There are some good reasons why it doesn't make sense to compare the proprietary, venture-capital-funded, managed online service NationBuilder to open source, community built, you-install-yourself-you-host-yourself packages like Drupal and Wordpress. For simplicity, I won't go into those here. Here are my thoughts, quickly assembled, on how one might compare NationBuilder to two of the most popular open-source content management systems.
Note: I am entirely biased. I have an irrational love of Drupal, I'm not that fond of Wordpress, and am inspired by some of what NationBuilder offers. Additionally, the publishers of NationBuilder have been exceptionally kind to us and supportive of our team's work. Richir Outreach provides excellent support and development for all three, plus a number of other systems.
|Open Source?||Yes||Yes||Decidely not (Software as a service)|
|Can I set up a web site in under an hour?||No||Yes (well, maybe two hours)||Yes (well, maybe 90 minutes)|
|Requires professional support to maintain?||Yes||Not necessarily||Nope!|
|Easy to add content and administer?||Can be customized to be exceptionally easy to use, but typically requires customization.||Exceptionally||Almost always|
|Suitable for building web applications?||Yes||Yes, particularly content driven ones||No, while NationBuilder can be customized up to a point, you cannot reprogram NationBuilder core functionality.*|
|Provides a broadcast email solution out of the box?||No||No||Yes|
|Are advocacy style petition and sign-up pages available by default?||No, though the Drupal distribution Open Outreach is a promising effort to meet this need.||No||Yes|
|Monthly reoccuring fees?||No, if you don't count hosting, development, and maintenance costs||No, if you don't count hosting, development, and maintenance costs||Yes (the cost is variable, but typically $50 to $200 a month)|
|A wide variety of attractive, flexible design solutions available for free and/or very cheap?||Yes||Unquestionably (though there is a lot of noise to signal)||Not yet (soon!)|
|Provides excellent Search Engine Optimization?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Are popular social media integration elements available by default?||No||No, but a variety of plugins are available and easy to install||Yes|
|What is the underlying technology?||PHP||PHP||Ruby on Rails|
|Can I use it to power a multilingual site?||Absolutely - more info on multilingual Drupal here||Yes||Not easily|
|Does it support Ecommerce?||Yes||Yes||No|
|Can I create a donation page easily?||Not without an additional solution and a payment processor||Not without an additional solution and payment processor||Yes, though you will need to select a payment processor|
|Does it help me manage contacts and supporters (CRM solution)?||Robust, but can be difficult to set up and use||Minimal, though the plugin BuddyPress is a popular extension||Fairly strong and easy to use.|
|Best used when:||Your site is going to work in a unique way, and it has to work exactly the way you're looking for.||You want some control, but not a lot of hassle.||You want a lot in a small amount of time. You don't require too much beyond basic NationBuilder functionality.*|
* Richir Outreach is regularly tasked with repurposing NationBuilder to deliver special function beyond what comes out the box. We are continually working to develop new and unique ways to expand NationBuilder functionality, in order to maximize the power and flexibility of this tool.