I have been told Joomla but I am partial to WordPress. Can anyone let me know the best membership CMS, its plus points and any big sites running it?

This is for a non-profit members only site mainly dealing with tutorials, stock galleries, templates, blog posts and support forums.

  • 1
    Can you expand more on what you mean by membership? Do you mean that people can register to have a login to the site? Do you mean it's for an organisation, such as a non-profit, that has members? Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 8:09
  • Additionally, whether "membership" means just registration, or if it also implies payment, etc.
    – Su'
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 8:56

4 Answers 4


Any comprehensive CMS that supports tiered user levels can be used to build a membership site. You'd need to:

  1. Create pages that are only viewable by a certain user level (with a plugin or by modifying your theme's template code).
  2. Create a sign up form that adds the user to your database and marks their account 'inactive'.
  3. If it's a paid membership site, redirect users on sign up to a payment processor (choose one that supports subscriptions, such as authorize.net or PayPal).
  4. Create a page that your payment provider will ping upon successful payment (using authorize.net's silent post or PayPal's Payflow [PDF] features, for example). The script would activate the user's account and send them a welcome email.
  5. If they're paying a subscription, you'll need a similar page that your payment provider can ping should they cancel their subscription.

At the most basic level, that's pretty much it. If you're looking for a more 'plug and play' solution and don't mind paying for add-ons, you might like to try:

I've built two (paid) membership sites: the first was custom coded, and the second was with WordPress and Wishlist Member. I found the Wishlist plugin OK, but the documentation a little lacking; budget a good week or so to understand it and get it up and running.

If I were building a dedicated membership site again, I'd probably custom code it unless my client's site was already heavily linked to a CMS, or they had a strong preference for one CMS.


There are some great answers already available, but I wanted to give you another perspective. I've been developing Wordpress and Joomla sites for years, and I do appreciate Wordpress quite a bit. The downside, though, is that Wordpress is a dog. It is slow. Since you are partial to it, I'll respond about it specifically.

Sure there are plugins that enable caching, but the real truth is that for every page viewed by a user, it requires the server accessing hundreds of files which then require even more memory to process. Even the caching plugins don't hold a candle to a custom developed system when it comes to speed.

What I've done for my clients is to give them the best of both worlds. I develop a custom frontend which does not use anything from Wordpress, except the database. This gives me full control and I don't have to worry about their framework or updates (unless there is a database change). And the client still can use the Wordpress administration section as normal (except some plugins need to be converted).

If you are planning to have a large number of visitors, it might be the best route, or you risk having your server crash when someone submits a link to reddit or the like. The downside is that type of development is costly.

I can't provide samples of what my clients sites are, but I certainly have seen Wordpress being used for Rand Paul: http://www.randpaul2010.com/

The page source tells us they use WP-Super-Cache, which helps a ton to speed things up. If you don't have a large budget, Wordpress combined with WP-Super-Cache would work too and save you the need for a custom frontend.


I recommend Drupal with CiviCRM. This enables you to do all kinds of things, the CiviMember part:

  1. Configure any number of membership types or levels for one or more organizations and/or chapters of an organization.
  2. Customize membership statuses and rules.
  3. Create customized web pages for self-service membership signup and renewal.
  4. Search and list memberships by date, type, status, contact info including name and address.

The real bonus is with CiviMail - you can email everyone with nice newsletters etc. The features are up there with the paid for newsletter thingies.

You also get CiviEvent - you can sell tickets to events etc.


It is the de-facto package for organising political campaigns in the U.S.

As for who uses it, have you heard of Wikipedia? They use it for their fundraising and they are quite big, apparently, not that I have heard of them myself...

As for coming from Wordpress, there is a bit of a learning curve with Drupal but the CiviCRM stuff is dead easy with a vibrant, helpfuls community for when you get stuck.


Joomla with Jomsocial is probably your best bet for a Facebook style website.

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