Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Did you know that of the 88% of nonprofits with a website, nearly three-quarters of them use a low-cost or no-cost solution for their site? They spend maybe just a couple hundred dollars to get a website up and running, often paying someone who knows about IT, but nothing about their organization to build them one—and they end up with a solution that doesn’t meet their needs.

This is the single most common problem that we struggle with in the nonprofit world.

A nonprofit’s website should be at the core center of its universe. But the problem is, once we get people to our site, we send them away. We send them off to LinkedIn or Twitter and Facebook. We send them somewhere else to opt in or make a donation. This is what most nonprofit organizations do: Get them to their website, then send them away. Whether it’s to Eventbrite to register, or to PayPal to donate or to WordPress for a blog, we’ve gotten into the bad habit of sending our online guests away from our website when our goal should be to keep them there and engage—to give them the tools they need to accomplish what they came to do.

A low-cost or no-cost solution will not get you the kind of site that you need in order to engage with your audience in a meaningful way.

I’m going to make a quick word about WordPress here, and let me start by saying, I believe that WordPress is a decent platform and an okay tool. But it was intended for blogging—that’s why it was built. I've built websites on WordPress and I’ve been involved with organizations that use WordPress. But WordPress is not the best answer for most nonprofits.

When we use WordPress, we typically have to pull together modules and plug-ins and free utilities and services that are available, but all of that creates the problem I just mentioned—we send people away from our website in order to engage with us. Building a site on the WordPress platform makes it nearly impossible for us to capture the attention of our users and engage with them at the heart of our site.

I’m not trying to badmouth WordPress. I’m just saying, you won’t fully realize the potential of your website if you use it as your platform.

To truly engage with our constituents, volunteers and other online visitors in a meaningful way, we need to build a website that has the functionality, tools and design appropriate for engagement. We need to keep our audience on our website. When you have a site that’s built to engage your users and capture their attention without sending them away, you’ve cleared the biggest hurdle nonprofits are facing today.