Top Website Platforms for Nonprofits

A review of the most popular options, and how to choose the best one for your organization.

Should you build your nonprofit site on WordPress? Squarespace? Wix? Joomla? Drupal? Something else entirely? Choosing the right platform can be difficult. Choosing the wrong one could mean you’ll have to start all over in a year or two.

Here’s our guide to the features you need and what you can expect from services like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and others.

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Platform Options for Building Nonprofit Websites

There are myriad tools and platforms that promise to make it easy for you to get your site up and running quickly, with new ones appearing every day. They primarily break down into two categories that we’ll call “website builder platforms” and “self-hosted content management systems.”

Usage: Platforms Compared

Percentage of the total use of platforms online as of July 2017.

Wordpress: 59.3%
Joomla: 6.8%
Drupal: 4.7%
Squarespace: 1.3%
Wix 0.7%
Weebly 0.4%

While these free or simple template-based systems might seem attractive at first, they quickly jump in costs and never give you full control over your website.


Option 1: Templated Website Builder Platforms

The most popular platforms today for drag-and-drop website building are:

  • SquareSpace
  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • (Note: this is not the same as, discussed below)

These platforms are actually simplified content management systems that trade power and flexibility for ease-of-use.

Advantages of using templated site builder platforms:

  • Hosting is included with subscription — No need to sign up for a separate web host.
  • Relatively fool-proof — The feature set is restricted to make it as simple as possible to get up and running, eliminating many potential setup complications.
  • Pre-configured themes (templates) — Just pick from one of the themes and insert your text and images to get running quickly. You can choose to work with a designer, or just do it yourself.

Disadvantages of site builders:

  • Limited functionality — In order to make sure that everything runs with minimal possibility of breaking, functionality is limited.
  • Limited expandability and integrations — As with the functionality, not all third-party tools and apps will integrate with the platform, making expanding the functionality of your site challenging if not impossible.
  • Locked in to their service — Want to move to another provider? You’ll have to start over.
    • Note: is a notable exception here, as you can extract your data and move it to a self-hosted WordPress installation.
  • Email functionality is not included in many plans — many nonprofits use Google’s Gmail as part of the G Suite for Nonprofits, so this may not be a big issue, but for those that don’t, you may have to find and pay for a separate email system like Google’s or GoDaddy’s.
  • Limited optimization — Since you can’t get “under the hood” of these systems, it’s hard to truly optimize your site for load times, search engines and social media.
  • Limited future-proofing — You’re dependent on these platforms to keep up with technology for you. And any updates to their technology have to work for every site that they host, making it much more challenging for them to update frequently.


  • Weebly, Wix and all offer free levels, as well as multiple paid tiers. Squarespace only offers paid plan options starting at $12/mo.
  • All include hosting servers, and some include other features like SSL encryption, free domain name registration, and e-commerce functionality that could be set up for donations processing and other sales.

Squarespace vs. Wix

The two services are direct competitors and have a lot in common. Their chief differentiators are price and number of templates offered. Wix is lower priced and offers more templates. Squarespace is more expensive, offers fewer (arguably better-designed) templates but offers more functionality.

  • The free plan is severely limited. You can’t use your own domain name ( and it displays ads on your website.
  • Premium plans allow you to use your own domain name
  • Pricing starts at $5/mo with serious limitations of space and bandwidth, and still displaying ads on your site.
  • It quickly goes up to $14/mo for a fully-functional site for nonprofits and businesses, and 25/mo for the VIP support package.
  • They currently offer 139 different designed templates to choose from.
  • Offers a $12/mo if paying for an entire year (or $16/mo if billed monthly) “personal” plan that’s limited to 20 pages, galleries and blogs.
  • For a full functioning site without those limitations, it’s $18/mo billed annually (or $26/mo billed monthly). This also adds Google email for those that might need it.
  • Currently offering 68 templates to choose from, which are interchangeable (should you start with one, you can quickly switch to a different template without starting over)
  • Includes SSL security and a custom domain registration if you don’t already have one.
  • Both plans include ecommerce and donations capabilities.

While these free or simple template-based systems might seem attractive at first, they quickly jump in costs and never give you full control over your website.

Option 2: Self-hosted Content Management Systems (CMS)

To simplify things, we’re just going to focus on the three most popular systems, all of which are open source and free to use on your own website:

  • WordPress – Popular sites include: Forbes, CNN and Sony
  • Drupal – Popular sites include: Warner Brothers and the Whitehouse
  • Joomla – Popular sites include: Harvard University

What they all have in common (along with many other CMSes):

  • Free to use. Just install it on your own server and you never owe them a dime.
  • Open-source software, which means that the programming source code is publicly available for anyone to review for bugs or bad functionality, and that they are developed by passionate communities of programmers.
  • Regularly updated to comply with new standards.
  • Anyone can build applications on top of the platform.
  • Have a thriving ecosystem of developers that extend the CMS functionality (with plugins) and customize it to just about any niche and purpose.
  • Have no limitations on how much they can be customized. Want to add a feature?
  • Require a hosting package. Unlike the previous section, since the application is free, hosting is sold independently. Many hosting providers now offer “managed” hosting, which helps with providing support services to keep your site running smoothly.

Drupal and Joomla are powerful and flexible content management systems, which run many large-scale websites. They can be customized to your heart’s desire—or more likely, to your programmer’s heart’s desire. Designed for more industrial use, small and medium nonprofits will have to hire a developer to set up the site to work the way they want.

WordPress: Power, Flexibility and Ease of Use

WordPress started out in 2003 as a simple blogging platform, but its constant updates and improvements have made it the most popular platform on the internet—now powering 28% of all websites online, including some major websites that have used the source code to develop their magazines and shops!

Whereas the hosted website builder platforms listed in part one, above, are designed for people with limited technical ability, WordPress attempts to make it easy to build something simple—starting with the pre-packaged themes and out-of-the-box functionality—and quickly get into much more complicated designs and functions with custom themes and add-ons.

Using the same framework as (listed in the previous section), the self-hosted version of WordPress strives to be a perfect blend of power and ease of use. It is incredibly extensible with virtually unlimited free and paid themes and plugins for whatever your organization wants to achieve online.

There are pre-built plug-and-play themes and plugins that can quickly turn a WordPress site into:

  • An online learning platform
  • A business directory
  • An online magazine
  • A membership site
  • A discussion forum
  • A crowdfunding platform
  • An e-commerce site
  • An event and ticketing system
  • A hotel management system

And many more…even all on the same site at once. Virtually any kind of system can be (and has been) built on WordPress.

Advantages of Self-Hosted WordPress Websites

As we listed above, there are many advantages to creating a site built on WordPress. And as the number one website platform on the internet, many other tools and services create plugins for WordPress to make integrating them easy. If a new popular social media platform springs up, they’ll integrate with WordPress sooner than they will with any other platforms.

Unlike site builder platforms, the ubiquity and customizability of the platform give nonprofits using WordPress the ability to:

  • Launch a website in minutes
  • Optimize the site’s performance for SEO and load times
  • Customize social sharing functionality and appearance
  • Customize the site’s look and feel to appeal to their audience base
  • Connect it to their preferred donation systems
  • Create and share unlimited types of content quickly and easily
  • Have multiple article/blog sections updated frequently
  • Refresh the design at any time without starting from scratch
  • Move the site easily from server to server (host to host) seamlessly
  • Integrate with third-party CRMs like Salesforce/Patron Manager, MailChimp, Insightly, Hubspot, Constant Contact, etc., etc.
  • Future-proof against new technology. WordPress core functionality and third-party themes and plugins are constantly adapting to the latest standards and best practices.
  • Extend functionality with third-party analytics, advertising systems, and thousands of other integrations.

Disadvantages of Self-Hosted WordPress

With great power comes great responsibility. And that is a trade-off when considering using WordPress for your nonprofit.

  • For someone who isn’t technologically savvy, WordPress can be intimidating.
  • Some plugins and themes may not be securely coded and can be vulnerable.
  • Updates to the WordPress core may occasionally break third-party plugins.
  • Unlimited choices can lead to paralysis by analysis. You may want to bring in a professional developer and/or designer to get you started.
  • You will need a hosting provider. The good news is that most providers also include unlimited email addresses, and can even host multiple websites on one account.

TIP: Nonprofits are eligible for free hosting and discounted WordPress managed hosting. That means your nonprofit site is hosted and run on the latest WordPress for free, forever. Grab our guide for the info!

Conclusion: Which Platform is Best for Your Nonprofit Website?

Self-hosted WordPress

We don’t try to hide our love for WordPress, for its power and flexibility, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your org today. Its cost is also frequently lower than monthly payments you might incur on the templated platforms over time. As your organization grows, you’ll be able to add functionality, marketing tools, enhanced analytics, and much more.

If you can’t make the initial investment in either learning to set up a basic WordPress site and choosing a theme (or hiring someone to help you through those phases), we recommend SquareSpace for its well-crafted designs and features like SSL and donations.