagement tool you love, share it in the comments to help your fellow nonprofits!