“You have to figure out goals and go from there,” Krackeler says. “It really depends.”
Idealware’s Quinn agrees, adding that a lot depends on how technologically savvy a nonprofit is and admitting she likely will get some flack for her next comment.
“As of five years ago, open source was less friendly to users than proprietary,” she says. “That’s no longer the hard-and-fast rule.”
That said, however, she adds, “If there is someone technical on staff, then [open source] may be the option for you. If you’re a nonprofit with no clue where to begin, it’s not the type of software you’re going to succeed with. You need to be more technology-adventurous.” FS
Two Open-Source Tech Tips
Idealware’s Laura Quinn offers a number of tips for those nonprofits trying to pick an open-source package. They boil down to just two:
1. Think about your needs. Quinn says nonprofits need to know what their goals are before they choose any software.
2. Do some research. Keep your eyes and ears open. Packages that are generating a lot of positive buzz in the sector most likely would be good choices, Quinn says, suggesting nonprofits do Google searches to see what comes up about the packages that are being talked about the most, as well as visiting message boards: “If a lot of people are using it, it’s a good sign. Find out [user] experiences — what they like, what they don’t like. Word-of-mouth is important.”
Finally, Quinn suggests, find out how actively the package is being developed. “When programmers create new software and release it and then two years go by and nothing else is released, there is a problem,” she says. “Then the trajectory of the software is going down. You want a package that actively is being developed.”