Site Gives Insight Into the Software Nonprofits Use
Ever wonder what software other nonprofits are using for fundraising, operations, programs, etc.? A new Web site can help you find out.
Social Source Commons, a project of Aspiration, a nonprofit that works to connect nonprofits to software solutions that help them meet their missions, allows nonprofit organizations to divulge which software tools they use, gain knowledge and support by connecting with other organizations that use the same tools, and discover new ones.
Allen Gunn, executive director of Aspiration, says the goal is twofold: It is a comprehensive inventory of all nonprofit-relevant software that can be found through a simple keyword search, and it aggregates relevant information on each tool published by sites like TechSoup, Idealware, etc. So when organizations find a tool in the database, they're also connected to any additional information that has been published on the Web about that tool.
Organizations can build personal toolboxes, similar to creating a Flickr photo album, Gunn says, but instead of putting pictures in an album, they search the database for tools and simply click on a button to add them to their personal toolboxes.
The site has two benefits, Gunn says. "It has a community benefit because the more people that do that, the more we're collectively able to see what are the popular tools and who is using what," he says. "But by building a personal toolbox, the individual then also sets themselves up to get notified when there's new information available about tools they care about, and the way they do that is that their personal toolbox has a custom RSS feed that delivers that information to them."
Gunn adds that organizations also can use Social Source Commons to build lists of tools that they want other people to know about. An example of this is Global Voices, a citizen journalism project where volunteers all over the world read political blogs in their countries and then repost the best of those to the Global Voices Web site. Global Voices has created a toolbox on Social Source Commons that lists about 20 software tools individuals need to use to be volunteer editors.
"Whenever a new editor comes on, they can simply say to that editor, go and look at this toolbox. It's the list of the software you need with the instructions on how to install it," Gunn says. "And so, in that sense, Social Source Commons is an excellent documentation repository because it manages lists of software to be used for a purpose.
"We invite everyone to come and share on Social Source Commons the tools that they're most passionate about," Gunn says. "Because the more people who share, the more the sector grows capacity because people are able to make informed decisions about what's getting used and what's not getting used, and it only takes a couple of minutes."
Aspiration also is currently in the process — with the support of the Surdna Foundation — of building ANSWR, an online platform that will be a companion to Social Source Commons. Gunn says ANSWR, which will launch later this quarter, will feature a three-pronged approach to knowledge capture for nonprofit technology:
- An inventory of frequently asked questions for each technology discipline, which will link out to relevant secondary material.
- An inventory of the best articles on the Web per technology discipline.
- An aggregation of appropriate nonprofit blogging content.
The organization also is publishing the book "The 2009 Online Organizer's Almanac", a 200-page book of "everything you need to know to use the Internet for campaigning and advocacy," Gunn says. The book can be purchased or downloaded for free as a PDF via Lulu.com.