Mark Root-Wiley Publishes Free Guide for Nonprofits That Use WordPress

One of WordPress’ greatest strengths is that it’s free to download and use. This makes it an excellent choice for nonprofit organizations that have a small budget. Nonprofits that can’t afford a developer to maintain their sites may opt to run it on their own.

Managing a WordPress site requires a basic understanding of how plugins, themes, and WordPress works. Thankfully, there’s a new guide available called NonprofitWP, by Mark Root-Wiley, that tailors specifically to nonprofits that choose to manage their own sites with WordPress.

Front Page to Nonprofit WordPress Guide
Front Page to Nonprofit WordPress Guide

The guide covers the following topics:

  • Things to know before you get started
  • Domains and Hosting
  • Installing WordPress
  • Choosing a Theme
  • Selecting Plugins
  • Entering and Managing Content
  • Keeping Your Site Healthy

There’s also a resources section with links to products and services that have special offers for nonprofits. Some of the products and services have an affiliate code that kicks back a certain percentage of sales to Root-Wiley.

Root-Wiley published the guide in an effort to help nonprofits make the right decisions, “A good WordPress website is easy to manage and maintain, but a bad one is time-consuming and expensive to maintain. Making smart decisions when you get started with a new WordPress site is key to avoiding headaches later,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of clients where our first project was cleaning up after a volunteer or staff member who tried to do the site on their own. Sometimes that’s a live site and other times it’s a refresh that’s hit a wall. One time, I was the ​seventh​ developer on a project, but I was the first paid one and the one to launch the site.

“So many of the problems these projects run into are in the very early stages where they went all in with a bad theme, picked the wrong plugin, or quite commonly, didn’t think through or understand their organization’s needs and how those should translate to a website,” Root-Wiley told the Tavern.

Instead of publishing the information in an e-book, he used WordPress, “I chose to publish it as a website because I think that’s the most user-friendly format and I don’t want anything to get in the way with people accessing the information,” Root-Wiley said.

While he doesn’t plan to open source the site anytime soon, people can submit content suggestions and ideas through the site’s contact form.


20 responses to “Mark Root-Wiley Publishes Free Guide for Nonprofits That Use WordPress”

  1. This is a great resource! Kudos to Mark! You can meet him and other nonprofit WordPress people in the “Community of Practice: WordPress” space on NTEN’s website (Nonprofit Technology Network)
    The membership is free, just need to register.

    Also for nonprofts coming to the Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose, you can experience a full day WordPress Day – Check it out.

    Disclosure: I am a member of NTEN and I will be speaking at the conference and also session proposal to WordPress Day. Follow me on Twitter @bph

  2. The problem with WordPress is that it takes a long time to really understand, and an continuous effort to keep the website safe and up-to-date.
    This is not a problem for big NGOs, but especially the small non-profits usually don’t have someone skilled to set up, secure and run a wordpress site.

    Not to mention someone who designs their theme. And just buying a theme isn’t so easy either, as most themes these days are bloated and slow.

    As much as I love wordpress, I feel it’s not a good choice for non-profit per-se and other CMS – like Grav – are better, as they are more simple and require less effort to run and secure.

    • I am going to give Grav a try to see how it is. I used another flat-file based CMS before: for Windows platform, and I would like to point out that it is not easy to migrate from WordPress to a flat-file based CMS, and vice versa, so once you decide to use one CMS, you should stick with it. Even though Grav has a WordPress plugin to transform your posts to Grav pages automatically, you still need to manually migrate all your media files under Grav and make sure all links are correct. It could be a big hassle for a large web site.

      The biggest advantage of flat-file based CMS is that it is very simple and easy to use, and especially when you move your site to a different hosting company. Since there is no database involved, all you need to do is to copy and paste the entire website folder to the new hosting platform.

      Again, thanks for sharing the information and I will install it on my Windows hosting platform to play with it.

    • I couldn’t possibly disagree more!

      If more of us that understand WP actually volunteered more your point would be moot (I currently work with 3 organizations and do EVERYTHING WP that they need done as my donation to their causes).

      If we all did that there’d be a lot less crap non-profit sites out there.

      Not sure how taking cheap shots at “most themes” fits into the discussion.

    • David, back in 2009 I did a research of about 15 CMS to use for nonprofits. I was volunteering for the local community network, which has offered a proprietary CMS to local nonprofits for free. It was completely outdated and the developer move on to other things. So we are looking at the open-source as well as other CMS. We settled on WordPress for two reasons. It was easy to get started and there is a large community helping out when volunteers weren’t around.
      We migrated 40 organizations within 2 months to their own WordPress site. The most beautiful thing was to see the techies disappear and the newsletter editors and the membership chairs to come it and take over handling the website content themselves. Once the site is set-up you really can teach people how to make it the best tool in their box for online communication. None of the other CMS have a more generous community to helping user getting ahead, and there is nothing easier than adding content to a WordPress site. I was still the only volunteer managing the program until 2014 when I resigned. Most of the sites are still up and going strong.

    • David, I think you hit on a lot of the pain points I’ve observed when working with nonprofits (particularly those that didn’t work with me from the start :) and I’m hoping that Nonprofit WP can help nonprofits avoid those exact problems. For instance, I only recommend very streamlined themes that essentially force them to use plugins for the appropriate features.

      What I find makes WordPress ideal for nonprofits is two fold:
      1. While it’s not “easy,” I do think it’s “easier” for nonprofit staff to use and manage their own sites. My business involves handing off sites for content management (while I do technical management) and it’s worked great.
      2. The amazing WordPress community means that the price of specialists isn’t off the charts, nonprofits can find lots of free help and information (Oh hey,!), AND they can find lots of people with experience both for their staff and new consultants for when I get hit by a bus.

      So I totally agree with your concerns, but maybe not the conclusion! Let’s help solve those problems for the nonprofit sector so WordPress works even better for them!

    • David, I installed Grav and spent a few days to set up a demo site with it. Based on my experience, I don’t think Grav is a good choice for non-profit organizations unless they have dedicated person with strong technical knowledge. As a matter of fact, Grav is a lot harder to configure than WordPress. I published my initial quick review on my site and you are welcome to check it out.

      • Really? Based on my personal experience, Grav is extremely easy to set up without any technical knowledge. You just upload the files to a folder on your webspace and you’re done.

        And if you’re using their admin “plugin” (also just upload it to a folder), you basically have the same admin area that WP has + you can easily auto-install their plugins and even themes.
        Furthermore their knowledge base is very detailled and their (growing) community seems quite helpful.

        Sure, when it comes to caching, theme styling and such, you need to have tech knowledge. – but that also applies to wordpress.

        And you should not forget that while wordpress is easy to install, to really make it run fast and secure, you need a lot of technical knowledge as well.
        Not to mention it’s complexity can more easily break your site.

        The simplicity of Gravs flat-file system makes it, in my eyes, more easy to understand and get into.

      • I read your review and do half agree, half disagree.

        I disagree on the part that it’s difficult to set up and get going, as there are “skeletons” and themes that offer the functionality someone needs.
        Also I find Markdown to be extremely intuitive and easy to understand (+ they have an editor, like wordpress has it, for the lazy folk).

        I agree though on that they need to work more on making it easy to install additional features – like your slider, other plugins, or stuff like jquery scripts.

        I would say we should give them some time, as they just got out of Beta recently and you know, WordPress had a looot more time to grow. :)

  3. Great resource! We have been providing our NonProfit Theme to organizations for several years, and it’s always been among our most popular themes. We give away the theme to non-profits in need through our Helping Hands program as well.

    I’d have to respectfully disagree with @David. I think WordPress is a great solution for non-profits. Like with any software, there is a small learning curve involved, but it doesn’t require a skilled person to use any more so than it requires a skilled person to use Microsoft Word. Particularly if they are using a well designed and intuitive theme. I think the confusion and difficulty for small nonprofits comes from the other steps involved with creating a website — the domain, hosting and installation. We have taken steps to remove that confusion for users with our Instant Setup service.

    I think it’s a natural choice for non-profits to use an open source CMS created by an organization that is constantly updated, improved and made more secure by a massive community of volunteers.

  4. As someone who started working with WordPress around 3 years ago for a small Religious Nonprofit this would have been a great guide to have. One section that would be contentious to write but is necessary is on choosing a WordPress host. The site recommends self-hosting but with so many companies out there and especially those that are garbage it would be nice to have some suggestions.

  5. Hats off to Mark for putting together this great resource. We work with non-profits both as clients and as customers of our donation plugin, Charitable, so it’s great to have a guide like this to help people out.

    I think one of the great strengths of WordPress for non-profits is the ecosystem of plugins. Many non-profits need things like event registration, volunteer management, social sharing, donations, etc. — with WordPress, they can set all this up on their own platform for a very low investment. Alternative hosted platforms for non-profits are often far more expensive, particularly those that charge transaction fees to non-profits when they receive a donation.



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