Let me start off by saying I am a fairly good front end developer and even halfway decent on the design end. What I am not is much of a programmer (although I'm picking up some PHP). I have a situation right now where I am being asked to put together a community resource site. A lot of it is just content that I have no problem putting together in a usable, attractive way. However, the site is also supposed to have a forum and a feature that allows signed in users to add events to a calendar. Before I did anything on the site I told the PM we would probably have to use an already available solution on the web for those two features and he cleared that and gave me the permission to select one. I selected Ning and set up the forum and the event calendar there and also began plugging in all the other content. It worked better than I thought it would. Now, there are drawbacks to Ning that would keep me from using it for every site I make but it seemed to be a great solution in this case.
However, now the PM is telling me I shouldn't have picked Ning and that I should have programmed the forum and calendar on my own because the client will refuse to have a site that has ads on it that they don't control and will refuse to pay to have those ads removed. The PM basically thinks I have committed a mortal sin by picking a solution that seemed just right for the present project. What I am wondering is if there is any solution out there that would take care of these features for free and that I can easily incorporate into the rest of the site that I will build. I have looked into Joomla and that could the answer but the couple times I have tried using it it has so many unnecessary complications that it drives me up the wall. I really just want to build my own traditional, mostly static site and: a) add a forum, and: b) add an events calendar, apparently for free, if possible, since that's what the client is demanding.