Drupal and Non-Profits

by Ken Rickard

I recently finished a full week of Drupal for non-profit events, where I met quite a number of good people, learned about some great projects, and gave out some advice to organizations looking to make the switch to Drupal. Let's start in D.C.

Public Media Camp

The weekend of October 17-18 found 300 or so of us at the first PublicMedia Camp, a BarCamp-style meetup for people interested in local public media. Co-sponsored by PBS and NPR, this was one of the first events in the public media space that wasn't just focused on industry professionals. The whole point was to get producers, editors, fundraisers, programmers and the audience to come together to share ideas.

I did a short Q&A presentation titled, Drupal for Public Media: Who? What and Why? There are some session notes available, along with a PDF of the slides [6.5 MB].

You can read more about PubCamp on their wiki, or through some of the good writeups, which Peter Corbett is tracking. Some of my favorites are at PBS MediaShift, ZivTech, Jessie X, Laura Hertzfeld, and especially Shane Guiter:

"Sitting in the session about Drupal made me think about how crazy it is that we have hundreds of PBS and NPR stations all working on the same problems, and there is not enough sharing going on. Why should we all spend tens of thousands of hours working on the same issues separately?"

The idea of collaboration -- of functioning like an open source project -- is a powerful one in the public media space. Imagine for a minute if we had a common platform for sharing local community information, and a shared set of values regarding the value of that community.

OneWorld.net Webinar

On Wednesday, the 21st, I did a one-hour webinar for the OneWorld non-profit group and its members. The topic, naturally, was "Drupal and Non-Profits," with an emphasis on three things:

  • Non-profit sites that use Drupal (including NGOs, museums, charities, universities and schools)
  • Features that make Drupal attractive to non-profits.
  • New features in Drupal 7

In this talk, I used the above quote from Shane Guitner to drive home the real point of Drupal and Non-Profits: the network effect of using a shared platform is so incredibly powerful, that one has a literal eureka moment when that fact becomes clear.

We also discussed at some length my belief that Drupal is not a CMS but rather an open development framework for building web applications. (And if you poke around any of our Palantir case studies, I think you will see why I think that's the case.)

The entire conversation was recorded and is available as listenable WAV file or can be downloaded as OneWorld.key.pdf [11.5 MB].

Bay Area News Project

The capstone to my week was a Thursday conversation with Emily Coven, who is working with KQED and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism on the Bay Area News Project, an attempt to use nonprofit funding to support "professional civic journalism." (For more details on the project, see the FAQ and this NY Times article.)

Emily and I met on the PBS Engage project (who, that's right, also hosted PublicMedia Camp), and we had a long talk about the strengths and weaknesses of Drupal for news publishing. Having just come from doing the Foreign Affairs web site build, it's pretty clear that I think Drupal is ideal for a news startup, especially one that wants to move quickly and iterate rapidly. (I think that NowPublic, while not a non-profit, is a good model here.)

And as if that's not enough, I'm leaving in a couple weeks to fly to DrupalCamp Stockholm, where I will be addressing these issues again during the "Drupal as an enterprise CMS and publishing platform" session of the conference.


I have been developing ngo website for local charity (which has over 100 projects(30+ websites) going on) and wanted (was thinking about) to create a sort of drupal for ngos distribution.

I am more focusing on building the community around the websites, fundraising functionality and how to get people more involved (donate, etc...), which could be just features. But what is needed is a solid drupal base, with all the basic functionality (building website structure with content, categories, etc...) and make it pretty straight forward for them.

People that are not familiar with web development they tend to overbloat theirs website with features which will make the site unusable and contraproductive, so some guidance and best practices is needed as well.

I will try to make it to drupalcamp stockholm and will be very interested to talk with you and attend your session :)