I had coffee this morning with Chris Joos of the Grizzard Communications Group. Chris is a former colleague of mine now serving as COO and CIO at Grizzard. We talked about how non-profit organizations were using technology to run their daily operations. I was particularly interested if Chris saw any trends developing with open source software or social networking.
Chris indicated that most of the clients he serves are non-profit franchises with a small IT staff. They primarily use off the shelf packages or outsourcing since they don’t have large development teams to customize software. Chris’ firm provides services to collect, aggregate, and analyze donor data for the non-profits. In some cases his customer will house the donor data themselves and send an exported file while others will completely outsource the service.
For his services, Chris indicated the data is housed and manipulated on a large commercial database system that is fronted by a custom programmed interface. It’s a CRM system by my understanding (and I use that term without the negative stigma). I thought I was going to find a good case study on open software use, and instead I found a good example outsourcing data management for decision enablement.
While many non-profits may outsource donor management activities, there is is still a good fit for the use of open source software for their other standard office activities. Today’s small office could setup workstations with Linux and then choose from an abundance of choices for free or low cost office productivity services:
- Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations – Open Office, Zoho, Google Docs
- Phone – Skype, Jajah
- Accounting, Cash Management – GnuCash
- Email, Calendaring – Thunderbird, Gmail. YahooMail
- Web Browser – Firefox, Chrome
If you’re in a non-profit office or a small business and you’re paying large sums of money for commercial software licenses you should think about your options. The world of open source software is readily available to everyone and it’s starting to have an impact on the traditional software industry. I’m writing this post on an old Dell computer that does not have any commercial software installed. installed.
If you do decide to use open source software, I encourage you to participate in the process for improving the applications. This doesn’t mean you to have write programs or be a software developer. You can participate in site forums to help others with questions on software use, report software defects to community developers, or provide suggestions for additional software features.