According to the National Day Calendar, February is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Month. Open source software (OS) can be a fantastic resource for nonprofit organizations that need technology just like a for-profit company, but often have fewer resources to pay for expensive solutions.
So what is open source software? You probably already use some of the most popular open source packages without even realizing it.
- WordPress (blogging and website design)
- Firefox (Internet browser)
- Android (operating system for mobile devices)
All of these are open source software. Operating system software developers (also known as copyright holders) make the source code available for anyone to view or edit. The software or application is also free for anyone to use, copy, or give away. Operating system software is often developed in a public collaboration. For example, if you click About Firefox in your browser’s Help menu, you’ll see that the Firefox Internet browser “is designed by Mozilla, a global community working to keep the Web open, public, and accessible to everyone.”
The idea behind this way of creating software is the theory that programmers, working for a for-profit business and the business itself, focus on protecting their property and profits in addition to, or instead of, making the software is of the highest quality. can be. Proponents of the operating system believe that a larger group of programmers, relying on their peers to find and fix problems in the code, will create a higher quality and more useful product for everyone.
The great advantage of open source software, of course, is that it is free. The fact that the code is public means that hundreds or even thousands of programmers and users can test, evaluate, debug, and improve the application that they eventually use. Here are the top 5 reasons open source advocates give for the benefits of open source software, aside from the price of zero dollars:
- Security: The more people who can see and test a set of code, the more likely it is that security flaws will be found and fixed.
- Reliability: It is peer-reviewed, with bugs fixed immediately rather than in future versions.
- Identity: can be customized.
- Low resource intensity: Open source software can often be run on the older computers common in nonprofit offices.
- Freedom of choice: no commitment until you’re sure (try as many different packages as you like, they’re free!)
However, there are downsides. The most common, in my experience, is that there probably isn’t a helpdesk or tech support phone number that users can call. The help desk for an OS software system can be the same blog or website where programmers and testers download code and discuss bugs they find.
Below is a list of some applications and operating system software that many non-profit organizations will find useful. All are award-winning and widely used packages. Just remember, that doesn’t mean they’re all automatically right for YOUR nonprofit. Consider who on your staff (whether in the office or consultants)
- install the program
- keep the software and any data
- train new users
- use the software regularly
Also consider whether this software needs to “talk to” other software in your organization. Will the packages be compatible? If you have existing data that will need to be converted to the new package, who will do it?
Now that we’ve warned you about the risks, here are our favorite open source software packages:
- LibreOffice – Office productivity suite including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database, etc. based on and successor to OpenOffice. Awarded as the best free office suite by CNET magazine
- GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program Image and Photo Editor. It works on GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more. Named one of the best free software options of 2013 by PC Magazine
- Audacity – Digital audio editor created by a Carnegie Mellon University professor and student. Voted one of PC World Magazine’s 100 Best Products of 2008
- Shotcut – Cross-platform video encoder and editor. Named TechRadar Download of the Day
- Thunderbird: email and chat client developed by Mozilla (maker of Firefox). PC World Magazine’s Top 100 Products in 2005 and 2008
- KeePass – password manager. Password manager recommended by the German Federal Office for Information Security and the French Agency for Network and Information Security. KeePass has the highest score on G2 Crowd’s password management grid
- Rocket.Chat – Cross-platform web chat, video conferencing, and team communications. InfoWorld Magazine BOSSIE Award 2016
One of the greatest needs of nonprofits is a constituent relationship management (CRM) system that allows the organization to track donors, prospects, volunteers, and other constituents, as well as communications with constituents. constituents. These are the free and open source CRMs you can look into when it’s time for a new CRM at your nonprofit.
- CRM Suite (formerly Sugar CRM) is one of the most popular, although it is not specifically for nonprofits.
- CiviCRM has been developed specifically for non-profit organizations
If you’d like to learn more, many nonprofit and charitable organizations promote the open source software movement. These are some of the largest and longest:
- Apache Software Foundation – Provides support for the community of Apache open source software products
- The Document Foundation: German charitable foundation created by a large group of free software advocates
- The Eclipse Foundation – An independent non-profit organization funded by membership dues to enable an open, vendor-independent community to manage the Eclipse Project created by IBM
- Free Software Foundation: Works to ensure the freedom of computer users around the world, in particular by promoting the free operating system GNU
- Linux Foundation – Supports many open source projects, including the 25 year old Linux operating system.
- OpenCourseWare Consortium: worldwide network of educational institutions, organizations and individuals promoting openness in education, including the collective development and use of open educational materials
- OpenHatch – connects potential open source software developers with communities, tools and education
- OpenSourceMatters: Provides financial, legal, and organizational support for Joomla! content management system for websites
- Open Source Initiative – Represents the open source community, maintains the definition of open source, and creates open source licenses
The label “open source” is said to have been coined at a strategy session held in 1998, shortly after the announcement of the release of the Netscape web browser source code. In the nearly 20 years since then, the free and open source software market and products have matured. Nonprofits can take advantage of high-quality free* software available for productivity, component management, and other essential tasks.
* Just remember, not all free software is free or safe to use.
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