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Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits

NOSI's acclaimed primer 'Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits' describes what open source software is and what impact this type of software may have on the nonprofit sector.It includes:

  • case-studies of nonprofits of various sizes that are using open source software
  • a process for evaluating whether or not open source is right for an organization
  • useful resources and information

Written primarily in non-technical language, the Primer is accessible to a wide audience, including nonprofit managers with little hands-on technical expertise.Read the Primer in HTML or Download a PDF'Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits' has been generously supported by a grant from the IBM International Foundation.Quotes about the primer:'NOSI has developed a terrific resource that can help nonprofits everywhere understand the significance of the transition from proprietary software to open source.'Mitch Kapor, Open Source Applications Foundation'Open Source will only become really useful to non-profits when the appropriate service/support, training and documentation models are provided with it. NOSI's new guide, 'Choosing and Using Open Source Software' with its explanation of open source software and its practical case studies, is an important addition to the literature. It provides appropriate context for a non-profit's understanding, choice and use of open source products.'Jonathan Peizer, Open Society InstituteA marvelous resource - a must read for anyone even thinking about open source software. It's clear; it's concise; and it's filled with just the facts you need. Business has already jumped on the open source bandwagon. It's high-time nonprofits seriously considered the alternatives. Not too geeky a read either. Get it. Read it.Gavin Clabaugh, Charles Stewart Mott FoundationRead the Primer in HTML or Download a PDFThe open source community model for software development and support represents a huge potential opportunity for nonprofit organizations. The promise of open source is to allow the nonprofit sector to:

  • Share technical expertise across organizations
  • Leverage limited software development resources
  • Avoid lock-in to proprietary technology platforms, and
  • Minimize licensing costs as well as total cost of ownership.

However, non-profits have been slow to explore the opportunities afforded by open source. Many are not even aware of the open source approach as an option. This is due to a combination of factors:

  • The technical nature of the benefits involved makes them difficult to communicate and understand
  • The open source community tends to be a closed loop, designed to serve the needs of its members, who are mostly very technically savvy. Open source development efforts tend to neglect software ease of use, tutorials and documentation, and support for less technical users.
  • Most open source applications do not incorporate features and functionality that address non-profit's unique operational needs

The Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) was begun in June 2001 to bridge this gap between the nonprofit and open source communities. For more information on our current efforts, follow the links to the right or click here to get involved.