Building a non-profit website with WordPress from scratch

Haiti Red Cross website

The finished website for Haitian National Red Cross

I am currently helping to create a website for a national Red Cross Society that doesn’t have a website yet. If you find that surprising, keep in mind that the Red Cross Red Crescent has 186 National Societies and many of them are in very poor countries where other things have a higher priority. And that is not necessarily a bad thing – after all what good is a website if you don’t have the resources to maintain it?

Anyhow, this project gives me the rather enviable opportunity to create something from scratch without having to worry about integrating any other systems or databases. And of course, in my mind I have played the “what if”-game many times. Now is my chance to put it into practice.

The conditions:

  • Website must be easy to maintain
  • Must have a backend
  • Must have a backend in a language that can be used by the people maintaining it
  • Multilingual support
  • Cheap
  • Site should be up as quickly as possible
  • Big developer community

With all that in mind I suggested to use WordPress as a CMS to drive the website. The National Society accepted this proposal and I have been fine tuning it since then. It’s running on a dedicated virtual server. For the design we decided to modify a premium theme.

Below is the set-up that I have in place so far. Please chip in, if you have any additional suggestions. I hope others will find it useful as well. All plug-ins can be downloaded from

  • After the deadline
    Checks spelling, style and grammar of your English language posts.
  • Category header content
    Let’s you add HTML at the top of your category or tag-pages. In my opinion, you shouldn’t need a plugin to do that, but it’s the only way I found to add custom text to the top of category or tag-pages.
  • Contact Form 7
    A customizable contact form. Supports many languages.
  • Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
    Generates a human readable sitemap.
  • Easily navigate pages on dashboard
    The site will have a lot of pages (as opposed to posts). This plugin makes it easier to jump to individual pages.
  • Google XML Sitemaps
    Adds a Google XML site map.
  • Lightview Plus
    Improves the standard WordPress gallery and has slide show features. I have not figured out how to make this multi lingual yet. The plugin requires that you buy  the lightview script for 3 euros.
  • Media Tags
    Allows you to assign tags to your media files which will make it easier to find them in the future.
  • Registered Users only
    Hides the site from anonymous users while still under development.
  • Sociable
    Adds Twitter/Facebook etc. “share” buttons to all posts and pages. I love how customizable this plugin is!
  • WP DB backup
    Emails me a complete database backup every day. The frequency is customizable, as are the tables that are being backed up.
  • WPML multilingual CMS
    This plugin is seriously impressive! WPML does not only create a multilingual structure for your site but also helps your editors with the translation workflow and even supports translations of widgets and text-strings (though that doesn’t always work 100%). Since my day job is to maintain a multilingual site I can tell you that I’d be much happier if we had this!   The plugin was developed by a translation company that integrates their translation services into the plugin. Very smart.
  • WPtouch iPhone theme
    Delivers site news for mobile devices (not just iPhones). Since the site is for a disaster-prone country where mobile phone are widely used, this could be a useful feature.

I am still looking for a good comments-plugin that is available in multiple languages. Please leave a comment if you know one.

Update 17 may 2012: In light of a recent successful hack of this blog I’d like to make two security-related additions:

  • Simple Login Lockdown
    After five unsuccessful login attempts, it blocks the IP address of the person trying to log in for a certain time (default is one hour)
  • Sucuri Security
    Sucuri is a  service first and plugin second. For 90 USD per year, Sucuri monitors your site to make sure that nobody is making changes without your knowledge and cleans up your site if it has been infected with malware. The nice thing is, that you can even sign up if your site has already been infected. Their service also includes a plugin that helps you to close some WordPress vulnerabilities and blocks IP addresses which are known to be the source of comment spam. While Sucuri costs money, I found that it’s definitely worth it. 

What would you add to this list?


  1. @redcrosswebmast March 1, 2010
  2. @omaruddin March 2, 2010
    • Timoluege March 2, 2010
  3. @omaruddin March 2, 2010
    • Timoluege March 3, 2010
  4. @mbopaiah March 3, 2010
  5. Nerissa Petree April 7, 2010
  6. online gradebook February 3, 2011
    • Timoluege February 3, 2011
  7. clamb17 February 13, 2011
  8. Online Always February 28, 2011
  9. Lynn Currie October 18, 2011
    • Timoluege October 23, 2011
  10. Carlos May 16, 2012
    • Timoluege May 17, 2012
  11. translation agency August 7, 2012
  12. Yasser September 25, 2012
  13. Mark December 11, 2012
    • Timoluege December 11, 2012
  14. Himanshu February 26, 2013
  15. summ3r June 3, 2014

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.