Non-profit organizations have a lot of similar needs to other businesses when it comes to their Website. They need to establish their brand, they need to increase revenue, they need to keep the public informed about updates, changes, and events. But in a lot of ways, non-profits have some special considerations. And this is what makes Drupal a great platform for Non-profits.
Many times Non-profits rely on volunteers, not only for carrying out the activities of the organization, but also for contributing content. Everything from sharing their stories, updating and submitting events, to even creating and managing the organization's message. In most cases, these volunteers will have little more experience managing content than posting a Facebook update, so it's critical that the content management experience be as simple as possible.
This is one of the biggest wins when choosing Drupal for your non-profit. Not only does Drupal excel at content management, it has a very flexible and customizable workflow. Drupal provides a toolkit for easily defining types of content and adding properties to that content. Powerful editorial workflows can be created to ensure that even content created by non-technical users can easily be audited by privileged users before ever being made public. Updates can be scheduled to be made public at specific dates and times, as well as unpublished when the content becomes stale. Even integrating automated social media posting is a breeze.
Another often overlooked topic related to content management is accessibility. Accessibility is often associated with visually impaired users, which is important and definitely a topic that Drupal manages well out of the box with WAI-ARIA support and even has teams dedicated to enhancing Drupal's accessibility and encouraging 3rd party developers to do the same with their modules. But to me, accessibility can mean even more, it means building a site that facilitates communication with any user, and for some non-profits this means internationalization. The i18n project provides a collection of modules that provide multi-lingual support to your non-profit's Website, and it goes much deeper than just serving content in multiple languages by providing the ability to have entire interfaces translated. So if your organization is multi-national, your contributors can participate in the content management process without the need to learn English.
( Note: As of Drupal 8, released Fall 2015, the Language modules is included in Drupal core. )
And what about those "privileged" users? In many non-profile organizations there is no paid staff, or it's very small staff that is mostly tasked with administrative duties and may already be over extended. Churches, for instance, may rely heavily on it's members to manage their Website. These members might be responsible for managing specific areas of the site, like a ministry, for instance. Delegating tasks is a common need in a non-profit, and ensuring that members can't accidently modify a part of the site they aren't responsible for is equally important. All of the authority they need to perform their duties, but restricted to just those duties.
With Drupal, it's a simple task to define user roles and set permissions based on your organization's rules. Let's say you want some types of volunteers to only have access to a special members-only forum. Simply create role by giving it a name, say "Member", then select the permissions, maybe "Create new Event", and assign that role to a user. Now the only thing that users with the "Member" role can do is create Events.
Of course, rules inside of a non-profit can get much more complicated than that. Perhaps a member should only have access to specific pieces of content, or even as specific as access to a specific field. With the power of Drupal and it's fantastic community, complex access controls can be implemented to the most finite levels. Even "if this, then that" style of organization rules can be implemented, providing for a very intelligent, robust system for managing users.
Now that we have a site that is great at managing users and content, without control over display, it's sort of pointless. Recently, we redesigned a site where all of the display management features were baked in, with little user control over how and where content is displayed. The result was a management nightmare. The organization maintained a revolving list of upcoming Events, which were all listed on one page in the order in which they were published. If they wanted to add an Event to a special place on their home page, they were forced to recreate the Event in another area of the site, and in doing so, the new Event appeared at the end of the list of Events. The result was a lot of duplication, and often the information in one place did not match the information in the other.
When we implemented Drupal, the first thing we did was limit the number of places content had to be entered to one and only one. Now they always enter the information in one place, and it remains consistent everywhere it's displayed. For the home page, we gave them a nice drag-and-drop interface where they could easily add and organize the content on the home page. The front page display was automatically applied for them for consistency and efficiency.
Have you ever visited a site where the navigation resembled soup or spaghetti? Dozens of pages seemingly strewn around in no particular order, requiring you to visit multiple pages to find the right content? Is there anything more frustrating? Imagine how it must be to manage such a site.
Information Architecture is about providing order and structure to content and navigation. Every thing has a place, and all the places have things. A well organized Website is a pleasure to use. Find what you want, go away satisfied.
The problem is, most content creators aren't versed in the wise ways of information architecture. Look at the people in your organization charged with managing the Website, are they information architects?
One of the ways we use Drupal to help establish and maintain structure is to create containers for content. This way, by creating a certain type of content, maybe selecting some configuration options, that content with automatically appear in the correct places. No more trying to figure out where content goes, just tell Drupal what it is, and the rest is done.
Marketing is just as important, if not more so for a non-profit as any other organization. The need to connect with the people who care, deliver the proper messages, and track the results are universal. So how does Drupal help Non-profits with marketing management?
First, let's talk about some common online marketing activities:
- Search engine optimization
- Social media
- Emails / newsletters
- Surveys / other feedback channels
SEO - Search engine optimization
In 2016, the best way to reach new audiences is still SEO. In our customers analytics, new traffic from search engines still holds a commanding lead, both in number of visitors, and time on the site. If your organization is managing your content by creating high-quality text on a regular basis, and your members are contributing actively, you are giving the search engines what they want.
Search engine optimization is a lot easier with Drupal, out-of-the-box it does many of the things that search engines want with just a few clicks.
- Clean URLs. Search engines prefer that your page paths not have query strings. What is a query string? Any time you see a URL that ends in ?page=1234.
- Valid markup. When search engines encounter poor or invalid markup, it affects they way they view your site. Drupal cleans up the HTML generated while authoring content.
- Breadcrumbs. Helps users and search engines better understand the hierarchy of your content.
Additionally, the Drupal community has produced some fantastic modules to make your SEO even better.
- Metatag. Create keyword, description and a host of other useful meta data that help search engines index and understand your content.
- Pathauto. Automatically create page paths based on patterns. Great for blogs and user generated content.
- Global Redirect. When content is removed, use this module to prevent "Page not found" errors by redirecting to new content.
- XML Sitemap. Dynamically generates sitemaps so search engines can keep track of all your content.
There are many other modules that provide all of the features you need to make your site a favorite with search engines.
No modern marketing strategy would be complete without some sort of social media integration. In addition to the typical "share" buttons at the end of your blog posts, Drupal can do some surprising things with social media.
One way to increase social engagement on your Drupal site is to display your social media streams on your site. Perhaps display your most recent tweets or mentions on the sidebar.
Many social media platforms have some sort of log in system that can be used to authenticate users on your Drupal site. This is a great way to reduce spam in your comments, make it easier to create new accounts, and provide seamless content sharing to your users' social media accounts.
And if your organization really is a community, then Drupal can be a social media site in and of itself. We've built a few of these Drupal based community / social media Websites for nonprofit organizations, complete with private messaging, interest groups, discussion forums, and curated news feeds based on members preferences.
In short, using Drupal, your organization can leverage social media in new and powerful ways to harness the power of community engagement.
Staying "Top of Mind" with Email
One of the best ways to stay in touch with your audience is through email. Studies show that even today, email is still one of the best marketing tools. And Drupal has a whole host of features to make your organization's email marketing even more effective.
It starts with your contact / subscriber lists. Of course if your members all have accounts on your Website, you already have their email addresses, but what about people who don't have accounts but still want to receive your email updates? You need an easy way for people to subscribe to your lists. Many services, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact ( and many others ) provide easy ways for visitors to subscribe to your Website.
You can even use Drupal to create and send email, giving your managers a single interface for creating newsletters.
Surveys are a powerful, yet underutilized marketing tool. Surveys are a great way to gather feedback from your audience, but also a simple way to engage. Fortunately, there are several modules for Drupal that provide simple, drag and drop survey builders.
There are dozens of online survey tools, some of which are free, so why would you choose to Drupal for managing surveys?
In short, when you use Drupal's tools, you get deep integration with your Drupal site. Everything from the survey inheriting your site's branding, to statistical analysis and reporting, to integration with Drupal's powerful and flexible permission system for fine tuned control over who can create and submit surveys.
Nonprofit organizations need their Websites to be a communications hub for their audiences. Drupal provides the features and capabilities to create that hub. Even if you don't current use all of these capabilities, choosing Drupal for your Website means that adding these features in the future is much easier.