ProSpeak: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Today’s CRM Solutions for Nonprofits
3. The Open Door
Open source software — the pinnacle of the open movement — is like an open door. It means two things:
a. Software without license fees, significant upfront investment and onerous contracts.
b. Complete access to modify the software’s source code, provided you share your modifications with the user community.
Metaphorically, the “open door” is total freedom to enter the house and rearrange your furnishings, paint the walls, build an addition or remodel. You truly own and control your software. You can do things like create an automated business process to send recently acquired constituents an e-mail saying that in coming days, they’ll receive a welcome packet. You also can automate personalization of the welcome packet letters and other inserts as well as mail-merging and forwarding to your print/mail vendor. Consider how much staff time this saves and how effectively it engages supporters, fostering loyalty and driving donations.
With open CRM, you may opt to pay for support and maintenance to get updates, training and more. Also, you still need in-house expertise or services from the software vendor or a third-party consultant that you choose to configure and deploy the software and manipulate the code.
The ecosystems of partners and independent service providers for open-source solutions allow you to take advantage of competition to get the best service and price for your needs. And without having to change platforms, you can always switch service providers. Total cost of ownership likely will be much lower.
The “opening” of CRM and fundraising software for nonprofits is encouraging. With growing options, organizations should ask software vendors about their definition of “open,” and then decide which provides the right balance of cost, flexibility and service.
Randy McCabe is founder and CEO of MPower, a Dallas-based provider of software for CRM and fundraising for nonprofits.