WordPress Plugins to Super Charge Your Nonprofit Website • New Tricks
 In WordPress

Last week I wrote about an event where we built 48 nonprofit websites in 48 hours. I promised I would share with you some of the of the plugins we used. Although this is geared towards nonprofits, these plugins will supercharge any website.

Nonprofit websites have to serve a mission that is broader than a typical business, and this means they must have more functionality. This need can seem overwhelming for a small nonprofit organization struggling to make ends meet with no technical skills or website design skills. It’s no wonder that most of these organizations make do with a basic site and a few PayPal buttons and call it a day.

JADM-SuperChargeNonProfit24But here’s what they are missing. Any organization will be more successful at raising money with a website designed with user experience (UX) principals in mind. If the website collects money and information about their donors in a professional way, potential donors will more inclined to open their wallets. The website can automate basic functions like adding donors to a mailing list, so a human employee doesn’t have to. There is so much to gain with a website that looks professional, works well and is designed to draw people in to donate, volunteer or help in some other way.

How do you bridge that gap, between all that your website could/should do and your nonprofit’s limited resources?

There’s so much at stake with your important mission, and what you think your nonprofit is saving on website functionality may be costing you a lot of time and money.

Let’s talk about the unique needs of most nonprofit websites, then look at ways you can spend wisely on website development to supercharge your site.

A nonprofit website may need to:

  • Provide a basic contact form for questions/comments.
  • Offer a volunteer form.
  • Accept one-off donations.
  • Accept an application (with a payment option) to become a member/donor/sponsor.
  • Set up a membership system that allows certain site content to be restricted by membership level.
  • Accept payment for a subscription, donation or product that may involve sales tax.
  • Communicate that you are handling sensitive information securely.
  • Provide a more advanced form for donating/sponsoring.
  • Manage one-off events, with or without ticket sales.
  • Manage an event that requires booking with or without payment options.
  • Include a calendar of events.
  • Provide opt-in forms for mailing list signups.

Now let’s talk about how to get all that done. The following list of plugins can provide the functions listed above. Some of them require a fee, but this front end investment may quickly pay for itself by generating more donations and saving staff time.

Maybe you have a volunteer who knows WordPress and can help you out, like the volunteers did for 48 nonprofits at the recent 48 in 48 event  held in Atlanta. If so, be sure to share this list.

Basic Contact Form

If you only need a simple contact form, then a free form creation plugin such as Contact Form 7 will work just fine. Most nonprofits, however, will need to create several types of forms. You will want to gather more information than just questions and comments, and that means you will more sophisticated forms perhaps with conditional logic applied. While the free Contact Form 7 can handle this, it is not easy to set up.

The advanced forms plugin we recommend is Gravity Forms, a premium WordPress plugin, which unlike Contact Form 7, is very easy to use. The cost for a basic license for Gravity Forms is $39 per year, which allows you to create an unlimited number of forms but does not provide integrations with other programs. In addition to collecting information, you want to automatically import those form contacts into one of your email lists, you will need a business license for Gravity Forms at $99.

Form to Become a Volunteer 

If you would like to create a form for a volunteer or job application, use Gravity Forms. Simply create the data fields for the information you want to collect, copy the shortcode for the form page, and paste the shortcode on the page where you want it to appear.

Look for a little Gravity Form icon on the top of the WYSIWYG editor for posts and pages. When you click it, you will get a drop down with all of your forms. Choose the one you want to show on that page or post, and it will add it wherever your cursor is.

Accept One-Off Donations

The simplest way to accept a donation is to create a donate button on your PayPal account and embed the code on your website on a Donate page, or in a text widget for your sidebar or footer. This is simple but does not allow you to collect information about your donors. For that you will need Gravity Form developer’s license to integrate it with Paypal or any other payment gateway.

Advanced Forms for Donors and Sponsors

For donors or sponsors you will want to create a Gravity Form with the normal data collection fields for contact info and other relevant questions. Then you will need to include product fields at the bottom of the form that, when integrated with a payment gateway, will allow the prospective donors or sponsors to make payments.

This integration will require a $199 Gravity Form developer license that allows integration between Gravity Forms and Stripe, Authorize.net or PayPal, at no extra charge.

This may sound like a steep price, but making it easy to give you the money will increase donations and sponsorships. And it is much easier and less expensive way to go, if you do not need a full functioning ecommerce program to carry products with taxes and shipping.
Accept Membership Application

If your organization sells memberships with more than one type or level (but does not need to restrict website content to members of certain membership levels), you can simply use a Gravity Form and add the membership levels as products. Then with a Gravity Forms developers license you can take payments from your form with an integration provided by one of Gravity Forms’ payment gateway add-ons. Once you have a developer license for $199 per year, there is no charge for other add-ons.

While you are at it, have the form integrate with your email service provider to get the members automatically added to your email list when they purchase their membership. There is no additional charge for that add-on either if you have the developer license.

Set Up Memberships with Restricted Content 

If your nonprofit needs to have paid memberships with website content that is restricted to members at particular levels, you will need to use Woo Commerce with a Woo Commerce Membership Extension and a Payment Gateway Extension. Set up the membership as a product with the membership levels as product variations.

Note: Woo Membership doesn’t have that capability to collect information from members when they sign up. To do that, you will need to have a Gravity Form as the front end of your Become a Member page, and when you do that, you don’t need to display a Woo Commerce product page for the memberships. You can route each of the membership levels on the Gravity Form to the corresponding Woo Commerce checkout page. Here’s how it works.

To set up the integration in your Gravity Form, after your member info fields, create a radio button field where the applicant can choose one membership level. You then create a product field for each membership level. Use conditional logic when setting these up—only show the membership level the applicant chose in the Choose a Membership Level radio button field. When an applicant chooses a membership level, the next field that shows is the product for that membership level.

Now program each of the product membership levels on Gravity Forms to route the applicant directly to the Woo Commerce checkout page for that membership level.

For each membership level product variable added in Gravity Forms, in addition to the conditional logic to show only when selected in the radio box, go to the advanced options. Add the Product ID from the corresponding Woo Commerce product membership level check-out page.

When you’re done, a visitor will be able to fill out the Gravity Form to select their membership level and then immediately be redirected to the correct checkout page to complete the purchase. Easy peasy!

Accept Payment for a Subscription, Donation, or Product 

The simplest of all payment options for a nonprofit website is a Paypal embedded button on a page or post.  You can use it for donations, subscriptions or products. You do not need to be PCI compliant or have an SSL certificate as all transactions are actually occurring at PayPal when someone clicks the buy button. You can price products and create buttons on your site to collect the money. You simply copy the Paypal embed codes for each purchase button and paste it into the correct space on the text view of a page or post.  It is easy and therefor that is what you see a lot even for instances when it is not the best option.

When you need to sell products with variations in sizes, types or whatever, if you need to ship and or add tax to products, or to sell memberships that creates access to restricted content on your website, you will need more than just a button on your site. We recommend the Woo Commerce Plugin for adding ecommerce to a WordPress site. Woo Commerce is free but you will have to pay a yearly license fee for extensions that provide functionality that you will need for your specific requirements.

Some common gateways are PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.net. Stripe is the newcomer to the group, and offers the most functionality with the lowest prices. It does not charge a monthly account fee on top of purchase fees like Authorize.net does.

A Woo Commerce Payment Gateway Extension is needed in order to accept money on your site for products membership or donations. The Woo payment gateway extensions are priced at $79 a year. If possible, you want to choose a payment gateway that actually processes and stores the purchasers’ credit card information on the gateway site, not yours. You will want to have an SSL certificate to show you are secure but as long as you are not storing credit card info on your site you will not have to undergo a thorny PCI Compliance audit.

If you are shipping products and don’t want to resort to flat-rate shipping, you will need to determine your shipping methods and then purchase a Woo Commerce extension that provides rates for your shipping method of choice.

Sales tax can be a complicated issue for nonprofits. Despite a general IRS exemption, there you may be required to charge sales tax in many circumstances. You may want to explore this further and, if need be, use a system such as Avalara or Woo Tax to handle the tax collection and reporting for your organization.

Handle Sensitive Information Securely

If you have products on your site, even if payments are processed off-site, you will want to have visitors know that you have a higher standard for security that an SSL certificate provides. The cost of a SSL certificate is usually around $100 per year and can be purchased from, and set up by, your web hosting company.

Manage One-off Events with or without Ticket Sales 

Eventbrite is a very easy way to manage ticket sells for a one-off event. You can create an account on Eventbrite’s website and add your ticket prices to it. Hook it up with your PayPal account info and you are good to go. You can style your event page in Eventbrite and embed your ticketing capability from Eventbrite to show up on the event page on your website.

Booking Events with Payment Options and Calendar of Events

Event Manager and Event Management Pro are our plugins of choice when you have frequent events and want to showcase them on your site where people can pay to attend. These plugins also give you the ability to have a full event calendar on the site that can be viewed several ways with a filter at the top on the page.

If you need to sell tickets to the events, you will need Event Manager Pro, which is $75 for the year. This gives you the ability to list the events on your website and have people sign up and pay. If you don’t need to accept payment then the standard version works just fine.

Opt-in Forms for Mailing List Signups
The keystone of any organization or business is building your list. You need to provide an easy way for people to sign up for more information. You can have a free email provider account with MailChimp if you send out less than 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. As your list grows the fees are nominal. Using an Email Service Provider is the professional way to communicate with your list, and they have a much better chance of making it into the inbox without being labeled SPAM by your subscriber’s email service.

Using these plugins or a combination of them can rocket your nonprofit website’s functionality and hopefully increase your organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Most of us have to be somewhat careful about not over extending ourselves with non-paying clients, but website designers and developers usually have a soft spot for some charitable organization or another and often take on pro-bono work.  It never hurts to ask.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Lori Newman

    Thanks for sharing, great article! I have several non-profit clients myself and these are some great tips to always keep in mind. Have you tried this plugin? We use it on a couple of our sites and it seems to be a great option for Paypal donations: I like it because I don’t actually need access to the clients Paypal account.


    • Judi Knight

      Lori, I had not heard of that but thanks for letting me know. Yes, I would rather not have to get into the client’s Paypal accounts. But often I need access to everything short of their underwear drawer!

  • Jan Rabinowitz

    Our nonprofit (Well Spouse Association) will be investigating a complete redesign of our website next year. In addition to the plug-ins you named, we would need a Forum plug-in as well as a Blogging plug-in. We applied for 48in48 but weren’t chosen, sadly. Our current site is on a Joomla platform, and I’m trying to convince the rest of the board that we need to be on WordPress!

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