Until recently, MPower, the Dallas-based provider of software for CRM and fundraising for nonprofits, only provided proprietary — or closed — software. Meaning, MPower sold licenses to use its software, and its users had no access to its source code, MPower Founder and CEO Randy McCabe explains.
“In March of this year, we made our [software] completely open-source,” McCabe says. “We believe it was the right thing to do. It gives [organizations] control and options to get what they need.”
He says he believes MPower is the only company that has done this for nonprofits.
So, anyone can visit MPower’s Web site and download the software for free. No strings attached — a nonprofit can turn to MPower for installation and other services, or it can go to someone else.
Nonprofits have complete access to MPower’s source code, so they or their third-party service providers can easily develop new function-ality, customizations and add other applications to their systems.
Just when it’s all starting to become clear, I learn that “open source” isn’t the only way to be “open.”
Convio, the Austin, Texas-based Internet software and services company that provides CRM solutions for nonprofits, is a good example of being “open” without being “open source.”
Users can’t get into the source code of a Convio product and change whatever they want, but the company considers its products “open” due to their interoperability with other Web sites and products, Convio Chief Technology Officer Dave Hart says.
“We provide openness,” he explains. “If you’re doing your Web site on Convio, we can provide a tool to connect you to a Facebook application. You can reach out to your constituents. It makes it easy for nonprofits to do that without technical knowledge.”
Convio Vice President of Product Management Tom Krackeler says that what kind of “open” a nonprofit chooses depends on its needs and its interests.