There is a common misconception in the world of nonprofits when it comes to company websites: custom development is the only option. There are times, especially for large organizations with significant and specific needs, that custom websites are needed, but for the vast majority out of the box/free solutions are the best option if you can get over the fear of new technology. Your organization will be better off going down the route of self-management because, a) you’ll own and have power over all of your data, b) you won’t expend unnecessary resources/money on things you can complete in house quickly, c) the learning curve isn’t as high as you think, d) you won’t have to wait for someone else to make changes.
What many don’t realize, the goals and purpose of a website can easily be handled with free options currently on the market (and have been for almost a decade). I know what you may be thinking, but free doesn’t mean cheap in this case. In the realm of the internet, open-source (free) is in fact a power worth taking advantage of.
Here’s why non-profits do not need to spend the money on custom websites and how to use free alternatives, namely, the implementation of WordPress.
Most non-profits have limited resources and unfortunately ignorance has kept many dubious web development firms in business. To start, the type of the investment required to create a custom website goes far beyond merely hiring a designer. There are multiple and expensive stages to complete a new or revitalized website. Content creation, how it fits into your business plan, wireframing, UX, design, development, etc., all factor in and will end up costing tens of thousands when done well.
Because web and tech are generally not strong suits of non profit managers, they tend to contract this side of the business out to professionals. Being less than web savvy, however, can cost a organization dearly. Here’s why non-profits do not need to spend the money on custom websites and how to find alternatives.
1) Nearly all functionality you can think of is available free of charge in the form of free ‘plugins’ that are usually installed with a click of a mouse from the admin panel. Internal calendars, shopping carts, email subscriptions, newsletters, etc.
2) Thousands upon thousands of free designs (called templates) are available, and many customizable with a click of a button, that will meet your needs. (No need to hire a designer.)
3) A lack of knowledge (or time) is generally the culprit that leads to contracting web development. The alternative is to hire a developer to install the WordPress platform, and then take the plunge to learn the system. It sounds daunting, but the reward is worth the time. My suggestion is based on the fact WordPress can be learned with relative ease by anyone who can check their email. Don’t let fear dissuade you from making a good decision. The alternative?
4) Not surprisingly, the companies who offer customer services are also going after ongoing maintenance agreements for simple work they hope nonprofits don’t realize is so simple. The interest of these companies is to set up a situation where you continually have to rely on them for services and updates. In WordPress updates are free (and usually automated).
Note, the web company you hired to custom build a website will be making something that has less functionality and will be harder to use than the free options available. Bear in mind, Most web development companies selling custom websites to non profit organizations themselves use WordPress because it has easier and better functionality. That should speak volumes with respect to what you need and what you should use.
Exceptionally robust and simple options are available that will get a new or revitalized website up and running. Don’t let fear be the impediment to assume responsibility of the website. Once you’re setup and running, with a little training, you have most of the skills if not all, to manage your website. It’s plausible you will need bits and pieces of assistance to solve quick problems, but you don’t need to hold a company on retainer or pay thousands a month, for this kind of service. Work out an agreement with a development company for this ongoing support, it shouldn’t be expensive.