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Choosing the right Content Management System for your Non Profit

Posted on 23rd August 2010 by Gray Digital
By Admin |August 23rd, 2010

I’m sure many would agree that not all content management systems are created equal. While some are definitely better than others, there is not a one-size-fits all CMS; at least just yet!

The main function of a content management system for your non profit is to provide a platform that facilitates edits and stores content in a simple and easy manner. It should be able to allow management of content without the thought of how the technology works. Here content does not mean just text; it also includes contact form, membership login, donation management, youtube videos, and social connectivity.

This system can help your organization become popular because of the great online presence it projects. Here are a few dos and don’ts that can guide you through the process of finding the most suitable Non Profit CMS for your nonprofit.

  • Try looking for the most flexible open source community provider with out of the box creative, practical solutions which also have lower overheads than the others.

  • As my old boss at the Department of Defense, Lt General Croom had preached “A.B.C.” Adopt before buying, buy before creating! Many CMS packages have a wide range of free plugins and a great selection of premium plugins. Only as a last resort should you be extending a CMS with custom functionality.

  • Because you will be handling donations, make it easier for the benefactors to pitch in online by adding more e-commerce type widgets to the website. Don’t just restrict yourself to a simple donate button.

  • Never choose a CMS that caters to the taste of only the tech savvy. Remember that the internet is an open source, net illiterates and tech savvy, both, have access to it. Therefore, your CMS should be able to have features that cater to the abilities of both these users. It a minimum it should support RSS, a technology that allows others to receive syndications of your blog postings.

  • Be sure to have a solid tech team backing you up. Even the easiest of content management systems often require a bit of a helping hand from someone who can manage technology. Sure, the “what you see is what you get editor” may let you edit pages like Microsoft Word; but what about that fancy page with a ton of tables and graphs? In the ideal case you’ll have this resource on hand, perhaps a family member of a colleague can step in from time to time. Where budget allows, partnering with a reliable team can bring calm especially during crunch time (like event planning!)

So which CMS do we recommend? Well, I hate to say “it depends,” but it absolutely does. We find that most of our clients have 1-2 content managers and a list of maybe 10-12 “interesting” activities they need their website to perform. Actions like donor management, restricted content to members, and even hosting a job board are well within the capability of the WordPress content management system. The ease of use is unparalleled and same with the user community. There must be a reason why organizations like Harvard Univrsity and the New York Times power their presence with WordPress.

While WordPress is our primary choice, we feel it works well only when there is a disciplined set of content administrators. When the number of administrators scales from 1-2 to 3 to 1000s, we feel there are better solutions out there. Some nonprofits, especially associations, are tied to an AMS or Association Management System. For those we’d recommend using a Microsoft content management system like Sitefinity or the open source Umbraco. For those grass roots organizations that work with CiviCRM we’d say use Drupal.

So let’s sum up our recommendation:

  1. Will your website have less than 50 pages of content?
    We recommend WordPress CMS

  2. Will your website have less than 2,000 pages of content but only be administered by 1-2 content administrators?
    We recommend WordPress CMS

  3. Will your website be managed by multiple content editors?
    We recommend Drupal if your system does not have to integrate with other applications like a “CRM,” or if it interacts with other open source applications like CiviCRM

    We recommend Sitefinity or Umbraco if your system integrates with Microsoft based applications like iMIS.

  4. Are your requirements not so clear cut? E.g. you only have a 500 page website with 1 main content administrator but it needs to integrate with something like iMIS or CiviCRM?

    We most likely recommend WordPress for smaller websites but have to say “it depends” 🙂


  1. I would add the free edition of Kentico CMS for a smaller non-profit sites (the license lasts for lifetime), the bigger ones would need paid edition starting at $1000. Kentico is full featured solution that exceed in the ease-of-use, scalability and flexibility. Good example of nonprofit site would be or or

  2. I would recommend sitefinity CMS for all type of websites. It is really very easy to implement for developers and extremely easy for administrators/publishers to work with.

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