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Four Steps to Selecting the Right CMS for Your Nonprofit Website
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Four Steps to Selecting the Right CMS for Your Nonprofit Website

When your nonprofit decides that it is time to upgrade your website’s content management system (CMS), it may be tempting to jump headfirst into whatever platform you’re most familiar with, or start using a shiny new tool your vendor recommends.

At See3, we’re all about impact. And we think it’s important that the nonprofits and social causes we serve choose a CMS based on its ability to help your organization achieve its goals.

Your CMS should make it easier for you to manage your nonprofit’s content. A comprehensive CMS is flexible enough for you to perform the basic tasks of content management like editing, publishing, deleting and maintaining files that are needed to create your website.

Selecting the right CMS for your nonprofit website takes time and consideration. These four steps will help you select the CMS that works best for your nonprofit.

1. Look for a CMS that Helps You Achieve Your Goals

Just when you think it’s safe to put away your nonprofit’s strategic plan, think again. Knowing the direction that your nonprofit expects to move in the next five years will help you determine how to use your website.

Is your organization rapidly releasing new research that needs a lot of eyes on it before it’s published online? Look for a CMS with publishing features that allow for multiple editors. Do you want to launch multiple new campaigns in a tight time frame? Find a CMS that allows you to design unique landing pages without having to rely on web developers.

Go ahead; re-read your nonprofit's goals and objectives. Now answer these questions:

  • What does your organization plan to do in the next five years?
  • How much money are you willing to invest in your CMS?

These two questions can be provide you with the answers that you need to decide between free openware CMS like Drupal and WordPress or enterprise CMSs like Ektron.

The CMS that you select will allow you to update and publish content as frequently as necessary. It should also be able to handle the technical pathway for your stakeholders to perform the desired action with ease.

(Surprise, you’ve just laid the foundation for your User Experience.)

2. Consider How Intuitive and Easy to Use It Is

As with any new technology, adopting a new CMS for your nonprofit team will include a learning curve. But the amount of time you’re able to sacrifice is dependent upon your marketing schedule and how many staff members will take on the upkeep of the website.

For you, time is of the essence. Your CMS needs to be so fluid that anyone can tinker around and understand how it works.

That’s why most CMSs provide both HTML and “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) editors, which allow you to produce new content by writing in code or by using an intuitive visual editor that’s easy for non-developer types to use.

Your CMS dashboard should help you manage content as a team and control incoming interactions with your website. Your dashboard should allow you to:

  • Log into the CMS and maintains quality control of content
  • Perform routine tasks like publishing blog posts and creating service pages
  • Maintain the content library without adversely impacting the “look and feel” of the website
  • Protect the company’s assets from the threats of spammers and malware
  • Moderate the activity and comment of visitors

At the least, your CMS should match the baseline capacity of the staff that will primarily work on it, which leads me to the next point.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Make Sure It Is Flexible Enough to Handle Your Load

Because you’re using your nonprofit’s organizational strategy, you know what your exact needs are.

If you need your website to render correctly on mobile devices, have a campaign lightbox on the homepage, and handle the wear and tear of thousands of users, look for something that can handle third-party plugins.

If possible, spend time talking to the CMS vendor’s staff (or expert providers) to have your questions answered. The CMS that you select should be able to expand or contract as your organization grows.

4. Find a CMS With Built-In Support

No CMS is perfect, and that is why it is important for you to select one with a robust community and troubleshooting information. You want a CMS to provide fundamental solutions to your organization's challenges.

Does the CMS behave well with other software that is necessary for your day-to-day business? Does it allow for Twitter integrations? Does it synchronize new email sign-ups with Blackbaud?

If you “break” your site or run into a glitch, where can you turn for assistance? Most CMS have support forums and communities where you can self-manage.

Being a part of an active community allows your website manager to tap into years of knowledge while staying current on best practices so that your nonprofit’s website stays ahead of the game.

Every CMS has its quirks, but knowing what you need it to do for your website makes it easy for you to select the most appropriate CMS for your nonprofit.

Looking to upgrade your CMS and want to get an expert opinion before you take the leap? Get in touch with the web experts, See3, by emailing our VP of Digital Services, Mark Roth. We’d be happy to help.

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