by David Snopek on August 15, 2017 - 9:01pm

Migrating your site to Drupal 8 isn't simple or cheap. Nor is maintaining it or getting support once your new Drupal 8 site is live!

This is a problem that affects all organizations using Drupal, but it's particularly hard on smaller nonprofits.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a super long article detailing how Drupal 8 has left many small nonprofits behind. It also proposes a possible path for fixing it!

We're building an Open Source platform for nonprofit websites built on Drupal 8 and CiviCRM, available as a SaaS with hosting and support included.

That article was primarily about why - in this article I'd like to talk about the details of how!

There's a lot to discuss, but I'll try to make this article shorter. :-)

Oh, and we're looking for 10 adventurous nonprofits to join the BETA and help build it.

If you join the BETA, we'll migrate your existing site to the new Drupal 8 & CiviCRM platform for FREE!

Read more to learn about all the details we've got worked out so far...

WARNING: All is in flux!

In response to our recent articles, we received dozens of comments, emails and submissions to our call for nonprofits to join the BETA. As a result, we've scheduled numerous calls with interested folks and already had about a dozen.

We started this process with a painful problem and a rough sketch of a plan to solve it.

But we want the rest of the plan to be finished in collaboration with the nonprofits in the BETA.

We did this on purpose, because we knew any first draft of any plan would be wrong, and we didn't want to get too attached to it. Too much existing software is a "solution looking for problem" and we want to actually solve problems.

Anyway, all of that to say: whatever I write here is subject to change based on further discussions with real nonprofits and what happens during the BETA.

The BETA process

So, with that said, here's how we envision the BETA process going:

  1. Find 10 adventurous nonprofits to join the BETA
  2. Gather use cases from them to cover the critical features of all sites
  3. Build, migrate and launch each site
  4. Iterate for 12-ish months until we have something solid and generally usable
  5. Launch the first version of the SaaS "self-service plan", ending the BETA period, and moving to general availability

Throughout the BETA and beyond, all of the code for the platform will be Open Source and publicly available, or contributed back to Drupal, CiviCRM or to the other 3rd party libraries and modules used.

So, even folks who don't want to work with us commercially can use the fruits of our labor or contribute on the Open Source side, and there's no "vendor lock-in."

Our main business is support and maintenance, which I think we're pretty awesome at, but I'm biased. ;-) We're going to treat members of the BETA like we treat any support and maintenance customer, as if they were on our "Standard" plan, so, we'll answer support questions and perform an UNLIMITED number of maintenance requests.

We'll do whatever amount of initial training is necessary to get you and your team productive on the platform. (Eventually, we'll have some sort of standard training, but in the beginning we need to figure out what should be included in that!) The training will need to be done virtually.

Feature ideas

Like I said above, we're going to work with the nonprofits in the BETA to decide on the final feature set, but here's roughly what we've got in mind for the first version so far:

  • Selling memberships (where members can login and update their profile)
  • Accepting donations
  • Events (created in CiviCRM but exposed on the Drupal site) with all the usual features from CiviCRM, like: online RSVP, optional fees, event reminders/follow-ups, attendee limits, etc
  • "Page" content type
  • "News" (ie. blog) content type
  • Modern front page that can be edited in-place
  • Clean, modern, mobile-friendly theme that can be re-colored and configured for brand identity
  • Contact page with messages recorded in CiviCRM
  • Volunteer management (via CiviCRM)
  • Mass emailing (via CiviCRM)
  • ...the rest of the default feature set of CiviCRM 4.7+ on the backend. If you're curious why we've chosen CiviCRM and not a pure Drupal solution, check out the article I wrote about CiviCRM last week.

Of course, after launching the first BETA sites on the initial feature set (whatever that ends up being) we'll continue to iterate and expand the feature set based on the needs of the BETA participants.

Pricing ideas (for the future)

Like I decscribed above, we're hoping the BETA process will last about a year.

At the end of that, we're going to make our SaaS platform for nonprofit websites (built on Drupal 8 and CiviCRM) available to anyone (what I'm calling "general availability").

We're imagining two plans:

  • A self-service plan for around $50/mo. You get a Drupal 8 & CiviCRM site, pre-setup with the basic things a nonprofit membership organization needs, and the ability to customize it yourself, with some detailed documentation on how to do so. Hosting is included and you'll get updates automatically as they come out.
  • A full-service plan for around $250/mo. You get the same as above, but additionally full support & maintenance service from our staff, similar to the Standard plan we currently provide for any Drupal site, which includes UNLIMITED requests to answer questions and make simple changes to the site. (Our Standard plan is normally $499/mo, so this is a reduced price for nonprofits.)

And, of course, since the whole platform is Open Source, you'll be able to quit at any time and take an exported version of your site with you, which you could setup in another hosting environment.

The goal is to have something that even small nonprofits could affort (like the ~$50/mo), while still giving them the full power of Drupal 8 and CiviCRM.

But, in order to get there, we need to first do the BETA which will have different pricing...

BETA pricing

Joining the BETA is a little risky (the product could flop!) but we're doing everything we can to mitigate that risk for you, and offer some incentives to make it worthwhile.

One thing we are NOT doing, though, is making the BETA completely free - after re-launching your site on Drupal 8 & CiviCRM, BETA participants will be charged $250/mo.

We feel strongly that charging for the BETA will lead to a better product: we want to make something that provides enough value that it's worth paying for. With money invested, participants are likely to be more engaged in the process and demand the things they need (rather than figuring, "eh, it's free, we can deal with it being crappy.")

However, we think this is a pretty good deal, because:

  • The monthly charges won't start until after your site is migrated and live on Drupal 8 & CiviCRM. You shouldn't have to pay until we're providing your organization with value. We will ask for a down payment on the first month to make sure your organization is serious, but if for some reason we don't re-launch your site on the new platform we're happy to refund that.
  • We'll include the same level of support & maintenance as on our Standard plan. Our main business is support & maintenance of Drupal sites, and our customers (many of whom are nonprofits) find value in our Standard plan for $499/mo - you'll get that same value for half the cost.
  • We'll migrate from your current site and CRM to Drupal 8 & CiviCRM for FREE. While there is a fixed, monthly cost, there isn't any additional charge for doing the migration. Drupal migrations are usually billed hourly and can cost tens thousands of dollars. Even if you don't continue your relationship with us past the end of the BETA, you'll now have a site that's upgraded to Drupal 8!
  • You can quit at any time - there will be NO term minimum. We've debated this internally over the last several weeks. On the one hand, we don't want to force anyone to be our customer. But on the other hand, there's a risk that an organization will join for a month just to get their site migrated and then quit. We've decided to trust the BETA participants to act in good faith. We want participants to stay in the BETA for a year, so, if you know up front that you won't or can't - please don't join the BETA. But if later on it's not working out or something comes up and you have to quit - that's absolutely fine, you can quit at any time and we'll give you a full copy of your site. :-)
  • You'll have a lot of influence over what the product becomes. All of the initial features and the features added over the first year will be based on the needs of the BETA participants.

Of course, we understand that there are plenty of small nonprofits that can't afford $250/mo!

The ultimate goal is to have a lower priced self-service plan (around $50/mo) that smaller organizations can afford. However, we need to go through the BETA process to get there, and while we're investing a lot of our own resources to build this, this is a way to partially share the cost of initial development with our customers.

If your organization can't afford to participate in the BETA, but might be interested after the BETA period is over, please stay in touch!

What makes a good BETA participant?

Certainly, if you're interested, let us know! We're actively changing our plans based on the conversations we're having, and so even if your organization doesn't match our current criteria, we could change our criteria based on talking to you. :-)

In any case, we think that a good BETA candidate is an organization that:

  • Uses a CRM or desperately needs to start using one. CiviCRM will play a big role and so we want to work with organizations that will actively use it and get something out of it. Signs that you desperately need a CRM include using some imperfect and painful system to track your members or constituents (like spreadsheets, Microsoft Access, paper, etc) but you do it anyway because it's important to your operations.
  • Has users (volunteer or staff) with the time to use it and give feedback. Of course, no one has an abundance of time, but we need to actively engage with the BETA participants in order to build a good product. If you spend some amount of time updating your site or doing outreach to constituents on a regular basis (say, weekly or monthly), and are excited about this idea enough to complain when things could be improved, then that's exactly what we're looking for. :-)

If that sounds like your organization, please get in touch!

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

Basically, we don't want to build something that people don't really want.

If we can't find 10 nonprofits who will take the leap with us... well, either the need must not be that great, or our plan is seriously flawed in some way.

But if there's atleast 10 nonprofits willing to join despite the risks this early, there's probably many more who'd be interested later. And if we build something that 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 posting more as the project progresses, so please stay tuned!

Think this a great idea? Or, even better - think we got something terribly wrong? Leave a comment below! We're listening :-)


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This sounds like there is some overlap with the Drutopia project. Is there any collaboration with that team? I think the only difference is the CRM, but I know that's a big component so maybe that difference is big enough that there isn't much overlap. Would love to hear your thoughts on on it.

Hi Dustin! We've chatted with some of the folks involved in Drutopia and follow their progress. However, to us, the CRM is actually pretty central. Our customers (before starting this project) who used CiviCRM definitely valued CiviCRM more than their website and spent more time in there than in content creation/editing on the Drupal side. So, while we want to provide some easy to use tools for Drupal on the content end, we don't think a solution without a tightly integrated CRM makes sense.

I just realized I called you "Dan" in my previous comment. :-( Sorry about that! Mea culpa and updated :-)

Ha ha no worries. You would be amazed how many times my name gets messed up. I've gotten used to it. 8) . Thanks for the information. I appreciate the response. One more question for you. I'm pretty familiar with distros and the overhead that comes with them. I ran a dev portal with Commons so I know the pain points. What's your opinion of starting off with the CivicCRM Starter kit or adding CivicCRM to another Distro, or just spinning up a vanilla site and adding CivicCRM to that? Is CivicCRM overkill for a small org and should one of the other Drupal based CRM systems be better so minimize the learning curve? Thanks a ton for the info.


What's your opinion of starting off with the CivicCRM Starter kit...

CiviCRM starter kit is (I think) Drupal 7 only and currently unmaintained. But there's some good patches and ideas in there, that we've been using as inspiration. :-)

or just spinning up a vanilla site and adding CivicCRM to that?

We have an article about how to do this! See: How to install CiviCRM on Drupal 8 (and WHY choose it over pure Drupal CRM)

That said, there's a little bit of work in getting CiviCRM and Drupal more tightly integrated, including adding some Drupal modules. There's also some cool CiviCRM extensions that "everyone is using" but don't come with a plain CiviCRM build - we're including some of them in our distro. So, it's doable for sure, but a little more work in learning about Drupal & CiviCRM and doing the integration.

Is CivicCRM overkill for a small org and should one of the other Drupal based CRM systems be better so minimize the learning curve?

CiviCRM is a powerful piece of software with a TON of features, so there's a learning curve for sure. If you know Drupal really well already, like in your case, then it'd be much easier to quickly pick up a Drupal CRM.

That said, CiviCRM has like 100x more features than any of the Drupal CRMs, and I think even a small org would benefit greatly by using it over a Drupal solution. There some other advantages too that I wrote about in How to install CiviCRM on Drupal 8 (and WHY choose it over pure Drupal CRM).

In fact, for a small org, it has the advantage of being a kind of all-in-one tool: the overhead of using lots of different tools might make less sense for a small organization. For example, it can be a pretty good replacement for email marketing tools like Mailchimp - we did a video about that in CiviCRM secrets for Drupalers: Email Campaigns.

Please let me know if you have any other questions!

Hope to see you over in those other articles too :-)

Thank you very much for the response. Lots of really good information there. I'll be sure to check out the other articles and they may spark more questions. 8) Thanks again and have a great weekend.


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