Hi all,There is a subject I would like us to discuss in the forum.It seems building a website is still a burden for small NGOs. Either because of the needed technical work, or because of the decisions needed to be taken due to the many available options.I am personally aware of the work of Jason and Mark, who both teach and make an effort to make this process simpler (Mark with his book and MRW plugin, and Jason teaching how to disable certain features on the dashboard).I’m asking myself if it is worthwhile to try to make the process even simpler by building an all in one WordPress platform for NGOs. The ideal is to make it almost as simple as using social media. Such a platform will probably be build as a WordPress multi site, and will include selected necessary plugins. Of course such websites will have much less design options and will be less unique, but it still might be a good solution for many small NGOs.Checking what already exists online, I think what wordpress.com offers to NGOs covers this need only partly.Would love to hear your opinions on this matter.Very best wishes,Ben Carp
------------------------------Jason KingFreelance WordPress development and Google Ad Grant managementCarcassonne, Francewww.kingjason.co.ukTwitter: @jasoncsking
------------------------------Ben CarpEmbrace NGO------------------------------
The idea of using WordPress multi-site for this purpose concerns me a little. We had a local developer do that and when his life circumstances changed, a few dozen nonprofits were left unable to do little more than edit content. (No admin accounts were issued, only editors, so couldn't edit widget content or add/delete from menus either.
Seen that happen a few times, it's infuriating and unprofessional when web devs don't give clients full access and ownership.
Multi Site is successfully used on some huge sites, WordPress.com being only the most obvious example. See also Edublogs. I'm not keen on using it to host a portfolio of unconnected websites (is that what your local developer did?). That's overkill. MS does need more support and maintenance, so there has to be some commonality of themes/purpose in order for there to be economy of scale.
The problem you described doesn't sound like a multi site problem per se, more like a failure to administrate and confer responsibilities properly. One of the advantages of working with a network organization is that it already has a remit to support its affiliates. Therefore they should have access/permissions to manage members' accounts, and responsibility for doing this. Leaving user management in the hands of a single web developer would be, as your example shows, a recipe for disaster (and the same is true of non-multi-site websites).
A balance would need to be struck between allowing individual members to customize their own site, and setting limits on what functionality they need to use, and ensuring they reflect the branding of the network. I'm in favour of placing limits, because it can simplify the experience of users, but you have to consult with them and be aware of their needs and priorities.
Other issues arise: for example, who guides future development? Do local members request new features? Maybe vote on them?
And there needs to be a process for when a member wants to self-host and move their site elsewhere - which is doable.
Has anyone on this board used Multi Site in this way? I'd love to hear from you.
------------------------------Jason KingFreelance WordPress development and Google Ad Grant managementCarcassonne, Francewww.kingjason.co.ukTwitter: @jasoncskingOriginal Message:Sent: Dec 19, 2016 10:04From: Cindy LeonardSubject: Wordpress 'all in one' solutions for small NGOs
I like Jason's idea of making this work for very niche applications. In the U.K. We have a mental health charity called "Mind" that has local branches, and I built a theme that adhered to the umbrella organisation's branding, and had a built-in service directory component. It was one of the first custom things I made in WordPress, but it's used by a few local branches. I can see how this would work as a multisite for a specific organisation in this way. (I also remember out national Food Bank organisation, the Trussell Trust, did this too for their local branches - there's a WordCamp talk about it: http://wordpress.tv/2016/06/07/kat-reeve-successfully-managing-a-multisite-system-or-how-we-helped-over-400-food-banks-online/)
But beyond that it's really quite tricky because some organisations really want and can be trusted with a high level of control; they appreciate that their website needs ongoing care, and they're willing to learn a little to make that happen. In these cases perhaps allowing admin accounts is good, and these organisations would struggle with the limitations of a multisite.
But in other cases, particularly with small charities, they don't have the resources to maintain a website. They just want to set something up with a contact form and a location map and be done with it. I have one charity I work with that's always asking me to do password resets and create new users, even though they have admin access, and this same charity recently was unable to make a DNS change because they'd lost the login details for their domain registrar!
In the latter case, there may be scope for a simple multisite approach. But also, in that case, I'd probably recommend something like SquareSpace over WordPress because it's easier for the client to make use of.
In general I like the IDEA of a multisite website creator tool for small charities. But in practice, I don't think it would work. Though I also note that schemes like this have been done: Human Made did something like this for restaurants with Happy Tables (the product is different now) and one theme shop has created something similar for churches called FaithMade (see https://faithmade.com/) which is believe is WP multisite with a page builder plugin and some other off-the-shelf stuff combined with some custom code to pull it all together nicely.
Enjoyed a couple of your WordCamp talks, recognise your face, but don't remember whether we ever chatted - remind me!
Mind is a great example of a network organisation, with 140 affiliates. I've worked with a couple, but never on websites. You say your theme ended up being used by a few branches, did you ever chat to the head office about it?
You make some good points. I'll check out Happy Tables and FaithMade.
Love the idea of a Makaton advent calendar by the way.
Likewise with your WordCamp talks. We have met and chatted briefly at both WordCamp Manchester and WordCamp London, but not in depth.
I think I was, at one point, trying to contact head office at Mind. But the local branch needed quite a lot of support and I didn't want to take on a mass of organisations all using the theme. In any case, it's a bit dated now - it's not even responsive! But I'd need someone to invest in making it mobile friendly before I could make better use of it.
Happy Tables doesn't really do websites any more, but have a look at FaithMade.
Hope to bump into you at London this year?
Hi Ben, thanks for raising this great topic!
While I think you're 100% correct about our diagnosis of the problem, the same issues you identify when it comes to websites apply to broader areas of nonprofit function. Development, marketing, financial management, event management, etc. are all shared challenges across many small NGOs. And as other have mentioned, within each niche there may be different functional needs. However, across all small NGOs thare are limitations and challenges related to administration, policy, know-how and resources.
What we've found to be successful in our consulting practice is to steer NGOs away from Wordpress, and towards all-in-one CRMs like Nationbuilder and Neon that also offer built-in CMS that integrate with the back-end database. Though these systems are somewhat less flexible and configurable than a standalone Nationbuilder site, they are much easier to manage. There is typically some consistency in UI/UX across various administrative and back-end functions, and the most common use-cases are accounted for. In case something exceptional is needed, there is API access and custom integrations can be built to fill gaps. But these systems allow organizations to get their ABCs right, while still offering plenty of power and features. In some cases, like Nationbuilder, umbrella and multi-site implementations are also available.
As an independent consultant, I would welcome a packaged CRM with a built-in Wordpress framework made for small and midsize NGOs, so don't take any of this as discouragement. Rather, it's my perspective that zooming out to solve a broader problem will result in a more attractive product for these kinds of organizations.
I've ended up using WordPress.com a bit more recently for these extra-small projects. That said, they always tend to be customized still. I also have some experience building a few sites for various networks. I'd love to chat about that more with others if we want to start a new thread for that!
Ross mentioned the great example of HappyTables (which doesn't even offer that service anymore but is a good example nonetheless). I think it's useful because it also highlights two key differences with nonprofits:
I'd love to pivot this conversation to our nonprofit staff in the community.
I love the network approach with federal - state - branch hierarchies, and I know that AAUW has embraced WordPress Multi-site for their support of their branches' website needs. It makes it easier for chapter leadership to keep their local members in the loop via their website and address local public policy issues. And branch leaders can help each other out when someone is stuck, addressing the training issue, past the initial training.
As I have been working with AAUW on various level, I see the benefit of this approach all over the country. Last I hear was they support 800+ branches, with theme and plugins. Yes, they are restricting the plugin installed to keep the headaches of support tiny. But this approach allows that branches that have additional needs they want to address to go to a self-hosted solution and still use the AAUW Themes and ensure consistent branding on all levels
As for an all-in-one solution integration of Donor management, event management, email marketing, membership administration, I stay true to open-source and implement CiviCRM on top of WordPress, which give the nonprofits the best of both worlds, haha. But the major difference is they keep control of their data within their sphere. (a topic for a whole different discussion)
CiviCRM is very powerful and has some fabulous features and works well with WordPress in pulling in donation forms, event registration, and self-admin membership solutions. It even does peer-to-peer fundraising as well as notification via SMS and other nice details.
Wishing everyone a fabulous, blessed Holidays and a prosperous Happy New Year
Birgit, thanks for that great example of Multi site in action. Looking at a few AAUW branches, I see the same theme coming up for some but others have been able to go their own way and choose a different solution. I must chat to you about it next time we meet, would be interested to know what pitfalls or opportunities it brought.
Hey Mark - I am not a web developer, but in previous jobs, I had managed content on websites on a couple platforms/vendors. Although the organization was not a chapter of some umbrella organization were some sort of template might have made sense, the first one was hosted by a company that a partner organization used. This made it cheaper I imagine, but the structure was really geared for a very different type of organization and so it had a lot of features we didn't need and then we had to come up with a bunch of work-arounds for the parts we used. The way content was organized made no sense for us. It was awful. The next was custom built by a vendor and we had very limited control and had to submit tickets to make most updates other than news/announcements. Then I managed a Drupal-based that although we hired a company to build it out for us, I could manage most of the content myself and even add new pages, add new things to the menu--after someone showed me how to do each of these things/wrote up steps. The next one was WordPress - we had hired a company to set it up and customize the theme a little bit, but with extremely minimal training, I was able to edit a lot of basic things or add new pages, switch out pictures, etc.
I guess that's context for saying, as a nonprofit employee who is not a web developer...