Join MRN’s webmaster Blake Imeson as he shares the top five reasons WordPress is a fantastic choice for a Non-Profit website.
This is a tech-oriented post about how our MRN website is constructed. If that sounds boring, I apologize. I’d be happy to redirect you to one of our lovely popular posts: 5 Fascinating Facts About Malawi or an interview with Confex on coming to the USA for Seminary and a Pastoral Internship
The MRN website is built using a free Open Source software called WordPress. Currently WordPress runs about 34% of the web. It started as a platform for blogging but has since become a great tool for all kinds of websites.
1. It’s Easy to Add / Edit Website Content
Historically, one of the biggest challenges of having a website was it becoming stale.
For instance, any updates to an organization’s “About” page text , or adding team bios had to be passed to a (likely overworked) code monkey who also managed the organization’s printers and tech support. Needless to say, this made website updates a frustrating and slow process for all involved. Regular news/blog posts were difficult to publish in a timely manner.
Sites would often become stale and full of outdated untrustworthy information. The problem was worse for non-profits who often operate in a very lean manner.
Then along came WordPress!
It truly democratized content. Now marketing folks and non-technical people could login to the dashboard of their site, and without needing to code, make content changes and additions. Freedom!
We’re now one-step further in this evolution with the advent of “Front End Page Builders”. These let an admin interact with the front of the website and see the changes live as they make them. We use and recommend the BeaverBuilder plugin to enable front-end editing. This lets us quickly create elaborate page layouts without coding.
2. A Non-Profit Needs to Be Found Online
In case you haven’t bumped into it, Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the art and science of how to appear in the rankings of a Search Engine (think Google).
It is important if someone googles Malawi Reformation Network, that the MRN site shows up! There is a whole industry built around this very complicated aspect of running a website. Here is a good beginner’s guide to SEO.
Rankings are harder to achieve for non-brand searches. For instance, at MRN we would love it if someone searches “reformed church malawi” or “malawian pastoral internship” and MRN shows up.
Delving into SEO is well worth the effort. If a searcher can’t find an organization online, in a sense it doesn’t really exist.
WordPress is built well for SEO. A lot of its architecture is ideal out of the gate, and the rest can be optimized with plugins.
3. Multitool of Functionality for a Non-Profit
A website often does a lot more than just act as an online brochure. With WordPress there are tens of thousands of “plugins” (free and premium plugins) that you can bolt on and make WordPress work for all sorts of purposes.
Here are some of the top 5 plugins we’ve bolted on to our specific Non-Profit WordPress site:
We use a fantastic Form builder called, GravityForms. It is a premium plugin but is pretty much the most useful plugin for WordPress.
This lets MRN create contact forms, email list sign up forms, applications for interns, and more!
We even have it integrated with MailChimp, our email delivery tool.
2. Google Analytics
This free analytics tool from Google, lets someone add some code to a site that tracks how people interact with the site… where they come from, what pages they visited, how long they were on the site, etc.
It is a very helpful tool to track success and to make sure we are writing content people find interesting.
There are many ways to add Google Analytics to a WordPress site. We like the MonsterInsights plugin.
3. Social Media Sharing
We give our readers an easy way to share our blog posts. At the bottom of every post there is a group of Social Media share icons that look like this:
Our tool of choice for Social Media sharing is MashShare.
4. Search Engine Optimization
One of the key plugins in MRN’s SEO endeavors is Yoast SEO. It lets us adjust the SEO titles and meta descriptions per-page, generates an XML sitemap, and brings in some under-the-hood features that help bots /machines know what the MRN site is all about.
5. Site Speed
It is really frustrating when a site takes forever to load. People will just abandon the site and Google will withhold good search rankings.
MRN uses a plugin called WP Rocket to do some sophisticated caching, minification, and optimization to give our visitors the best experience.
Those are some of our most critical plugins.
All-told, the MRN website is running 26 plugins.
4. Beautiful Website Design
WordPress has tens of thousands of free and premium themes that can be installed to quickly give the site a credible and beautiful online presence.
MRN is built using a custom design on top of the venerable Genesis theme from StudioPress. We highly recommend Genesis-based themes as they have very high level of code quality and are an extremely solid foundation for a Non-Profit’s website.
Important consideration when picking a theme:
- How customizable it is to the brand. Ideally, have a WordPress agency craft a custom design, but if the organization is just starting out, some themes have easy options to add logo, brand colors, and make it somewhat personalized.
- Mobile / tablet – About two-thirds of MRN’s website traffic is using a mobile device or tablet! Generally, expect that a sizable portion of website users are visiting from a small-screen device, so make sure it looks good there as well as larger desktops.
- Reputable – There are some awful themes out there, that while they look pretty, are bloated with unnecessary code and of poor quality. This is an area where it is better to stick to the credible and popular options.
5. Forward Facing and Future Proof
Building an organization’s technology for the future involves the difficult task of trying to anticipate technological advancement.
WordPress has many factors in its favor that make it an ideal non-profit website platform for the future:
- Broad adoption – WordPress is used by all sizes of organizations and all types of structures: non-profits, big media, mom-and-pop stores, corporate sites, etc.
- Quantity of usage – With 34% of the web’s websites on WordPress, there are over 75 million sites running WordPress.
- Development community – With this many sites depending on the software, there is a healthy community of designers, developers, and implementers that specialize in WordPress.
- Flexible architecture – As mentioned above (Multitool of Functionality), WordPress can be stretched to serve all kinds of needs. It can grow with a Non-profit. The capability is practically endless and if needed, a WordPress site can handle donations, E-Commerce, private board portal, intranet, a resource library, etc.
I hope I’ve been able to build a solid case for why MRN uses WordPress for its Website. It really is a wonderful choice for many types of sites but it is a particularly good fit for Non-profit websites!
Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me personally. [email protected]