Facing Drupal 7’s end-of-life like a tech rockstar: a nonprofit’s guide to success

Things aren’t going the way you planned. We’re now in a recession, the pandemic has caused unexpected challenges, and your budgets have been cut. Welcome to the summer of 2020. Still, your website is more important than ever. Your donors, clients, members, and advocates are expecting it to be up-to-date, easy-to-use, and bug-free.

To add insult to injury: Drupal 7 (D7) end-of-life is now looming on the horizon. Although the good folks at Drupal.org notified us in early 2019, most nonprofits haven’t had the time or budget to get rolling yet. And if you’re working on a team that’s had its resources cut it may feel like an impossible set of circumstances to navigate. 

But don’t panic. The Drupal community just announced we’ve got an extra year. As Advomatic’s Dave Hansen-Lange pointed out in an earlier article about D7 end-of-life, there are lots of options that can help you not only manage this proactively but help you come out on top looking like a tech rockstar. Here’s a guide. 


Step one: go from abstract fear to tangible plans. 

In an ideal world you would be building a new website in 2021 that’s ready to go live early in 2022. But it’s not essential that you make the move off of D7 before the November 2022 end-of-life date. What is essential is that you have a plan that you and your leadership feel works. 

To get started, make sure that you or your team have a clear understanding of the implications of keeping your site on D7 after November 2022. It may help to facilitate a conversation within your website team asap about how unique and mission-critical your website’s security is, for instance, and this article will give you a useful overview of the risks. Consider making some background reading a requirement for participation in that conversation so your team gets better informed. 

Next, get on the same page about what’s holding your organization back from leaving D7.  Is it the cost of building a brand new site? A lack of understanding or focus on D7 end-of-life and its implications with your leadership? Is it confusion about whether to stay in Drupal or consider a move to WordPress, Backdrop, or another CMS? Is it your staff’s limited capacity to manage a new website build right now? These are the common scenarios most nonprofits are facing — and they all have solutions, ranging from doing some internal educating, doubling down on support for your D7 site later, or finding a partner who can do more for you now. 

Finally, draft a pragmatic plan for your organization. Now that you’ve got a grip on what D7 means for your organization and your team’s ability to navigate it in the near term you can craft a plan. Your plan should take the folks who must support it on a journey of understanding and, ideally, keep them out of the weeds if this isn’t their job. 

We recommend crafting a plan in Google Slides, PowerPoint, or other presentation deck with just five slides: 

  • The situation: A sentence or two explaining D7’s end-of-life.
  • The risk for your organization: A sentence or two explaining what the implications are for your org.
  • The options: Bullets that outline the top 2-3 options for your organization specifically. 
  • Our recommendation: Bullets detailing your recommendation. 
  • Proposed timeline: A high-level timeline detailing when decisions must be made and actions taken to fulfill your recommendation.

Can’t say it all in a few slides? Use the notes area to add examples or detail if necessary. But try to resist creating lots of text-based slides with millions of bullets or detail. You’ll be more successful at getting support from your leadership if you can simplify the complexity of this issue for them and demonstrate you’ve already thought it through well, so they can trust your recommendation. 


Step two: educate your colleagues and get their buy-in for your plan. 

If you’ve completed Step One, odds are good your plan was crafted collaboratively with any colleagues who work on the web team at your organization– but if not, this is a good time to review it with them and make sure everyone feels good about it. You’ll want everyone aligned and on-board so there’s no confusion or mixed signals communicated downstream and so your recommendations can be integrated into your next budgeting cycle. 

The next step is to take your plan to your leadership. In most nonprofits this will involve presenting it to your Executive Director or CEO and/or COO. While you may not always present formally, I recommend you plan to do so here. Take a few minutes to practice walking through your slide deck, perhaps with family or friends first, so you can present it quickly and with confidence. The prep time you invest will not only make the meeting go smoother it might very well save you time and energy in subsequent conversations. 

If your greatest barrier is the budget and you are suggesting that your organization consider reinstating some funds for a new website, you may also need to present or share your deck with the board. 

When you present, be sure to leave time to answer questions and ask directly for feedback on your recommendations and proposed timeline. If you can leave the meeting with a clear sense of what is working for them and what isn’t, you’ll be better equipped to revise your plan if needed or put other balls into motion. If you’re presenting your plan via Zoom consider recording it. If you are able to get through it in 10 minutes or less, sharing the video with colleagues or board members may be a faster and easier way to educate and build buy-in for your plan. 


Step three: keep it top-of-mind

Experts have studied and written about the importance of repetition in reaching and getting people to remember new things. Take a page from their playbook and plan to repeat your concerns, suggestions, and timeline proactively. Consider setting reminders to follow up with colleagues at key decision-making junctures, bringing your plan up again in management meetings, asking for updates from your E.D., or whatever feels appropriate to your organization’s culture and practices. 

A key moment to keep your recommendations top-of-mind will be when you’re budgeting for your next fiscal year. The more you’ve got folks on the bus already, the more likely you will be to get this project supported during the lean year(s) ahead. 


Step four: sleep well at night

Regardless of whether things turned out exactly as you hoped, you’ll sleep better at night knowing that you proactively addressed Drupal 7’s end-of-life and led your organization through a thoughtful process to manage it. You might also have inspired your colleagues to see your leadership and management skills in a new light, too.