Squarespace vs WordPress for Nonprofits – a guide

Squarespace vs WordPress

Ownership  –  Flexibility  –  Usability  –  Cost

It’s important that we set the stage for this review before we dive in. 

For one, we are going to review Squarespace and WordPress from the perspective of a nonprofit, not an ecommerce company or a massage therapist. We want to ensure our findings and analysis are specific to the nonprofit website context. 

Second, we are going to make three assumptions at the outset of this review:

  1. Your nonprofit is planning to invest in a website and you’re considering these two options
  2. This is your nonprofit’s first website
  3. Your nonprofit is planning on hiring a professional to manage the design and development of a new website

Okay great! Let’s continue. 

How important is this?

The short answer is VERY

Great! We’re done here. Bring in the dancing lobsters. 

No, but seriously…this matters. Building a new website is like moving; once you’ve done it, you don’t want to be doing it again in 12 months. 

You might be using the same website platform for the next three years or more and you’ll likely invest a lot of effort throughout that time updating content, adding new pages, and maximizing its utility so it’s key to pick a good platform. 


You can learn a lot about a product by reviewing its messaging strategy.

Who is it targeting? Who is the intended user? What problems is it trying to solve?

Smart companies design products to fit specific needs. By understanding what specific need a product is being marketed to meet, you can understand if you fall into that target market. 

A great place to start is their website homepage. A website homepage provides a great synopsis of a product’s value proposition, ideal client profile, intended use cases, and more. 

We’ll start this review by reading each product’s homepage to understand who these tools are meant to serve.


Squarespace is a fully managed Software-as-a-Service product, similar to Quickbooks or Constant Contact. They sell access to their platform for people to build websites. 

Below are a few screenshots from Squarespace’s homepage.

Squarespace homepage opening banner
Squarespace template options

What are the key messages that are important to pay attention to here?

“Designed to Sell”

Squarespace is increasingly focusing its efforts and development on e-commerce and its messaging reflects that.

Can they build a platform that is great for e-commerce AND great for nonprofits? I guess we’ll see!

You’ll also notice the reference to “templates”, a word frequently used on their homepage which makes sense given that Squarespace has built its whole business strategy around easy-to-use templates.


WordPress is an open-source Content Management System. This means that WordPress can be used by anyone and does not require payment for access. It also means that any developer or programmer can collaborate on the software to enhance and improve it. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the screenshots from the WordPress.org website homepage. 

Before we do that though, it may be worth noting the .org at the end of the domain for you nonprofit people. 

WordPress homepage banner
WordPress key selling points

The key takeaway from the first screenshot is the lack of a defined use case and the reference to an open-source platform.

Why is this important?

For one, the lack of a defined use case contrasts with Squarespace. WordPress is extremely flexible. It can be extended and built to fit any need. 

That is a major part of its appeal and why it powers over 30% of all websites online today.

Plus, in a recent study where we reviewed the websites for 99 of the largest nonprofits in the US, we found that almost 42% of them chose WordPress for their website platform.

The last screenshot touches briefly on some of the main selling points of WordPress; mainly its plugin library for extended functionality, the ownership of data and content that comes with using WordPress (which we will discuss), and the massive WordPress community that actively works to improve the platform.


During 99% of our initial meetings with prospective nonprofit clients exploring partners for a new website project, the following question comes up:

Who will own the website and its content?”

It’s a very important question. We’ve heard some nightmare stories about websites that have been held hostage by developers or partners who go MIA during a project and take the websites with them. 

You want to protect your investment, so understanding ownership is critical. 

What often gets overlooked however isn’t whether you (the client) or we (the design firm) own the site, it’s whether you or the platform you’re building on retains ownership. 

Squarespace vs WordPress, Squarespace is centralized, WordPress is decentralized

WordPress is open-source, which means that no one owns anything because it is decentralized. You can take your website files and host them on your computer or bring them to another hosting provider to be managed and updated. 

Squarespace is a SAAS (software-as-a-service) company that owns the platform and all of the sites built with it. You might be able to transfer ownership of the website from one Squarespace account to another, but if you decide to leave the platform, you lose your website.

When it comes to ownership, it’s WordPress for the win. 


If you’re going to commit to a new website platform for the next 3-5 years, you want to make sure you are working on a platform that has room for change. 

Maybe you decide in a year that you want to add a mega menu to your navigation, or you want to add a partner directory that matches your constituents with local resources based on their location or any number of new features or design elements that will enhance the value of your website. 

You don’t want to have to revisit your entire infrastructure the minute you want to add a certain level of sophistication to your site. 

This is why Squarespace is a poor option for nonprofits when it comes to flexibility. 

Squarespace boasts 40 “extensions” or applications that extend the functionality of your Squarespace website. 

You can find them all here

What you’ll notice is that almost all of them are designed to help manage shipping, order fulfillment, inventory management, or other functions related to running an ecommerce website. 

Let’s contrast that with the number of “plugins” (AKA extensions) available to those building on WordPress:

Screenshot showing number of free WordPress plugins

That’s 59,709 free plugins. There are thousands of more paid or premium plugin options if you are willing to spend a few extra bucks a month.

Flexibility is an area where WordPress also wins.


After you build your new website, which platform will be easier for you, the admin, to manage and keep updated? 

Squarespace is often seen as the best option for DIY website design, which means that theoretically, it is the easiest of the two platforms when it comes to managing content in-house.  

Squarespace is built using a “drag and drop” builder, meaning that without knowing any programming, users can add new text to a page, insert an image, or design an entirely new page. 

Here is a screenshot of a nonprofit client’s current build in Squarespace from the admin perspective:

Screenshot of backend editor for Squarespace

Just by clicking on the block, I can go in and make text changes. 

If I want to add a new section to the page, I can simply use one of the pre-made block options as shown below:

Screenshot of drag and drop blocks in Squarespace editor

How much different is the admin experience in WordPress? 

That depends. 

Given the number of different themes and plugins available for WordPress, the experience for admins can be very different from one site to the next. 

We’ve inherited some WordPress websites from our client’s past partners that are an absolute nightmare to keep updated

This gives WordPress a bad rep. It’s often known as the “developers platform” because it can be confusing if poorly designed from the admin’s perspective. 

That being said, you can also build an experience very similar to Squarespace if approached thoughtfully. 

Here is a screenshot from the same client who is rebuilding their website in WordPress:

Screenshot of backend editor for WordPress

Notice anything similar? We can visually edit content in real time, very much like the experience of editing in Squarespace. 

Further, I also have the option of using “blocks” if I want to add a new row or section to the page:

Screenshot of drag and drop blocks in WordPress editor

So depending on what themes and plugins your WordPress partner is using, your admin experience can mirror that of Squarespace. 

But, for fairness, Squarespace will on average present a better admin experience than the average WordPress website. 

On average, Squarespace will present a better admin experience.


For nonprofits, the first point of friction when evaluating new tools is cost. Nonprofits are cost-conscious creatures that focus heavily on minimizing overhead. 

That being said, it isn’t uncommon to find a nonprofit being a penny wise and a pound foolish

For that reason, we made “cost” the last criterion here. At 118Group, we believe that making decisions based on cost is expensive

There are the costs associated with correcting poor decisions and the opportunity costs associated with making short-term decisions.

Okay, we are getting off our soapbox now.

So, which option is cheaper? 

To help get a full sense of cost for each platform, we are going to be looking at three different types of costs associated with each:

  1. The cost of the software
  2. The cost to hire a professional for each option 
  3. The ongoing costs associated with maintaining the website

Remember, we’ve assumed that your nonprofit is hiring an expert for both the project AND any ongoing work associated with the website.

Product Costs

Let’s start by finding out how much it costs to have a website launched on each platform. 

Here is the pricing plans offered as of February 2024 by Squarespace:

Pricing plans for Squarespace

Assuming you don’t sell any physical products, you can probably get away with the “Personal” plan at $25/mo (if you pay monthly). 

What about WordPress

Since WordPress is open-source, anyone can download WordPress for free at www.wordpress.org

That being said, you will need a place to host the website if you want your audience to be able to find it online. So the actual platform is free, but hosting will cost you monthly. 

Squarespace includes the cost of hosting the site in its monthly plan, but for WordPress, you’ll need to find a partner for this. 

Let’s look at the pricing of a few popular WordPress hosting partners. 

Not to be confused with wordpress.org, wordpress.com (the business arm of WordPress) offers low-cost hosting plans to get you started. Below is a snapshot from their current pricing page:

Hosting plan pricing for WordPress

To drive the point home, if you decide to go with a different hosting provider, like Bluehost for example, their plans still don’t break the bank. 

Hosting plan pricing #2 for WordPress

The only additional setup cost that you may face with WordPress that you will not face with Squarespace is if you decide you want to purchase a premium theme

Squarespace itself builds all of the themes users can choose from for their sites. This allows them to include the full theme selection as part of their monthly plans. 

WordPress has an entire world of developers and designers who can build themes and sell them through the WordPress marketplace, so users may pay extra for a theme they really want. 

That being said, WordPress does boast over 11,000 free themes

Screenshot showing the number of free WordPress themes

If you did want to pay for a premium theme, you likely won’t spend more than $60. 

Not breaking the bank yet! 

But won’t I have to hire a developer to build and launch a WordPress website? 

The short answer is no. 

While we always recommend hiring a professional (wink wink) to save your organization time and to ensure quality, plenty of cheap hosting providers will launch your website for free as long as you commit to hosting it on their platforms. 

Note: We DO NOT RECOMMEND working with a cheap hosting provider. Our point here is just to show that WordPress can be as cheap as Squarespace. 

So neither platform has a clear advantage when it comes to the cost of getting a website live on their respective platforms.

Hiring Costs

As we mentioned before getting into this review, we are assuming that your nonprofit is hiring for this project and therefore it’s important to know if either platform has higher costs associated with hiring professional help. 

Both platforms have a large community of expert freelancers and firms that can be hired at a wide range of rates & costs. 

Neither platform is going to have a competitive advantage in this category.

Ongoing Costs

Okay so let’s say you launched a website on both platforms; which is going to cost you more to maintain throughout the year? 

Given that Squarespace is a fully managed solution, things like security, hosting, and software updates are all done as part of your monthly subscription. 

WordPress is not a fully managed solution. If you want to keep things running smoothly in regards to things like security, hosting, and software updates, you’ll either need to do it yourself (not recommended) or pay a partner to do this monthly. 

Squarespace vs Wordpress, Squarespace is fully managed, WordPress is not fully managed

At 118Group, we charge $99/mo to host and maintain our client’s nonprofit websites. 

It is difficult to compare our monthly plans to the current Squarespace offerings because our monthly plan includes services that are not offered as part of a Squarespace subscription such as monthly testing and monthly reporting. 

That being said if you were to try and compare what we offer as part of the $99/mo with the current subscription options through Squarespace, you’d likely need at least the Business Plan, which is $33/mo. 

So even though our $99/mo gets you more, we will give Squarespace the win when it comes to ongoing costs. 

Squarespace will cost less to maintain over time.

Final Thoughts

Let’s wrap up this review with some final notes for any nonprofit who is juggling a website platform decision. 

We’ve visualized the results of this review below so that you can get a full picture of how the two platforms options stack up:

Chart outlining platform winners for article criteria

When NOT to choose WordPress

When might WordPress be the wrong fit for your nonprofit? 

  1. If you don’t see the value in having a professional website
  2. If you see your website being less and less important to your organization
  3. If you are truly in a penny-pinching position

When NOT to choose Squarespace

So given everything we’ve covered in this review, when doesn’t it make sense to build your next nonprofit website on Squarespace? 

  1. If you’re a growing organization that expects to leverage your website
  2. If you hold quality design in high esteem and you expect to have a website that is unique to your organization
  3. If you’re okay with spending a few extra bucks a month to be on a platform that provides great flexibility.


While we’ve tried our best to outline the pros and cons of each platform, each nonprofit has unique needs. If you have questions on which platform is best for your organization, schedule a call with our team to discuss

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