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As a nonprofit website builder, this info would be very helpful.
So many nonprofits rely on consultants - some paid, some pro bono - that use whatever they want; the nonprofit has no idea.
Maybe another question is: should a nonprofit, library or other pro bono organization ask what web site builder a consultant, staff person or volunteer is going to use? Does it matter?
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
Your are right about consultants. I, too, have helped nonprofits work through this decision. I was hoping some would speak up in favor or not for specific ones.
I think your question is more accurate.
I am not sure what "does it matter" mean. Sorry.
"I am not sure what 'does it matter' mean. Sorry."
Should it be of concern to a nonprofit what web site builder a consultant, employee or volunteer chooses? If so - why?
Would love your thoughts on answers to that question!
Just to answer your question: I use BlueGriffon on my Mac. It's shareware, open source, and I love it.
Well, that depends. If a nonprofit has the budget to let someone else create and manage their site, then probably I would say no unless they just want to.
But my experience has been with nonprofits that have no budget, or resources including volunteers to work on the site, so I can only respond to this situation. They have had be concerned because they will be the one to manage it and possibly even build it. So the website builder they use has to fit their organization's needs and their resource limitations.
My usual advice is pick the website builder based on the resources of the organization and site's needs. These are things I recommend they think about.
1- volunteer manpower to manage the site
2- money to create and manage the site
3- skills of site volunteers - this and money are usually the key deciders
Often nonprofits are advised to use very powerful builders like Joomla, for instance, when there is one person doing all the online work. That said, as they grow they can move up.
You could build a simple website using Wordpress which most web hosting provide for free.
That is a good option and is free. Is there any other reason a nonprofit would use it? Are there plugins that might attract them?
"You could build a simple website using Wordpress which most web hosting provide for free."
I wouldn't have understood this sentence if my blog at posterous hadn't been nuked (Twitter bought the company and then dumped all the sites) and had to move to a new blog platform. I went looking around on my web host service web site, Host Gator, and found something about Word Press. It took a long time for me to figure it out - I'm not an IT person - but, indeed, Host Gator allows those that have web sites on their server to use WordPress, for free. So, indeed, it's worth checking out what your web host offers if you're looking for a free platform.
As I mentioned earlier, I use BlueGriffon on my Mac - shareware, open source - and I really love it. And as I'm not an IT person, I was surprised at how easy it was to learn. And it creates web sites in such a way that, were I to become a millionaire and be able to hire an IT staff person, he or she could use any web editor he or she preferred - BlueGriffon doesn't lock you in to only using that for your web site.
I'm glad Weby noted "My usual advice" in her post, because I couldn't agree more. I have heard form at least a dozen organizations that can't update their own web sites because of the web editor the IT person has locked them into - they have to wait for days, even weeks, to get text changed or a new page added.
This has been mentioned, but it's important to emphasize the point again. No matter what website builder you use, one of the most important questions to address as a nonprofit is this one:
Who will handle updates to the site if and when our volunteers are not available?
Always assume that your volunteer (webmaster/consultant/etc.) will NOT be around indefinitely to handle every little change to your site. Every effort must be made to have a dedicated person in your organization capable of making site updates on the fly when your volunteers are not around to do it.
I've come across several nonprofits who were stuck with their site due to the fact that "our volunteer disappeared on us" (in their own words). When I then asked these nonprofits who else maintains the site, their answer was: "We don't have anyone who can do it." Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation.
You can avoid this situation if there is always someone else in your organization to make basic site updates/changes. That person could be you. No need to be someone with expertise in web development -- that's not essential here. All you need is a little knowledge of HTML (maybe even some CSS). Making site updates is very straightforward using modern website builders these days -- even if you have very limited or no knowledge of these areas. The important thing is to make sure someone in the organization is assigned the responsibility for maintaining your site. Should the time come when your volunteer suddenly disappears on you, at least you won't be totally stranded. You won't need to depend on anyone to remove that outdated line of text from your site's home page.
The point is to avoid putting yourself in a totally helpless situation.
TechSoup Community ModeratorDigital Marketing ConsultantYTConsulting.com@yanntol
Yann, I agree with everything you stated. You obviously speak from experience. I recognize everything you mentioned.
It is amazing how many nonprofits not only don't have a designated webmaster, there isn't even such a position. It gets worse. Many that do have a volunteer have all the organization's data on someone's personal computer. Another concern is security. Not knowing what they are doing, they often give out logins too easily or can have accounts set up with little security
Choosing, building and maintaining a website today is just not as easy as it seems. Though a little HTML can CSS will help and I whole wholeheartedly recommend it, too many volunteer don't have clue such things even exist nor the inclination to learn nor the time. I have worked with such volunteers.
With so many web builders available, the job is easier but the audience is often just not capable enough to know where to begin. My heart goes out to them. They are trying to do so much good and can't.
I will guess and state that some of the problem/situation stems from the change in accessibility of computer technology to the masses verses than just the computer savvy such as about 10 years ago when computer users actually had some idea of how a computer worked, if not they could not install and set up programs or create very simple HTML sites.
Now that technology requires only an account, any one can use it but they really don't know what is going on behind the code so not only can't work with it they often can't access it because it was created intentionally to be fool proof.
Is this good or bad? That depends on the goal of the technology and its users.
I love hearing so many ideas. Keep up the conversation.
"It is amazing how many nonprofits not only don't have a designated webmaster, there isn't even such a position."
In defense of nonprofits - it's almost impossible to get such a position funded unless you are a huge organization with a very generous donor that loves funding admin costs. Foundations, corporate donors and even individual donors are saying they do not want any of their funding go to "overhead."
That said, I've had terrific experiences with volunteers as web masters. Volunteers are perfectly capable of taking on high-responsibility roles - they do frequently, as advocates for juveniles in the court system, as mentors, as firefighters, and on and on. The key: clearly written expectations, clearly communicated expectations, excellent screening, regular checkins together, clear documentation, and a mutually-agreed end date, which the volunteer can extend by, say three months, each time - but it's always there. Maybe what organizations need is not so much a full time, paid web master but, rather, a full time, dedicated manager of volunteers. (Hey, everyone, see what I did there?)
Well, I guess I chose my words poorly. My meaning was to imply that nonprofit volunteers are not capable persons, far from it. What I was trying to say was that many are not experienced enough with technology to even know what to ask for.
You have the model for a volunteer manager and have come up with a great idea: managing webmaster volunteers. I was thinking about something like this today. I would love to be part of an organization whereby nonprofits can borrow website help and volunteers can get experience.
IMHO, it does indeed matter.
First, you have to ensure that the tools and technologies used to build the web site will support the devices on which the site will be accessed (tablets, PDA's, mobile devices, etc.).
Secondly, you have to think about what skill sets will be required to support the site. When planning a web site, the organization should think carefully about two things:
1. Content Management. How and by whom is the content of the web site going to be kept current? You can think of content as being the images, announcements, events, jobs, and program descriptions appearing on the site that periodically need update. Content management is an ongoing activity that typically requires basic knowledge of HTML and of the code structure of the tool that was used to develop the site, as well as general knowledge of the mission, objectives and programs of the non-profit.
2. Site Maintenance. By this, I mean activities like adding new pages, fixing or adding links, modifying page frames, or adding new sections to the web site. Assuming that the web site is generally stable, this is done far less frequently than content management, but requires advanced web programming skills and familiarity with the tool used to develop the site. It requires a different skill set than content management, and different processes and personnel.
Generally speaking, it is often more cost-effective for most non-profits to use in-house personnel for Content Management, and outside consultants for Site Maintenance. If in-house personnel are to be responsible for Content Management, some training may be required. Whatever the case, it is key to successful web site planning to consider these two activities that will be required after the web site is deployed, and have a plan for both.
Ralph Perry, IT Advisor
Good point about the devices. I had forgotten that point. You make some good other points, too, and I agree with them. But they do make we wonder, does this site or some other offer advice such as this to nonprofits regarding how to choose a web builder?
I have not looked here at Techsoup yet so can't say. Actually, I haven't had time to begin reading the articles which I look forward to doing.
We had a Las Vegas agency create our website for us. www.altezalabs.com in case anyone is interested. They created our website using wordpress (i currently use joomla to manage a different website) and have found that making edits is pretty easy. Our agency does pro bono work so we are lucky to have them do simple updates to our website almost on a weekly basis.
Our previous 5 designs from amateur designers were never completed and they didn't really know what was going on. Finally Alteza Labs took over and they have been awesome. They got to know our nonprofit (www.leanhorses.org) from the inside out and implemented tools that we never even thought existed or of using. One of the things they provided was a plugin called gravity forms which pretty much digitized all of our applications so we don't need to hand out paper ones and worry about scanning and faxing them in.
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