wordpress-logo-squarePart of what makes WordPress so great is that there is a vast community of people working together to make it better all the time. Many of the things you would call “features” on a website (for example, the ability to have a form on the site that collects visitor information) are powered by plugins. A plugin adds a functionality to a WordPress website. Popular functions for plugins include optimizing your website for search engines, connecting your site to social media, or displaying your images in beautiful galleries. These are all the sorts of features that you can add to your site via plugin.

A developer builds a plugin that adds a feature to WordPress, and either sells it or shares it with the website community. Because there are so many WordPress sites out there, developers know that if they can build a useful and functional plugin, they can sell it to thousands of WordPress users for an low fee, making it financially sustainable for both the developer and the WordPress user. As a result, there are now over 35,000 WordPress plugins, and people like me can build you a site for much less money than development would’ve cost even five years ago.

But, I’ve heard people complain (and rightly so) that there are so many plugins that it’s hard to sift through and find the right one — plenty of those 35,000 plugins are not going to be of any use to you because they are too out-of-date. Plus, some plugins are not secure or don’t have great support if something goes wrong. So, how can you pick WordPress plugins that will solve your problems instead of creating problems? And what about plugins for nonprofit websites?

This is where community comes in — working with WordPress goes way better when you participate in community. This can include visiting WordPress.org and leaving reviews for plugins (and reading reviews), going to WordPress events, helping other people with their WordPress installations… and of course, trying things out on your own WordPress website and sharing that information with others. Working with clients, I keep testing and using different plugins to see what I like best to balance secure and well-functioning sites with as low a development cost as possible, and in the spirit of WordPress, I like to share what I learn with others.

Here’s my list of preferred WordPress plugins — some for essential features like donation processing, security and backups, but others for less common features like user instructions or a popup notifier.

Let me know if you have any questions about how to make the best use of these plugins for your organization: