Deciding on the Right CMS and Web Hosting for the Nonprofit

If you are a news start-up or an existing nonprofit news organization, a big decision to make in today’s digital media landscape is selecting a content management system and web-hosting partner that will be scalable as your business grows. This week’s Hub post focuses on providing some affordable content management systems and web hosting options for the nonprofit news organization.

CMS Options
Content Management Systems (CMS) are basically systems that allow you to organize and arrange content for your website. Nowadays, news organizations (big and small) need to have a CMS in order to organize and publish their news content. Also, a CMS easily allows a news staff to upload and publish content on the site with ease and without much technical know-how. There are many commercial content management systems available today to choose from but they can be costly.

For the news start-up and existing nonprofit news organization, having an affordable option for a content management system may be a necessity. One route to go is the open-source content management system route. Open-source means that the code for this kind of application is free to download and customize to your liking. But it does require a site administrator who knows how to set up and manage this kind of content management system because a lot of coding will be required to set up the kind of CMS you want and maintain it over time. On the plus side, an open-source CMS provides the flexibility and scalability you may need as your news organization grows and changes over time.

When selecting a content management system, here are a few questions to think about to help you get started:

• How much information do you want to offer on your website?
• What kind of content categories do you want to have? How many?
• How much dynamic content do you want to offer on your site?
• How much content will be static on your site?
• How many people on your staff will need to access the site?
• What kind of workflow do you want to have with your CMS? How many people will need to have editor, contributor and author access to the content?
• What kind of commenting functionality do you want on your site?
• What kind of social networking add-on modules do you want to include on your site?
• Who on your staff will handle updates and maintenance of your CMS?
• What kind of technical support do you want to have if your CMS experiences any problems?

Having the answers to these questions above will help you to figure out how simple or complex you want your website to be and what kind of CMS you will need to handle that kind of content. Also, knowing the answers to the questions above will help you understand what kind of workflow you need for your website. In addition, by having knowledge about the kind of website you want, it will help you determine what kind of staffing you will need for the administration and maintenance of the website. You should have at least one dedicated site administrator to your news website to handle any technical issues that can arise.

With the questions answered above, here are some open-source content management systems you can consider:

WordPress
Since 2003, WordPress has been an option for many businesses. If you are seeking to make a simple website with less than 100 pages of content, this CMS may be a good option. The installation and maintenance of a WordPress website is fairly easy. The system offers many options for workflow which makes it a popular option among some news organizations. WordPress offers many options for customization but you may find you are limited if you have a very complex or robust website with thousands of pages of content.

Drupal
Since 2001, Drupal has been a leading choice for many businesses who have a complex or robust website. News publications/organizations such as the Economist, Popular Science, NowPublic and SavannahNow use Drupal. The system provides a lot more flexibility than other systems. However, installing and administering a Drupal system does entail a sufficient amount of technical know-how. You should have a site administrator who has worked with Drupal before if you decide to go this route. Also, Drupal has a very strong, dedicated community of developers who are constantly improving the application. If you end up experiencing an issue with Drupal, you will certainly find an answer quickly in the Drupal community.

Plone
Since 2001, Plone has helped several businesses create robust and complex websites. According to their website, 69 news and media-related sites from around the world are powered by the Plone content management system. Plone is different from the other two systems mentioned because it’s written in Python (unlike the PHP-based environments of the other systems). You will need to have a site administrator who has the technical know-how to know how to work with this unique kind of content management system.

These are just a few options to consider for an open-source content management system. It’s important to spend time reviewing the features and functionalities of each system to determine which one will be best for your organization and staff.

Web Hosting Options
Aside from selecting a content management system, selecting a web host can also be a difficult decision for the news organization. For the nonprofit news organization, there some companies that offer free hosting.

DreamHost
DreamHost, a California-based company, began in 1997 and currently hosts over one million domains. They offer free shared web hosting for nonprofit organizations. If you don’t need a virtual private server or the performance of a dedicated server, the shared web-hosting option may be an option. You will be required to present a IRS-issued 501 (c)(3) determination letter in order to qualify.

Grassroots.org
Grassroots is an organization that focuses on offering free technology services and resources to nonprofit organizations. They currently serve over 4,469 nonprofits in the U.S., Africa and Canada. They offer a suite of services from web hosting to search engine optimization consulting for nonprofits. In order to obtain free web hosting or access to any other free tools, you have to become a member of the organization. Membership is free. Note: if you decide to go with them for web hosting, you have to include a Grassroots banner on your homepage.

These options above are just a sampling of the many kinds of content management systems and web hosting options available for the news start-up and nonprofit news organization. However, each one does come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Before making a decision on a CMS or website host, it’s important to spend time reviewing what your organization needs, the staff’s wants and needs, and the level of technical flexibility you require as your business grows.

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