Should You Build Your Nonprofit Website with Drupal or WordPress?

Following is a guest post from Spela Grasic of Cheeky Monkey Media.

Thinking about using a Content Management System (CMS) for your nonprofit website? You need to know how many of your finite resources you are willing to put into building and growing your online community.

Which Content Management System (CMS) is best?

Before picking a CMS system like Drupal or WordPress your stakeholders need to determine what you want to achieve. You will also need to consider what benefits your target audience will receive if they participate in your online community.

Knowing what you would like to get out of your online community and what your members would like to get out of your nonprofit website will help you determine what capabilities you will need your CMS to have.

Common actions, your community may take on your website:

  • Comment on blogs
  • Submit user stories and blogs
  • See upcoming events and create personalized calendars
  • Sign-in and have member profiles where they can update personal information
  • Participate in group discussions via forums
  • Share to social media
  • See live feeds from Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook Live.
  • Live chat
  • Purchase tickets for upcoming events
  • Receive relevant information
  • Search for key topics
  • Interactive maps, etc

You also need to consider what you would like your website administrators to be able to do:

  • Would you like to set different permissions for different users?
  • Would you like to be able to email individuals directly from the CMS system?
  • Would you like to automatically publish to your social media accounts?
  • Moderate discussions?
  • Edit and publish blog information?
  • Change and update features?
  • Easily add or incorporate new features?

Once you know this, you can begin to compare different CMS platforms to determine which will be the best fit for your nonprofit’s needs.

Should you use Drupal or WordPress for your nonprofit website?

There are a lot of CMSs out there. At Cheeky Monkey Media we usually use Drupal or WordPress because they are mobile friendly (out-of-the-box) and open source, which means that your nonprofit doesn’t have to pay monthly or yearly subscription fees like you would with a proprietary CMS or cloud-based community platform software.

The open source nature of WordPress and Drupal means that the both systems have large online communities who are always working to build and improve the platform.

So, as far as flexibility, cost, both Drupal and WordPress are excellent choices. But how do you know which is truly the best choice for your nonprofit?

When is Drupal the best choice for your nonprofit website?

We recently used Drupal to build the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Victory for Women website

and Jobs for the Future’s Pathways to Prosperity Network website, a collaboration of Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Both websites included:

  • Member directories
  • Community forums
  • Resource repositories
  • Social media integration
  • The ability to submit user stories
  • The ability to interact with other users through comments, etc.

We decided to use Drupal because:

Both organizations were already on Drupal, so using Drupal just made sense.

Drupal’s taxonomy* is amazing!

*Taxonomy means the way you tag, categorize, and organize complex content.

  • On the Pathways to Prosperity website, for example, users needed to have the ability to seamlessly filter through lots of different types of content.
  • Drupal’s sophisticated tagging (taxonomy) system made it super easy for developers to create different filters and adapt them as necessary so that website administrators can set content and story types to make it easier for website users to search for the information most interesting to them.

Drupal also comes preloaded with a lot of community tools.

  • Out of the gate, based on its core, Drupal has very capable user management, permissions, and roles.
  • This means that Drupal has some incredible capabilities for giving different users (both those updating your website on the administrator side and those contributing to your website from the community membership side) different editing capabilities.
  • For example, one individual can have just submission abilities, while another can have editing abilities, while another can just see different submissions but not edit or approve.

The biggest perk of using Drupal, however, is its ability to scale.

  • Since the National Hemophilia Foundation and Jobs for the Future are both large nonprofit organizations with multiple web properties and complex needs in terms of website functionality, Drupal is a good choice because the ability to customize it is virtually endless.

The best way to explain this, is to compare WordPress to a Transformer toy and Drupal to Lego. A Transformer is a complete toy. It can be a robot or a truck. Heck! You can even connect some of them to make a super robot.

Lego, on the other hand, isn’t particularly exciting, especially not out of the box. It also hurts when you step on a lego piece. But, and this is a big but, if you have the time and patience, you can literally build anything out of lego. And, you need to commit the time to building your amazing creation. But, in the end, it’s usually worth it.

If you can think it, you can usually build it on Drupal.

This may lead you to believe that Drupal is the only choice for a community website. It’s not.

When is WordPress the best choice for your nonprofit website?

Sometimes, WordPress is the better choice for your organization.

WordPress tends to offer a better User Experience on the administrator side for non developers

Cori Carl, Director of The Caregiver Space oversaw the nonprofit’s shift from Drupal to WordPress a few years ago. She notes that her “team found WordPress easier to maintain in-house than Drupal.” Carl goes on to explain that:

“Our biggest priority is ensuring everything can be built and maintained in-house, although we’re always striving to make sure the UX [user experience] is easy for our very diverse community. We have an online magazine, where professionals and caregivers can submit stories, in addition to our BuddyPress forums, groups, profiles, and messaging. WP [WordPress] allows us to use affordable tools to provide our members with all the features we need without a huge amount of custom coding on my part.”


You would decide to use WordPress when…

Many nonprofit’s find that WordPress gives them all the tools they need, and this may be the case for you.

You do not foresee needing to scale dramatically

WordPress can be a fantastic option for your nonprofit when you know that your organization will not be scaling drastically in the next 5-10 years. Not scaling dramatically means that you will not be linking or integrating your website with additional features.

Your website needs are not overly complex

Other than the ability to comment, submit posts, and update basic information in a member profile, the capabilities you would like your website to have are going to be minimal.

For example, you will not need to show users different information depending on their preferences, nor, will users need to filter through a multi-level resource repository.

You don’t mind paying for plug-ins.

The WordPress community is significantly larger than the Drupal community. This is great when it comes to more individuals working towards bettering the platform. However, it also means that many plug-ins are commercialized. Thus, instead of everyone in the community working towards bettering a single plug-in that does one task, multiple individuals are working on multiple plug-ins that do the same task.

It comes down to this:

Basically, WordPress can do just about anything Drupal can do. It might just require jumping through a few more hoops, which, when you are working on a website with complex needs, may end up costing you more money in the long run.

A few last thoughts:

In conclusion, both systems are excellent choices for your nonprofit’s community website. It really just depends on how complex your needs are.

The more seamless and comprehensive you would like your target audience’s experience on your website to be, the more likely it is that your website will require complex capabilities, and the more likely it is that a system like Drupal will be a better fit.

John Haydon