by David Snopek on August 2, 2017 - 5:54pm

My colleague, Elliot, recently wrote a controversial article called "Drupal sucks at non-profits," which led to some really great discussion in the comments. The general consensus is that Drupal 8 is great for big nonprofits (and big organizations in general) but has left the little guy behind.

Drupal used to be AWESOME for small nonprofits... How can we make it awesome again?

This is something we've been discussing internally for a long time, and we'd like to take a stab at a possible solution with the help of the community and some adventurous nonprofits.

In fact, we'd like to offer a FREE migration to Drupal 8 for 10 nonprofit organizations :-)

But, we'll get to that a little later! First, I'd like to dig into why the current situation kinda sucks...

Drupal 6 & 7 were awesome for nonprofits!

At myDropWizard, we provide support and maintenance for Drupal sites. We don't generally build new sites, we provide killer support for sites that are already live, including Long-Term Support for Drupal 6 sites.

A strong plurality of our customers are nonprofits, most of them on Drupal 6.

And Drupal 6 was a great choice for nonprofits, both from a technical perspective and the commercial and community eco-system built around Drupal at the time!

The TRUE power of Drupal isn't from Drupal core, but from:

  • The 38,158 contrib modules. Want to add some new functionality to your site? "There's a module for that!"
  • The community. You're only a Google search, or Meetup away from the solution to any Drupal problem.
  • The commericial eco-system. The are (or were) loads of freelancers and small Drupal shops willing to help out small nonprofits. In fact, many professional Drupalists originally came from community organizing or activism or education or other places spiritually aligned with small nonprofits.

If you were pretty tech literate (but not necessarily a programmer), it was possible to mash together a workable site (with pretty advanced features!) geared specifically to the mission of your organization, for a reasonable amount of cost and effort for a small nonprofit.

Ah, the old days :-)

Why does Drupal suck for nonprofits now?

I love Drupal 8. As a developer, I'd much rather write code for Drupal 8 than previous versions.

It fixed a number of old architectural problems and set us up for some really cool things down the road. Drupal 8 is (going to be) awesome.

Drupal 8 is the future of Drupal!

But...

There's a number of problems right now, and they have a particularly chilling effect on the use of Drupal 8 at small nonprofits.

Like I mentioned above, a strong plurality of our customers are nonprofits on Drupal 6. As they upgrade their sites, they are NOT moving to Drupal 8! They're either going to Drupal 7 or, more frequently, away from Drupal entirely.

And we're not the only ones that see this. There were some really amazing comments on our last article, and I highly recommend reading them, but I'll summarize the main points below...

Drupal 8 is released! But kind of still under development...

Our vendor is a 40+ person shop and when they were delivering the site to me we had to fight to get some of the basic stuff that D8 promises out of the box (e.g. in-place editing, simplified admin, testing, etc) because it is not as stable as you hope...

- Krugs on "Drupal Sucks at Non-profits"

Drupal 8.0.0 was finally released November 19, 2015, but in a lot of ways, it was not a finished product. There's lots of really great new ideas in core, but many of them haven't really matured yet.

Now, I'm not saying we should have kept working on it until it was more polished - someone needed to draw a line and say, "it's usable enough in some cases, let's get it out!"

But using it in production requires someone to support it who can debug hard problems, watch the issue queue, apply patches, do upgrades, etc.

Of course, this is EXACTLY the sort of thing you'd hire a support and maintenance company like myDropWizard to do, and we try to make our services as affordable as possible, but this is still outside the reach of many nonprofits.

The contrib space isn't there yet

There are some cool stuff around the paragraphs module and the contrib media is getting there, nicely... with lots of patches, spit, composer prayer and symfony meditation...

- Davy Jones on "Drupal Sucks at Non-profits"

Building a Drupal site used to be like putting some lego blocks (modules) together, configuring and sprinkling just a smidge of custom code.

While there has been loads of progress on porting modules to Drupal 8, or creating completely new and interesting ones, it isn't yet like the old days.

Even a year and half after release, to build a Drupal 8 site, you'll find yourself helping to port modules, applying several patches from the issue queue and writing far more custom code than you used to.

Many small nonprofits don't have the additional resources or expertise to do this.

The knowledge base isn't there yet

What used to be a helpful, supportive place is becoming more and more commercialized, with more and more essential information being withheld unless people are paid to divulge it.

- Chris Brown on "Drupal Sucks at Non-profits"

When I need to do something I've never done in Drupal 8, first, I'll "google" it. Not infrequently, a great series of tutorials will come up... unfortunately, they were written in 2013 (before 8.0.0 was released) and totally irrelevent on current Drupal 8. :-(

While this situation is improving and there's some great material out there, the core of the problem is that most of our community (even those who used to be the most knowledgable) haven't gotten totally up-to-speed on Drupal 8 yet.

It's a bootstrapping problem. How can Drupalistas help at meetups, answer questions on Stack Exchange or write awesome blog articles on how to use Drupal 8 when most are still learning it themselves?

This will fix itself in time, but for now, it's very hard for small nonprofits with limited resources to learn how to do things on their own.

Drupal was never the easiest or cheapest, but Drupal 8 is worse

Composer may be technically superior and future proof but unless they can pull off some magic software tricks it's not going to work for shared web hosting environments that most local non-profits (and individual users such as myself) use.

- Frank Kelly on "Drupal Sucks at Non-profits"

What will get you a toy castle easier and faster? A complete plastic castle with a couple moving parts (but is mostly fixed in place)? Or a sack of legos that can be made completely dynamic?

That analogy may be the result of spending all my free time playing with my daughters, but I think it pretty accurately describes what makes Drupal so hard to use.

If you haven't guessed: Drupal is the sack of legos. :-)

Drupal has a steep learning curve, it has special hosting requirements (I'd argue even Drupal 6 & 7 shouldn't be hosted on cheap shared hosting that isn't optimized for Drupal), and needs special care with long-term support and maintenance.

And Drupal 8 pushes further in that direction.

It's more complex. You may have been able to get away without using Varnish and Redis and SOLR and Drupal-optimized hosting in Drupal 6 or 7, but certainly not with Drupal 8. With Drupal 8, support and maintenance needs to be a lot more proactive (we know - that's what we do!).

Nonprofits have been successful with Drupal 6 & 7 in the past in spite of these challenges, but the increased challenge with Drupal 8 may have raised the bar too high.

The commercial eco-system has moved up market

Who was that famous guy who said, "Drupal 8 is for AMBITIOUS SITES?" It was none other than Dries Buytaert the founder of Drupal. Just google "Ambitious Drupal Sites" and see everyone competing for the keywords and trying to prove that THEY can build your next ambitious project.

- Doug Vann on "Drupal Sucks at Non-profits"

At DrupalCon New Orleans, Dries, the Drupal project lead, chose a very diplomatic way to describe how Drupal's commercial ecosystem has moved upmarket. Rather than saying "Drupal is for the enterprise", he said "Drupal is for AMBITIOUS digital experiences."

I disagree with Dries, but I'll address that in full in a future article.

It's definitely true that Drupal's commercial ecosystem has moved up market. You used to be able to find lots of freelancers and small shops, who were interested in working with smaller organizations on smaller projects. However, many of the freelancers I know have gone on to work at big shops and many of the small shops have grown or merged with other shops. And they are looking for big projects.

This doesn't just affect Drupal 8 - it's harder for smaller organizations to find help with Drupal 7 too. But certainly makes it much harder for any small nonprofit who was successful with Drupal 6 to move to Drupal 8.

The world is changing!

Meanwhile very small non-profits with mostly volunteer labor simply do not have the resources to maintain a Drupal site or to pay someone market rate to do so. They may be better served with Wordpress and/or a turnkey SaaS solution. [emphasis added]

- Dave Rudderman on "Drupal Sucks at Nonprofits"

It used to be that the expectation -- not just in nonprofits -- was that you'd buy some server or hosting somewhere that would handle your e-mail, your website, some other tech services, and hire somebody to build you a custom website.

In this day and age, there are organizations that only have a Facebook page. Or put their blog on Medium. Or, built their site themselves with a SaaS site building tool like Wix or Squarespace.

Your organization has a specific mission. That's really what you care about.

Why would you want to maintain a server, or install software? Especially software as complex to maintain as Drupal?

Some small nonprofits may look at the cost/benefit and decide that they don't need something like Drupal for their web presense.

So, what do nonprofits really want?

As I mentioned above, a good portion of our customers are nonprofits. I've also done Drupal projects for nonprofits as a consultant and Elliot has served on the boards of several nonprofits.

We've learned a few things about what they want:

  • They want their web presense to reflect the nature of their organization and their mission. I think this is why Drupal has been so successful with nonprofits in the past: it can be customized so extensively. Apps like Wix or Squarespace that can sometimes work pretty well for small businesses, don't quite fit for nonprofits.
  • They want as few "tech things" as possible. Some organizations are happy to have seperate tools for everything, for example: Drupal for a website, Mailchimp for e-mail marketing, external CRM, etc. But there is a strong tendency among nonprofits to want it all in one.
  • Their CRM is hugely important. Many of our customers use CiviCRM, and while its integrations with the website are super important, the CRM itself is frequently more critical to them than their website. This was driven home by Kevin Reynen on "Drupal Sucks at Nonprofits"
  • They don't really want to deal with hosting/servers. We've discovered that it's super difficult to get customers off of their hosting or custom server setup, even when we offer to do the migration for free (which we do :-)). But that's just inertia - they don't really want to deal all that mess.
  • The most critical needs of most charitible nonprofits are very similar. Elliot talked about this on "Drupal Sucks at Nonprofits" but this includes things like: volunteer coordination, accepting donations, events, news, mapping, communicating with their constituents, etc. Many of the customizations that our customers have developed for their sites are the same fundimental features, even if they are implemented in different ways.
  • They want to predictably budget how their tech dollars are spent. Most nonprofits do have funding, but they need to be very careful with budgeting the money they have. They must focus the majority of it on their mission. Working with a Drupal shop is traditionally difficult to budget for because building certain features or fixing certain bugs may end up costing more to develop than expected -- the dark side of agile development.

How to make Drupal 8 awesome for nonprofits?

The only way to make Drupal 8 great for small nonprofits, is to start using it for small nonprofits.

Drupal is a "do-ocracy", and we have to start doing it :-)

Drupal 8 can provide the things that nonprofits need -- we just need to figure out a way to deliver them in a way that's accessible to nonprofits.

So, here is what we propose:

  • We'll work with 10 adventurous nonprofits to create a Drupal 8 + CiviCRM distribution for charitable nonprofits (information on how to get involved below)
  • The Drupal 8 + CiviCRM distribution will be Open Source and available to anyone who wants to set it up themselves
  • We'll create a SaaS version which includes hosting and support so small nonprofits don't have to deal with setting up or installing or maintaining their site
  • We'll migrate the 10 nonprofits in the BETA group from Drupal 6 and their old CRM to Drupal 8 + CiviCRM for FREE! We'll be talking about all the details of the BETA process later, but very quickly: the BETA itself won't be free (we'll be charging a monthly fee for the service), however, as an incentive to join the BETA we won't be asking for anything additional to do the migration. This is significant: migrations to Drupal 8 can be super expensive - a cost of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for a migration is not uncommon.

There's a community side to this: we'll be improving Drupal 8 and CiviCRM and various contrib and making all of it available as Open Source. Other vendors and Drupalista's and individual nonprofit organizations who have technical resources are welcome to take advantage of what we create and contribute if they like.

And there's also a commercial side: we hope to provide a path for our customers to stay with Drupal rather than switching to something else. And, we want to be able to offer the SaaS version to smaller organizations that otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford our services.

Doug Vann wrote, "D8 was not built with Nonprofits in mind".

We're hoping that we can change that :-)

We want to create an Open Source "Wix for nonprofits"

In this article I sought to cover the the why of this project. The specific implementations of our proposed solution will be addressed in greater detail in another article. :-)

But, in short, the end goal is to create a hosted SaaS solution (based on Drupal 8 + CiviCRM), to allow nonprofits to build their own sites, for a low monthly fee.

So, in the end, it'll be as easy to use as other well known hosted solutions (like Wix) but with the additional features nonprofits need (like CRM, volunteer management, etc) with a price accessible to small nonprofits.

However, to be super clear:

  • At launch, we won't have something as simple and easy to use as our end goal - much development needs to be done
  • The members of the BETA group will be paying more than the eventual super low price point. While the sites won't be completely custom they will be built to their needs, fully supported (the way we support and maintain our customer sites currently) and allow for adding things outside our standard platform

So, while the ultimate goal is to have something that even very small nonprofits could use, it's going to take us a little while to get there.

We'll need the help of some adventurous nonprofits - and not necessarily the smallest - in order to make that a reality!

Join the BETA and help us build it!

It's going to be a paid BETA (a fixed fee per month), and for a product that doesn't really exist yet, and so participating is a little risky. But here's what you get for taking that risk:

  • We'll be building the platform to meet your most critical needs and you'll have a large influence in what it becomes
  • We'll migrate the content from your old site and CRM to Drupal 8 and CiviCRM for FREE!
  • You won't have to start making monthly payments until we launch your new site with all your data migrated over
  • Even if the SaaS service flops, you can still export your site and take it somewhere else because it's all Open Source

So, if you're interested in your organization being part of the BETA or just want to stay in the loop, please fill out this simple form!

If we can't find 10 nonprofits for the BETA, we're not doing it

We've launched new products before and seen them both succeed and fail.

One of the biggest product building mistakes is spending loads of time building something and THEN trying to get people to use it. You end up finding out that you built all the wrong features and that no one would use it, let alone pay for it. :-)

So, we're only going to build it if we can find 10 nonprofits who will use it, help decide what goes in it, and pay for it. If it works for at least 10 customers AND it's good enough to pay for, well, we probably made something pretty good.

If you're interested, please click the big green button below to...

Join the BETA or get progress updates

We'll be digging deeper into the details in future articles, but please leave any comments or questions below!

(NOTE: We announced some more details about this project in a new article, called FREE migration to Drupal 8 for 10 nonprofits - please check it out!)

Think it's a great idea? Or, even better - think it's a terrible idea? Leave a comment!

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Comments

An interesting idea. I will need to look at this again tomorrow.

Eric

Have you talked to the Drutopia team? Seems like there could be some strong overlaps with goals.

The goals of Drutopia definitely seem to overlap! However, I've never made it to any of the Drutopia calls (I've been on the mailing list since the beginning) and I'm not exactly sure what the Drutopia team is actually doing. In any case, that's a great idea - we'll definitely touch base with them soon :-)

We work exclusively with nonprofits, and I run events and a monthly chat for nonprofits using Drupal. And yes, this is a big issue right now.

I second the suggestion that you should talk with Drutopia. It'd be great to see something like this built faster, rather than separately in different silos. I recommend reaching out to Clayton Dewey. I can put you in touch if you want to drop me an email.

Thanks for this excellent post!

That would be much appreciated! Thanks, Johanna :-) I sent you an e-mail separately

As a founder of a nonprofit org, I feel that the term as used here means something much narrower than "an organisation whose mission is something other than making a profit". So is there a more specific term you could use because almost nothing in this article applies to my nonprofit.
I built and maintained a Drupal 6 distribution through Drupal 8 for local community groups and my nonprofit http://communityforge.net hosts a few hundred instances of it. The org was founded on my strategic assessment that networks of local exchange groups would better thrive by using Drupal as a common platform.
The main reason Drupal is starting to suck for us is that we can neither recruit volunteers nor pay for Drupal developers. We are now re-orienting towards a more RESTy mobile-first architecture mainly because development is easier, and there are more developers around.

You're absolutely right that we have a restricted definition of nonprofit in mind.

What we mean is "charitable nonprofits that take donations, have members/memberships, hold events, manage volunteers and (could) use a CRM"

Your organization looks really interesting - I hadn't heard of it before!

Thanks David.
I suspect I/we don't qualify for your help because we are very far from your more-specific definition. But if you did want to get involved in building networks of communities, if you want to have your mind blown by monetary theory, I'd love to hang out with you.

Have you thought of joining up with Drutopia? They are doing something very similar? Would be good to keep things under the 'collaborate, don't compete' umbrella.

I understand it's your interest to keep organisation using Drupal because this is what you do so you are careful not to mention Backdrop (https://backdropcms.org/) as an alternative for small nonprofits. But Backdrop branch off from Drupal 8 precisely for all the reasons mentioned in this article.

Backdrop is aimed at small businesses and is built to serve them. If all the big organisations is pushing Drupal 8 towards Enterprise (including the founder), small nonprofits will still suffer trying to keep up with the pace of changes. Even with your SAAS model, the price may increase as development becomes more complex and there isn't enough signups? or you kill off your product, leaving your customers stranded. Sure, you can export the site but who wants to be left out in the cold wondering what to do to support it?

So it only makes sense to go with a CMS that is specifically targeting their market.

Backdrop sits between Drupal 7 and 8, and already supports CivicCRM. Why not offer this as a solution? The migration is no near as complex as migrating to D8, in fact it's quite simple. After all, it is Drupal under the hood but bringing it to the level of affordability for small businesses in mind.

Let's face it, Backdrop is not an alternative CMS to Drupal, it is an enhanced version of Drupal 7 with more added features.

Actually, we did discuss Backdrop on our last post, and I even recommended it in the comments. :-) We think Backdrop is great and support their project!

That said, not only do we think Drupal 8 can be made to do this job, but we think the true power of Drupal comes from its contrib modules and its community, and while most of Drupal's community is sticking with Drupal 8, so will we.

I think it remains to be seen whether "most of the community" is stick with Drupal 8. Looking at pathauto usage, for example, or that of any other must have contrib module, there's not yet a huge adoption of Drupal 8.
https://www.drupal.org/project/usage/pathauto or https://www.drupal.org/project/usage/token
I will likely be a few years before we know what portion of the community sticks with Drupal 8.

Good point. I did some back of envelope calculations based on token module usage. If the decrease in Drupal 7 is at the same pace as the increase--so far it seems to hold true--then it'll decrease by 100,000 per year. Assuming that most of those will switch to Drupal 8, which is far from certain since Drupal 8 isn't increasing at the same rate, than it'll take 4+ years to match the number of Drupal 7 installs.

I'm assuming that official Drupal 7 support won't end for awhile so as not to upset a majority of the community. Or maybe a similar approach as the post-EOL support that mydropwizard is giving.

Your post - and the previous related post by your colleague Elliot chime in with my own views on the subject, as someone who has been putting together useful low cost Drupal/Civi websites for smaller non-profits for over ten years now. It's great that you guys are planning to develop a D8/Civi distribution, and your hosted offering might well do the job for some. But I wonder, given the issues of working with D8, whether you might potentially be leading clients up the garden path somewhat by getting them to use D8 at all? It may be good business for your shop, but is it the best solution strategically for the client organisation?

For me Drupal 7 and CiviCRM together offer a powerful platform that, with little or no custom coding, can deliver for the client. Over the years that I've been working with and supporting Drupal/Civi sites I've seen Drupal (and to a far lesser degree CiviCRM) become less and less relevant to the smaller organisation. Back in the day when I was making D6 sites for clients we were all blissfully unaware of the cost and pain that was coming down the line to get them moved to D7. In some cases we're still working through that, and as your D6 support service shows, there's plenty out there with that same issue still. Drupal's policy of effectively not providing an upgrade path from D6 to D7 pushed many smaller non-profits away to Wordpress. Since 2010 Drupal's market share has dropped (pun intended) from over 7% to 4.7% (https://w3techs.com/technologies/history_overview/content_management/ms/y). Things are not going in the right direction, and I don't see D8 reversing that trend.

I fear that the Drupal developer community has become so internally focused on the product itself that it has lost sight of the ordinary needs of the people and organisations that the product was serving. I'm very pleased to read that you haven't done so, and that gives me hope. Davy Jones, in his comment - https://www.mydropwizard.com/comment/540#comment-540 on the previous post talked about how these organisations should revert to using static HTML – and whilst I'd say his comments are a little extreme, there is truth in what he says. And that, to me, indicates that the Drupal community has failed to deliver a usable product.

I wish you luck with the initiative, and I'll certainly follow with interest. For me, right now, I'm conflicted about how to advise clients in their choice of CMS: go with Drupal 7 for the depth of CiviCRM integration offered via webforms and views, despite the likely upgrade pain coming down the line, or go with Wordpress which is a comparative snip to manage, everyone knows how to use it for content management, despite it's relatively weak current integration with CiviCRM. Would I suggest D8 even if worked with CiviCRM? I can't see any benefit?

Thanks! You raise some good points.

But I wonder, given the issues of working with D8, whether you might potentially be leading clients up the garden path somewhat by getting them to use D8 at all? It may be good business for your shop, but is it the best solution strategically for the client organisation?

Sure, like any Open Source project, it's possible that Drupal 8 could flop and people will be stuck with a Drupal 8 site that can't move forward. That's a real risk with Drupal 7 sites too, though, if Drupal 8 flops.

However, I don't think doing Drupal 8 is necessarily better for our shop. We don't bill hourly, but a fixed monthly fee, so we'd be taking on the additional trouble of using Drupal 8. Sticking with Drupal 7, is probably what would be best for our shop. But doing Drupal 8 is probably better for Drupal. :-)

Thank you for bringing attention to, and possibly a solution for, the exodus of non-profits from the Drupal they once knew and were able to work with. The non-profit I work for creates websites for the school districts we serve. Well, let me step that back a bit. The non-profit I work for provides Internet connectivity, networking, hardware and software support, and training for teachers and staff. I create the Drupal websites for our districts and am a one-person shop with a SQL admin who is shared across many education applications that we host for our schools.

When we moved from D6 to D7, we hired a local company to create the layout and designs for us and help with the migration. They were awesome and brought a talented group of designers and developers to extend the quality of the sites I was building. The costs were reasonable and within the school districts' budgets.

But for the past two years, I have been watching what is happening with D8 and wondering if it is the right fit for us? Will our districts be able to afford the development costs and pain points with upgrading? Is D8 even meant to serve our customer base? Can we afford to bring new staff on to make D8 sites?

After much debate, I firmly believe the answer to all of the above questions is a resounding no.

I applaud your willingness to create a distribution that non-profits can use to spin up sites that meet their shared needs with less pain than learning Drupal 8 as developers instead of site builders.

Many of us do not have a staff of PHP programmers, designers, project managers, and a sales force. Many of us are a staff of one or two and Drupal was a CMS we could work with along with the community's support. Now I look at the colossal D8 and recognize it is heading in a direction that truly leaves us behind.

And then I came across Backdrop and realized this fork of Drupal is aimed at preserving Drupal 7's ease of use and building and improving upon it primarily for small business, non-profit, and educational groups. People who are already familiar with Drupal 7 can use their existing knowledge base to build and upgrade their Drupal 6 or 7 sites using Backdrop. The Backdrop community is growing and the modules that are being ported by the week are making it a viable competitor for drawing me back to thinking this fork of Drupal has a future with our organization.

Is it a WIX or Squarespace? No. But is it worth taking a look at instead of moving completely away from Drupal? Absolutely! I'm in the process of building a school district sample website on Backdrop since the content types for schools are pretty similar. My hope is that I can build something to share out as a distribution for other school districts to use in the spirit of sharing with the community.

I wish you the best in bringing the non-profits back into the fold, so to speak. The small businesses, non-profits and educational entities that have been largely ignored in Dries's grand vision for the project quite possibly will have a negative impact on the growth of the community. As I've said to others, it would have been nice if Drupal had offered an Enterprise and a Lite version, but perhaps BackdropCMS.org is that lite version we have been looking for.

Thanks for sharing your story! We'd also prefer people go to Backdrop than switch away from the "Drupal family" altogether. If that's the direction you chose, I'd love to hear how it goes! So, please, feel free to send us a note later.

That said, I think there is a possibility to turn the tide and bring Drupal 8 back to state where it'd be viable choice for organizations like yours again! But not without quite a lot of work in both the community and the commercial ecosystem.

I'd be interested to read more about what you think is required to turn things round. Clearly your proposal forms part of that response - what else do you think needs to change?

Graham,

I thought I had an answer when I ran for the Drupal Association Board's Member at Large position by getting small developers and non-profits a seat at the table so our voice could be heard. But there are no hard feelings on my part for those who filled the at-large positions were very active members of the community who gladly supported and voted for.

That said, there is a perceived attitude that the "new and improved" Drupal is primarily for big players. I heard at several Drupal Cons that projects that don't approach six-figures don't get the attention of Drupal shops anymore. I never had a project larger than four-figures. I get it - they are after the big payoff. But, that also eats away at what made the Drupal community amazing to me when I first discovered it.

My first Drupal Con in Chicago was magical. There were kids with laptops and hard drives in the pockets of their cargo pants. They were excited and sat in groups in the hallways collaborating and sharing ideas because they felt like they were part of the group creating this wonderful new version of Drupal. There were hobbyists, clubs, small schools, and bloggers working right alongside the museums, television stations, and large universities. That excitement waned as the camo cargo shorts were replaced with people in suits and ties and business attire over time (nothing against suits and ties).

As Acquia catered to larger and larger clients and created a Drupal to fit their needs, they left the smaller shops to whither on D7, learn D8, or die. That was a colossal error on someone's part or an oversight that came back to haunt.

So, how do we get the magic back? How to we get the small shops and non-profits back? It may be too late for Drupal. Hubris? Perhaps. But the fact that there are discussions about changing governance, the fact that this article showed up in The Weekly Drop, the fact that people are looking for alternatives to D8 shows that the problem is real and is being recognized.

This may not be the best forum to solve the problem, but it is a good place to start the discussion.

I have no formal proposal on how to solve the problem other than having a "Lite" version of Drupal for smaller players to use that is within the realm of their comfort zone and capabilities. Not all of us want to be anything more than site builders and the old Drupal allowed us to be just that.

Thanks for the question,
Tom

Sounds like you need to decide what you want to be when you grow up. Drupal is enterprise. That is it's niche. You want to make Drupal one-size-fits-all you will kill Drupal. Maybe the suits showed up because they understand how to market and the cargo pant clad kids may not understand business.

I keep saying use the right tool for the job. WordPress is a great CMS that takes limited resources to support. Drupal is a resource hog across the board. I prefer Drupal, however it sure is needy. Trying to complete with WordPress and other solutions is a mistake.

As I keep saying Drupal is for those who need a web app and that have the money to support it.

I am a developer who has no real developer friends. My friends are business people. I get to watch their struggles and get to see for real how much they can spend and what their real needs are. Not one needs Drupal. WordPress is all they need. Don't get me wrong, I love Druapl. AND I find it to be a resource hog.

Thanks for all your comments - I can see that you feel very strongly about this :-)

I've been doing Drupal a long time (10-ish years), and while some of the sites I've worked on were Enterprise (I worked on a company intranet site with 20k active users once!), most of them aren't. I guess you'd probably argue that I've been doing it wrong this whole time, that I should abandon Drupal for those non-Enterprise sites, and start using Wordpress. But I don't want to. ;-)

Even if my contribution has only been very small, I've helped build Drupal. If the tool I helped build is nor longer useful for me, well, from my perspective, I need to roll up my sleeves and get back to work! Not give up and use a different tool.

I understand that you feel differently, and that's fine. In fact, it's great! That there's so many tools and options (and most of the best ones are Open Source) with different pro's and con's and communities and philosophies is wonderful.

I've been thinking about how to respond to your question, and I've come to the conclusion that have too much to say for a comment and need the time to organize it in a coherent way. :-) I'll try to write a full article soon!

Thanks for the reply, David, and I'm pleased that you see Backdrop as a viable alternative to moving to D8.

I'll try to remember to come back and give you and update on the success / problems we encounter moving to Backdrop.

Agree with you that there is work to be done and recognition of small shops as being capable of creating "Ambitious Digital Experiences" even if they are only ambitious to ourselves and our clients.

Drutopia is a great idea. I'm trying to push that with the non-profits I work with. I would like to see more distros, like Red Hen targeting non-profits in D8. My fear is that D8 will be the end of Drupal as a competitive CMS. It doesn't have to end this way, but I don't think it's going to change.

The only way to change it is for the community and the commercial ecosystem to step up and change it. :-)

I have not had a problem running small D8 sites on shared hosting, but you do need to understand how to run composer locally and have a "build" branch to deploy. Those steps alone are beyond many casual users, so I think a SaaS offering with updates would be very useful.

Great comments, and I agree with all of it. I think two things are true:

  1. The complexity and difficulty of Drupal 8 has been exaggerated by those not using it...
  2. ...and Drupal 8 is more complex than the typical Drupal developer understands

Hopefully initiatives like ours can help make both of those things improve!

Like Tom, I just discovered Backdrop, in my case just recently, and fall in love with it straight away. It reminded me the beginnings of Drupal (mine beginnings with it). My first Drupalcon was in Brussels 2006: less than 100 attendees (http://buytaert.net/drupalcon-brussels-attendees). I'm pretty sure no one in that picture would have ever dreamed of what Drupal has become. But at that time we were full of enthusiasm to build something great, really useful AND together. It was my discover of the open source community and it was really encouraging. I still have my "hook_world_alter()" t-shirt. We wanted to change the world, really. But all that is gone. Maybe it's not, but you need to work in a big drupal shop to see it, but then it's mainly market. The open source portion of it seems to be buried deep somewhere. Backdrop has given me back that feeling of becoming part of an open source community. Indeed, Drupal 8 is for enterprises. The bottom line of all this is that Backdrop could do more for Drupal than Drupal it self.

I wish you all the best for this SaaS idea, but I really would do it with something less locking than Drupal8.

We've given this a fair amount of thought. We're committed to Drupal 8 for this initiative. Since we do love the Backdrop/Drupal Community, there's nothing keeping us (or someone else!) from launching a complementary initiative in the future. At this time, with the resources we have, with the momentum going the way we see it, Drupal 8 + CiviCRM seems like a real need that needs to be handled. Add in some pre-baked configuration and modules specific to meet nonprofit needs, and I think we can quickly get this to be the preferred platform for many, many in the nonprofit world.

To steal a phrase from Steve Jobs "For Drupal to succeed, Backdrop doesn't need to fail. For Backdrop to succeed, Drupal doesn't need to fail". Even WordPress with 10x the "market" share doesn't have to fail. If we make great software, and we get it in front of enough people who can use it, the world is a better place.

All that said, I think you bring up some important questions. We live in great times with great software and great developers. If we plan properly and work hard, I think there will be some great results to come from all of this.

I agree with your stealing: both projects, as wells as others, have their space. That was, actually, the deep sense of my comment: Drupal 8, and thus every solutions made on top of it, will always be, in my opinion, for big companies/ONG's. You have a really though job trying to make easier/cheaper Drupal 8 for small companies. I believe that was the original goal when Drupal Gardens came out, wasn't it? And we all see where Drupal Gardens is right now: it is the core of a service for big companies anyway.

I was once the founder of a Drupal shop (I'm not there anymore), which is doing very well still now (working for medium/big companies, in fact), and I recall proposing my colleagues, time ago, to work on a Saas solution as a product. Quite a few Drupal shops at that time where starting their own equivalents products. A time where drupal profiles where promising (and disappoint later). Any way, I believed it was a good idea on a fairly easy product, as Drupal was at that time. I think very few of those Drupal shops are still supporting their products and provably none has not even succeeded to fully port it to Drupal 8 yet (please, let me know if I'm wrong). As sure as I was at that time that my idea could succeed, and time proved it wouldn't have been easy at all, I'm sure now that it will be very difficult to build a product on top of Drupal 8. Of course, difficult doesn't mean impossible and if life was easy it wouldn't provably be worth living, but difficult here means also difficult to make it profitable. And provably the only way to make it profitable would be to target big companies. And that's not your goal now.

So, yes, as other comments are saying in this post, every job has it's own tool. And Drupal 8 doesn't seem to me the right tool to build a web site solution for small companies/ONG's. But I could be wrong. In fact, live has proven sooooo many times I was wrong..... ;-)

I know what you mean! I started doing Drupal later than you, around when Drupal 5 came out, but I didn't get very involved with the community until Drupal 6. Hacking on Drupal back then felt more exciting and positive and optimistic. Some of that is, of course, just the feeling you get when you start working with a new Open Source project and losing that part was inevitable. But not all -- there's definitely been a change in feeling in the community from those bright old days, due partly to the uncertainty around the project's future. It's my hope that we can reclaim a little bit of it. :-)

Also - since everything old is new again, this initiative sounds a lot like what CivicSpace offered as an open SaaS (Drupal + CiviCRM) for a number of years. I think Zack Rosen, Andrew Hoppin, and Kieran Lal and more were involved - so maybe useful to ask for their perspectives looking back.

https://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRMDOC21/CivicSpace

Thanks, Peter! I'll definitely try to follow up with someone from the old CivicSpace crew :-)

Migrated 330 sites for a large non-profit to Squarespace after being on Drupal for 7 years.

We did it in-house with a team of 3 developers and a SquareSpace consultant. The entire project took about a year to complete, without anyone assigned full time to just this project.

We did look at Backdrop, but there were a lot of concerns over Drupal in general. It wasn't about the platform but the costs. Most vendors came back with proposals between $800k and $2mil for the migration and that seemed high - there were only around 30000 pages in all the sites combined. Most sites had 15 pages of static content, an events page, and a donation page. In contrast, the most expensive proposal we received for using WordPress was just less than $400k.

Squarespace support was very helpful. They gave us advice on how to automatically export content from Drupal using spreadsheets. We worked on batches of 10 sites at a time, getting faster with each batch. At one point, we ran into a roadblock with embedded donation forms. Our consultant reported it and Squarespace issued a patch the next week.

While Backdrop is fun to talk about, what really matters is knowing we will not have to move to some other system in a few years. Things may have been different if there was a company that provided robust Backdrop support, but all we could find was small companies whose primary business was building web sites (not supporting them)

Our users really like Squarespace and that matters.

Wow, thanks for sharing! It's super interesting to read so many details about a project's "life after Drupal."

Hi David! This looks great, and it is very compatible with Drutopia - https://drutopia.org - just our principles up there right now, but we've been working on code - https://gitlab.com/drutopia/ - and documentation - https://docs.drutopia.org/ - and getting a sync/async chat going, with history -- https://chat.drutopia.org/drutopia/

But we keep feeling we need a bit more polish before doing further public pushes.

Meanwhile, you've started where i've been advocating for Drutopia to start: With recruiting organizations who need sites! In our context these organizations and people would be member-owners of the platform, organized as a cooperative. But i've not yet walked my talk of inviting people before we've built everything (we *know* we can do this with Drupal!), so i'd love your involvement in Drutopia!

In any case, thanks for laying this all out here.

Thanks for all the links! We'll be taking a look and connecting with you folks soon to see what avenues for collaboration there might be :-)

Same Old - Same Old,

The question is who should use Drupal? What is the best tool? My friend has a non-profit on WordPress. Good fit for him. You talk about non-profits like they are all the same. That is not the case anymore than all businesses are the same. In general, Drupal is for enterprise, and Wordpress is for the smaller organization, however that is not always the case. Figure out what is the best tool for the job and go for it.

I agree about the best tool for the job - ABSOLUTELY.

There is work to be done to simplify and streamline, but I think the complexity of Drupal 8 is a bit overblown. There has been more of an emphasis on building functionality into Core. While things are never where we all want them to be, progress has been made. On my Mac, under MAMP Pro, there's even a one-click install for Drupal 8. It can be run on shared hosting quite well - especially with something like CloudFlare.

That isn't to knock WordPress at all. The competition makes everyone better. Personally, I think ceding the world of nonprofits and small organizations to WordPress is not necessary. Drupal 8 has a lot to bring to the table, and I think most WordPress developers would be surprised if they gave it a second look.

All that said, the whole point of this initiative is because there is some perception and some reality to the difficulties in getting a Drupal 8 site setup to handle nonprofit needs! We're hoping to make that better. The competition with WordPress can make us all better. I, for one, am not ready for WordPress to have 100% or even 60% market share.

Clearly, we're at a low-point for Drupal right now based on some metrics, but that should be an inflection point more than a steady decline.

Both Drupa and WordPress "out of the box" provide substantial capabilities for many, many sites. We're just trying to improve Drupal in some ways that make it even more attractive to the smaller organizations that make up the "grass roots" of Drupal.

Thanks for the insightful comments! Hopefully we can do something awesome over the upcoming months!

I think this discussion is way too broad and does not look at some simple criteria. Like resources and what the site needs to do, etc. Simply put Drupal is for those with deep pockets who need a web app not just a CMS. I think this article is more for advertising than anything else. You are looking to expand your niche and this article is probably one of the ways to do it. Not all non-profits are the same and each one is unique and their website needs should be evaluated along those lines.

Never mind "small non profits". As a working hospital doctor I designed and managed to support three medical websites for small medical societies and another for my local art society - in D6 and one in D7. I spent an hour or so every so often doing updates etc. I started with simple things and added functions and modules as needed. There is no way I can do that in D8, I can just about get it running on my local box!

The art site runs D6 with Gallery 2 which was easy enough once you got the hang of it. The D8 media initiative seems way off having a click and go gallery for simple images.That annoys me the most, I could probably manage the rest if I had to. I love the Drupal spirit - but I have to find the time to learn a new system because D8 is just not helping me.

I think for most uses - and maybe yours is more complex - some content types, views, and https://www.drupal.org/project/colorbox would do the trick.

That's not to say that Drupal 8 doesn't still have deficiencies, and I appreciate the pain. It wasn't that long ago that I had some small complexities that necessitated a reversion to Drupal 7 just to get the project done.

I'm all in on Drupal 8 now though. I think the "contrib" module space is finally picking up some steam and will snowball to a point where the easy things are easy and the hard things are possible again.

I don't want to quit just as I see things turning the corner! :)

It seems that most of the issues for "small non-profits" are the same for all small organizations. A nice solution would be to have something like "Small Drupal" raised to the initiative level, that ensures that the parts and documentation required for a small-organization website are in place.

Documentation, no doubt. However, based on my experience - which is just as limited as most others - Drupal 8 seems to be shooting for a "Small Drupal" by pulling so many important projects into core.

I do think we have an education and communication problem more than a technology problem. However, there are things that should be streamlined and simplified in both.

While you are certainly not wrong about the huge amount of overlap, what we've found is that there are some things that are more specific to nonprofits: events, fundraising lists, volunteer coordination, public meetings and more! In my opinion places where they overlap are probably handled mostly by Drupal 8 core, Backdrop, WordPress - or even SquareSpace.

That's a great perspective, though, and I'm hoping that small business with some of these needs will be able to utilize some of the work we are doing!

What we can certainly all agree on is that Drupal needs to probably be "Small Drupal" out of the box. If it can't then we need an initiative like ours to fill in the gaps.

Drupal needs to be Drupal. - You want Drupal to be all things to all people. Let Drupal be for those who need a web app. Let WordPress be for those who need just a simple CMS.

Example - two news sites.

One wants to list businesses and Obituaries... etc, owned by a newspaper with lots of staff. Sound like Drupal is the one to use. The other is a hyper-local run by some guy who wants to report the local news.... Sounds like WordPress.

Not all sites need Drupal. I'd say less than 10 percent. Drupal is too complicated for the average website owner. One or two plugins and a theme and WordPress is ready to rumble as a CMS or blog. To make Drupal truely SEO compliant requires at least 3 modules just to address the URL / content name.

There will never be a small Drupal. If it happens it is dead. Why bother. Drupal is over kill for many things.

Let Drupal be Drupal. It is very powerful and requires skills and resources.

As for running on shared hosting... I've done that. Ever try to update core on GoDaddy or HostGator? If you are going to run Drupal at least run it on a VPS so you can have access to the command line.

All great points! Thanks for the comments!

Couldn't agree more. Most of our NP work is now in Wordpress, or just sticking with d7, which is far from ideal frankly. Despite trying to implement on NP projects and giving up when the module support just wasn't there, (especially civicrm) I'm only on my first d8 project now, which is a commercial startup. Some things that I think would help this:

Completing civiCRM support for d8.
Getting acquia to see the importance of keeping a wide community for smaller projects and investing to plug the gaps.
Reinstate drupal jobs as an affordable connection point for smaller and NP projects a developers committed to this kind of work

Thanks for sharing!

Just a quick note to say that CiviCRM on Drupal 8 has been making lots of progress! We've recently been helping out with this a little bit:

:-)

Hello David,

Very interested in how this works out! Hope you find the ten organizations that want to take the step towards Drupal 8.

You say "the end goal is to create a hosted SaaS solution". Maybe you heard of https://drupal.org/project/social ? Our team did exactly that but focused on the online community use cases. We have a few big and small nonprofits on-board already! We're still experimenting with the right price point.

Maybe we should get in touch and see if working together in any shape or form, makes sense :)

Cheers, Mieszko co-founder at Open Social

Yes, I have heard of Open Social! I talked to someone from your team, I think, at DrupalCon New Orleans? Our effort is focused less on organizations that need online communities and more ones that need to do constituent outreach, but I could certainly see possibilities for collaboration at some point. :-)

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