SmartCause Digital

Explore Software Options for Nonprofit Websites and Online Outreach

Oct 23, 2012

Over the last few months, we've heard from many nonprofit clients who are interested in moving away from an expensive, proprietary content management system (CMS) or constituent relationship management software (CRM). We've compiled information about software options that are available to accomplish common nonprofit online goals: content management, constituent databases, fundraising, email marketing, advocacy and more.

We're nonprofit tech nerds at SmartCause Digital, but we don't know everything about every tool. Our goal here is to give nonprofit organizations a primer on how tools can integrate with each other to offer customized solutions. This article is not a complete or comprehensive survey of all available tools. For additional research and information, please consult sites such as Idealware and TechSoup.

Proprietary Software

Several years ago, many medium and large nonprofits purchased complex, expensive and proprietary online software to manage their websites and online outreach. Nonprofits choosing online solutions today should also consider open source software and specialized tools that can work together to create a customized online solution.

A compelling reason for a nonprofit to purchase a "complete" online solution from one vendor is the promise of high-quality support. Many nonprofits chose these managed online software suites, such as Convio and NetSolutions, because they offered superior technology and professional support teams. Nonprofits choosing online solutions today should independently seek out current clients who can openly share their recent experience with the vendor's support team.

Open Source Software

Open source tools such as Drupal, WordPress and CiviCRM are used by thousands of nonprofits, universities, governments and businesses to manage a complete range of websites from complex to simple. Open source software is free. "Free as in puppies, not as in beer." Much like proprietary software, open source software works best when paired with a professional support team. Nonprofits choosing online solutions today should independently seek out other organizations who can openly share their recent experience with open source software.

Options for Content Management Systems

Drupal and WordPress are two content management systems that are popular with nonprofit organizations. Each tool can be used to build and manage a website. (Full disclosure, SmartCause Digital builds most of its clients' sites in Drupal.) Below is a simple overview indicating existing options for direct integration between Drupal or WordPress and the third-party vendors listed here for donations, events, email marketing and more. Even if a tool does not formally integrate with Drupal or WordPress, the tool may still be incorporated into a nonprofit website via an iframe, a widget or a custom wrapper.

  Drupal WordPress
CRM    
CiviCRM X X
Salesforce X X
Donations    
Click & Pledge    
Network for Good    
Events    
Brown Paper Tickets   X
Eventbrite   X
Email Marketing    
Constant Contact X X
Mailchimp X X
Advocacy    
CapWiz    
Popvox    
Ecommerce    
Google Checkout X X
Shopify   X
Stripe X X
Membership    
CiviCRM X X

 

Options for Constituent Relationship Management

CiviCRM and Salesforce are two leading options for constituent relationship management. CiviCRM is a full suite of open source tools that includes donations, events, email marketing, advocacy and more. CiviCRM integrates with both Drupal and WordPress, though the WordPress option is much newer. Salesforce is a for-profit company that offers discounted constituent management software for nonprofits. The Salesforce suite is robust and is extended by third-party apps.

Options for Donations

Click and Pledge and Network for Good are two leading options for online donations. Click and Pledge is a simple, donation processor that offers integration with Salesforce. Network for Good is a long-time provider of simple, straightforward online donation forms.

Options for Events

Brown Paper Tickets and Eventbrite are two leading options for paid and free event registrations. Brown Paper Ticket si a "fair-trade ticketing company" that donates proceeds to nonprofits. It also integrates with Mailchimp (mentioned under Email Marketing). Eventbrite is useful for both free and paid events. It integrates with Salesforce and WordPress.

Options for Email Marketing

Constant Contact and MailChimp are two leading options for email marketing. Both tools integrate with Drupal and WordPress. Constant Contact has a longer life as a company. Mailchimp's interface is more streamlined for new users.

Options for Advocacy

CapWiz and Popvox are two leading options for online advocacy. CapWiz has a long life as a company and functions as a stand alone product. Popvox is a newer company with a great user interface. The company offers widgets that nonprofits can use to embed Popvox content and tools into their own sites.

Options for Ecommerce

Google Wallet, Shopify and Stripe are leading options for ecommerce. Google Wallet enjoys the advantage of the Google brand and the built-in base of existing Google users. Shopify offers nonprofits an easy way to build a customized online store. Stripe requires support from a developer but the tool is robust enough for any nonprofit that wishes to process online donations, registrations and payments. Google Wallet an Stripe both integrate with Drupal and WordPress.

Important Considerations

Online technology can evolve within months, so it's important for nonprofit organizations to choose online software solutions that:

  • Embrace a philosophy of evolution and transparency which will help keep tools relevant and integrated,
  • Have an active community of developers, either paid or open-source,
  • Have an active support system, either paid staff or consultants and
  • Allow your nonprofit organization to end a contract or switch to a new service with a minimum amount of effort and expense.

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About the Author

Yesenia SoteloYesenia Sotelo is a digital skills trainer and web developer.

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