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Joomla for Nonprofits: What do you think?

Joomla for Nonprofits: What do you think?

  • Are you using Joomla as the CMS of choice for your organization? If so, why? What have you liked about it? What haven't you liked?

    If you've looked at using Joomla but decided to go with a different content management system, what were your reasons?

    Share your insights into how Joomla has or hasn't worked for your nonprofit website here.

    We're publishing a new article on the topic and once it's live, I'll post the link in this thread. In the meantime, tell us what you think about Joomla for nonprofits!

    Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at
    @bajeckabean on Twitter

  • One thing that concerns me about Joomla is, it has been around since 2005 but has not demonstrated that it call pull off a major version update without breaking previous versions.  They are currently on version 1.5 with version 1.6 under development.  I get the feeling that rolling out version 2.0 will require such a major code rewrite that existing installs won't be able to migrate.  I don't want to invest thousands of hours in a project, only to have to build  it all again when version 2.0 comes out.

    Drupal, on the other hand, has managed a major update every couple years for eight years, and old sites have been able to migrate to new versions with relative ease, with content fully intact.  Drupal is now on version 6, with version 7 frozen and preparing for release, and version 8 already under heavy planning.

    With Drupal, I'm happy to know that my work will live on well into the future, and that I can migrate my sites from one version of Drupal to the next, as long as Drupal exists.  I don't have the same reassurance with Joomla.

  • Joomla is good choice if you need a site up quickly and there will be one or two people maintaining the the content. It has large ecosystem of inexpensive templates available making it easy to get a simple good looking site up in a day or two. As mentioned it is not great long term solution, there will be issues with upgrades, it quickly gets confusing to maintain large sites and due to Joomla's popularity you will need to be vigilant about applying security patches or expect to have your site compromised. This is true of any popular piece of software.

    If your organization's site is large or more complex TYPO3 [] is an advanced CMS well worth looking into. It is gaining popularity in the US and is one of most popular CMS in Europe. In the US it is used by and number of universities, school districts and large organizations such as the Tides foundation.

  • I started my web dev business building sites using Joomla - actually Mambo before it forked, and I 2nd the updating issue. There's no reason a well-planned update should break live sites.

    I think the Joomla project has been surpassed by other open source CMSs since, and that at least some of the key community members that used to work on Joomla have moved onto other projects. (That's a total guess, and I don't mean to insinuate knowledge I don't have - just that the open source dev community is perpetually in flux) The benefit of this is that there are several other viable alternatives - the drawback is that the market (read: open source CMS projects) is fragmented and potentially less stable.

    Since Joomla I've done lots of small WordPress sites, a Drupal build, and now work with SilverStripe and Concrete5. I actually won't put clients on Joomla sites anymore - and have turned down Joomla work on several occasions because it's usually a bad situation where the client has gotten into a Joomla setup that was highly customized and is now broken. I'll migrate people out of Joomla, but won't work with it, fix it, or put people in it.

    Ease of usability may be the Joomla claim, but after working with a half-dozen clients to train them on using it I never saw it. I never ended up in a situation where the client could do everything they needed through the front-end admin - and training them on the administrative panel and modules and plugins was always much more information than they needed or wanted.

    I work and talk with several usability folks - the running joke is that CMSs suck. They all do. They try to do too much. My only comeback is that I try to use the least-sucky for the situation and keep expectations realistic.

    If you are interested in the "next" thing to come along in the CMS world I see frameworks as "it". Developing a Ruby on Rails site it probably out of reach financially for many nonprofits, (I would like to learn, but have not yet) but SilverStripe has an interesting model where there's an open source CMS (BSD license I believe) coupled with a php framework called Sapphire. It's a little more costly to set up as it will most likely require more coding, but the end result is a much cleaner admin interface because you start with a basic CMS and build what was needed where it was needed into it. There's none of that "go here to do this, but go to this totally unintuitive other location to do this other related thing" with SilverStripe - the interface looks like windows explorer, and the needed fields are page specific. It's got a great versioning system too.

    If you're looking to build a site that really makes good use of the "front-door"/inline admin interface, checkout Concrete5. It's interesting, and I'm having a lot of success adding custom code and mingling it with the CMS without invalidating the upgrade path.

    For what it's worth, I say the same thing about Drupal sites too. To my way of thinking they're both CMSs built by developers who try to satisfy (too many) non-tech people without thorough testing, usability battering, or the ability to just say no. (They are open source, and have been around for a while.)

    Good luck,

    Matt Souden


    Matt Souden Another Ann
  • I agree that a well-planned upgrade shouldn't break existing sites, but Joomla inherited version 1.0 from Mambo and hasn't done even one major upgrade since then, in over four years.  It makes me wonder what problems they might be running into.  I'll stick with packages that have a history of successful upgrades under their belt before I do serious work in Joomla.  We'll see how things look after Joomla 2.0 comes out.

  • Greetings:


    With all due respect, we use and have for years employ software from Homestead Technologies. You can visit them at To echo the comments posted, Homestead provides a very simple to use cut and paste web design software. moreover, they proved excellent software support and do the web hosting. Like most non profits, our resources are limited and their web hosting charge is by far the least expensive. Lastly, the statistics provded are outstanding. You can vist our site at and view first hand our web development.




    Mike Davin

    With A Golden Spirit, Inc (WAGS)

  • I worked with Joomla.  It's very hard to use at first, and even after weeks of practice it remains a pain.  It's really hard if you want to control the layout, keeping important things at the top of certain pages.   I used it for a high school newspaper website.   I've got a CS degree and I've used some bad UI designs, and joomla takes the cake for being hard to use.   I thought I was getting old and the students might be able to do better.  Not.  The students hated it more than even I expected. 

    Go with wordpress as your CMS.   And if someone tries to get you to switch to Joomla, try it for a long time before your final decision. 

  • Our non-profit moved from wordpress to joomla.  Like most CMSs there is a learning curve and a bunch of great add ons that can be used to do everything from calendar feeds to complete donation systems.  That being said, our website is run by volunteers and when they have time we get new great things on the site and when they are busy, well it lags.

    You can also get free or cheap templates and get a basic.  That being said, you can check out our website at  I think all in all we have paid under $100 for all the add ons we needed for this fully functional site (excluding the credit card payment part).  For that we found a great little company that does amazing webforms that link to paypal (that gives non-profit rates) for only $40 a year

    The best advice I can give any non-profit (that doesn't have a paid webmaster), is to find  a dedicated volunteer who will go out of their way to help you build a site - and for an interactive site, Joomla works wonders,


  • We've switched a number of our sites to Joomla now and really love it. It's a great tool, awesome in it's flexibility but definitely a learning curve. First site was built with a custom template which has partly crippled the full functionality and we need to redo it now. New sites are built with Joomla if they are too complex in need for Wordpress to handle gracefully. I would suggest that a decent Joomla site will actually take a chunk more time to get up and running than say a templated site using Dreamweaver, but then you are stuck with a crappy template site which is time consuming to update and expand. For some groups it's still worth using Wordpress but the extra effort on setup is commonly worth it for most sites/groups.

    Looking forward to the real ACL in 1.6.

    Learning was harder in the past but the documentation is improving. Strangely enough the best experience I had was not with a great Joomla book (which is worth it anyways) but with purchasing a commercial template we really liked, it had a fantastic setup and config guide that complemented the Joomla knowledge I had and really helped me to figure out structure and layout.

  • I have been moving several of my smaller non-profit clients to Joomla. Personally I like it alot. They dont have the resources (or ability) to come up with decent looking color schemes etc. The sheer volume of free and cheap templates makes this a great alternative for them.

    Most of my smaller npo's dont change content that often and when the do its someone "somewhere else" so logging in and pasting in an article works great.

    The only downside I have experienced is the lack of user groups as others have mentioned.

  • Thanks everyone for posting!

    In answer to the usability comments, I highly recommend switching from the default WYSIWYG to JCE, available for free download at  I am now installing it by default for all my Joomla clients -- it's more powerful in terms of features and in my experience more intuitive.

    If you're looking for a user group in your area, check out the directory at There is also a large and active online community -- a significant asset for the platform, in my not-entirely-unbiased opinion.

  • Joomla for Nonprofits can be found here, in case any of the posters above didn't see the live article.

    In addition, Ryan Ozimek at PICnet (a consulting firm that works largely with nonprofits on a Joomla-based platform) has chimed in on their blog with a response to the "Why Joomla?" question, sharing their two cents on why they think it can suit the needs of nonprofit users. It's an interesting read, so you should check it out if you're pondering the same question as many of our nonprofit users.

    Full disclosure: I've worked with PICnet as a nonprofit client while at a previous organization and have enjoyed both working with Ryan and with Joomla overall. :)

    Feel free to continue sharing resources and opinions on this and other open-source CMSs in this thread! All opinions and experiences welcome.

    Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at
    @bajeckabean on Twitter

  • I am comparing Joomla and Drupal and Webgui. I did not see Webgui mentioned. We have built our Web site in an older version of Webgui, and to upgrade to the newer version means our databases behind the scenes will not easily work. Anyone using Webgui now? What happens when Joomla or Drupal need to be upgraded? How do I know that Wordpress would not serve my non-profit better? If you want to look at our Web site to help form an opinion, by all means, Thanks for your help!

  • can you provide the website or company name where you purchased the commercial template?  I would like to experiment with a template as an intro to Joomla to see if it would be a good fit for our org.

    thanks in advance

  • Long-time Joomla user here (for other for profit sites).  Our nonprofit is now using an HTML site with a blog after multiple frustrating experiences with Joomla.  We use CentralDesktop for an Intranet and it has been an answer to prayer.

    Two things.  Joomla is great, but it is very easily and very often hacked. You absolutely MUST always keep your software updated and change passwords often.

    Second, as far as SEO goes, if you select "SEO Friendly URLS" it can cause serious display errors.  Joomla is working on this glitch but for now, for most people using custom templates created and imported, you cannot use the SEO friendly URL feature (it causes errors).  Joomla recommends not using any SEO features.  Therefore, it is important to know that in some casues SEO is a little more complicated than it first appears.

    Since you are discussing CMS (thank you!) Drupal offers more sophistication but it is a lot harder to master and manipulate and of the three (WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal), it is Drupal that seems the most vulnerable to security breaches.  Most people not afraid to play with tech stuff can easily set up a Joomla site.  Drupal may result in more than a few gray hairs to beginners - plan on hiring someone to help with set up.