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The WordPress Recipe for

Do you ever pull up a website and wonder if it’s WordPress? Even if it is WordPress, it can be hard to know exactly how a site’s assembled. So let’s take a look at how Nonprofit WP itself was written and built!

As long as you understand the building blocks of WordPress, you will have no problem following along.

Hosting is hosted on SiteGround, my favorite affordable recommended host for nonprofit organizations.

It includes a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate to enable HTTPS for security and HTTP/2 for speed. Finally, with PHP7 enabled and the SG Optimizer plugin for enabling custom caching, the site loads really fast.

For additional security and speed, the site runs on Sucuri’s security firewall which actively protects against and monitors for hacking attempts.


Everything about this site derives from the content. When I was first planning Nonprofit WP, I thought about the audience I wanted to target: nonprofit’s using WordPress. More specifically, I wrote for people trying to make a DIY WordPress site.

I then thought about my experiences with that audience and the type of information they needed to know. That list turned into an outline for the site. Over an intense month or so, I devoted lots of time to writing the first pages of the site and revising each one multiple times. When I felt like I had enough information composed to help my target audience—even though there are pages I’ve added since—I launched the site.

Importantly, as I wrote, I sought a consistent style and focused on writing each page for someone that is at a specific step in the website-building process. Following best practices for writing for the web, pages are long but well-organized and use highly-readable formatting. That linear style helped determine the design…


This site uses a default WordPress theme: Twenty Fifteen! You can view a demo of the theme (this demo is better than the one hosted from where you actually download the theme).

I chose Twenty Fifteen primarily for it’s navigation menu that runs down the left side of the page on large screens. While “old fashioned” in a way, the linear organization and available space reads like a table of contents, perfect for such a content-heavy site!

To give the theme a bit of interest, the site theme was customized using a “child theme.” A few custom colors plus some fancy CSS to allow for an icon with each menu item is just about all that gives this site it’s approachable and user-friendly design.


This site uses quite a few plugins for features big and small. They’re divided below based on a few broad categories of need with short descriptions for each.

Content Administration

There are quite a few plugins I use to make it easier to write, display, and manage my content.

Technical Administration Features

A number of plugins add behind-the-scenes features to WordPress that strengthen, fix, or adjust technical issues.

Site Maintenance

A few plugins make it easy to maintain the site.

Front-Facing Features

  • Gravity Forms and it’s Stripe Add-on run all the forms, including the donation form which can take credit cards.
  • WCAG 2.0 form fields for Gravity Forms fixes multiple accessibility problems with Gravity Forms.
  • Jetpack‘s free version has lots of great small features like a nice commenting form, like and share buttons, a spell checker, and the blog’s email subscriptions (and more!).

Look at Examples but Make Your Site Yours

There is no list of plugins every site must use. There is no one theme that all nonprofits can use. It’s valuable to view example sites, but make sure that you plan your website carefully and only use the plugins you need.

Ask Questions in the Comments?

See anything on the site and wonder how it got made? Ask in the comments!

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