Non-Profits and Drupal


June 14, 2013

When I told my dad I was working with Drupal he responded, “Hey, that’s what my company uses!” I shouldn’t have been too surprised considering he works for Amnesty International which has been using Drupal since 2007. In fact, a number of nonprofits have turned to open source platforms, specifically Drupal, to get information about themselves and their efforts available online. Here’s a look as to why so many organizations have made the switch:

Drupal allows an easy translation functionality - ideal for international organizations which require their information to reach a wider audience. With one website and one installation, Drupal acts as multiple sites when the content is translated, allowing internationalization of content. Amnesty was the first to employ internationalization to scale, being translated into 4 languages back in 2007.

An advantage of Drupal is that it allows a custom site to be built with different chunks of functionality. Since many nonprofits tend to host the same sort of information, there are a number of Drupal template frameworks that cater to them. This means an organization can quickly download an “out-of-the-box” template without going through the trouble of building their own site from scratch. One such template is OpenAid which provides a template website with all the functions normally required by nonprofits: blogs, an image carousel, news, profile pages, program pages, partner pages, mapping, and a resource library. Any organization can implement this framework and plug their logo and colours in to provide a custom look. For example, take a look at Mini-U (site unavailable), mHealth, and Malaria-Free Future. Despite the similarities in the design of the websites, they each achieve their goals of conveying information to the public

Similar distributions include OpenOutreach (for grassroots/activist organizations), OpenPublic (for government and public policy organizations), and Julio (for schools and academic organizations). Watch this DrupalCon Denver 2012 presentation for further information.

Depending on what they want to accomplish with their site, nonprofits may want additional functionality rather than out-of-the-box templates. For example, MercyCorps created a fundraising page during the Haiti earthquake - the page ended up raising $4M for the victims.  

Oxfam International also tested Drupal’s functionality by using it as an internal development tool, transforming their site into a global intranet. By using a single platform, they were able to bring different components of their organization together in one place. By consolidating technology they were able to reduce costs, create a central repository, provide a means of document management, allow the creation of profile pages, allow a single sign-on, provide in place editors, and give users their own customizable dashboard. Oxfam is also in the process of creating their own Drupal distribution so that their sites are consistent across the board.

Another example of extending functionality is Greenpeace, using media events to bring awareness to their message. One such event was the infamous Ken Rainforest Destruction campaign. The campaign drove so much traffic to Mattel’s Facebook page that they were forced to take it down, eventually causing them (and another toy manufacturer who was afraid they’d be next) to stop using paper from Asian forests.

Clearly, Drupal can be used in many different ways by nonprofits to bring knowledge and awareness to where it needs it most.

So, what’s the future of Drupal in nonprofits? Organizations should get in the habit of contributing back to When contributing, it’s important to ensure overlap with open source contributions and nonprofit goals. Contributions often garners great PR for nonprofits, gaining them the image of innovators in the field. Additionally, grantors tend to like seeing their money stretch further - going back into the community to generate more value.

If you are working on code for a site, make sure to share it either on or Github so that others can collaborate to and use it. And although most Drupal developers tend to launch a site and move on to their next project, it is important to have post-mortems to assess what worked and what didn’t. In essence, work needs should be shared on a more business-type level.

To get more involved in the nonprofit Drupal community, get involved in issue cues. There are a number of groups on dedicated to developing drupal for nonprofits. These include Drupal in Education, Drupal for Good, and Open Outreach. Remember, constructive input is always useful for project maintainers.