Note from Beth: Your web site is your home base is the heart and soul of your content strategy. It is where you can further develop relationships with audiences you connect with through social media channels and a platform for tracking conversions to action. Therefore, a Content Management System or CMS is an essential tool in your tool box. Idealware has been called the “Consumer Reports” for nonprofit software, and their analysis and testing in their reports has always been top notch. If you are shopping for a low cost CMS for your nonprofit, read this post and go download the report. It will give what you need to be a smart consumer.
Using a CMS to Make Your Website Social by Laura Quinn
The primary function of a Content Management System—making it easy for non-technical staff to update content—helps facilitate constituent interaction by helping your nonprofit better attract and engage visitors to its website. But a good CMS can also facilitate constituent relationships in a number of other ways, including facilitating comments, blogs and social media.
This week Idealware released the much-anticipated 2012 edition of our free Consumers Guide to Low-Cost Nonprofit Management Systems. Along with updates to the four systems we reviewed in the past, we’ve added seven new open source and proprietary systems to provide nonprofits with a much broader scope of the types of systems available to them. One of the areas we focused on was constituent interaction.
The good news is that almost every system we reviewed will allow your visitors to comment on articles or other site content, but accepting comments is only half of the process—you also want to be able to maintain some sense of order to prevent the distracting free-for-all an unmoderated comments section turn into. Make sure the CMS you choose lets you moderate comments, ban individuals from commenting, and fast-track certain commenters—staff, for example—by allowing them to publish without waiting for moderation. A good CMS should also include a built-in Spam filter to keep obviously unrelated content from cluttering your comments sections.
There are a number of other ways to interact with constituents beyond letting them comment, and it’s becoming increasingly important for Content Management Systems to provide a means to accommodate them. Allowing visitors to sign in using their Facebook and Twitter accounts can make it easier for them to share your nonprofit’s information with their networks and followers. Letting them subscribe to your site content through RSS feeds or email can help them ensure they’re getting the most-update information from your organization with ease and convenience. It’s also possible to pull content from other sites via RSS and display it on your own site, giving you a way to share news feeds or cause-related information of interest to your audience. Most of the CMS tools we reviewed can support this, but surprisingly few allow you to moderate which of the items from that RSS feed are displayed.
Additional features that enable social networking, like allowing visitors to create their own profiles on your site and link them to other people or groups, can be useful for more advanced community building, as can the ability to accept and post visitors’ content, such as stories, photos or blogs.
If your nonprofit is interested in fostering better relationships with constituents by creating new channels for interaction, or improving existing ones, which CMS is right for you? It’s a complicated question, and just one of the things you should look for when choosing software. We wrote our Consumers Guide for nonprofits like yours looking to replace an existing CMS or implement one for the first time, with information about what the systems can do and recommendations to keep in mind when considering the different tools, plus detailed reviews of the following systems: DotNetNuke, Drupal, Ektron, ExpressionEngine, eZ Publish, Joomla, Luminate CMS, NetCommunity, Plone, Squarespace and WordPress.
Though they make the day-to-day tasks of maintaining your organization’s website easy, installing and implementing a CMS is not a trivial task. To help, we’ve included a directory of consultants with experience installing and implementing the systems in this report, organized by geographical region. The consultant you work with can also help determine which CMS you end up choosing, and can make or break your website project.
Constituent interaction is just one of the many areas against which we reviewed these systems in this report—thanks to our sponsors, especially Beaconfire Consulting, Firefly Partners and New Signature, for making it possible. Download it for free at [LINK: http://idealware.org/reports/cms2012] to learn more.
Laura Quinn is executive director of Idealware, a nonprofit that provides thoroughly researched, impartial and accessible resources about software to help others nonprofits make smart decisions. She’s a frequent speaker and writer on nonprofit technology topics.