Lazy web: Software for non-profits and NGOs?

I’m wondering who can point me to good info on the following questions:

  • Which foundations have funded development for software for non-profits to use for blogging, community development and decision support?
  • Who are the key developers and what are the *most useful* packages?
  • What’s lacking in these services–and who’s building it?

I recognize this is a conversation for the years, but if you give me seconds in directional pointers, I will be grateful!

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  1. John Powers says:

    I think you’re after more specific information than I’m able to give, but I really want to see some comments about this subject. So, possibly off topic:
    The Omidyar Network launched an experiment with social networking with That experiment is over but the site is still up to sort of get a feel for what was offered. The tool set is now run by
    The decision to close in part was influenced by the explosion of social networking sites. There are numerous examples of social networks for good at the home page. Wiser Earth is worth noting. All this seems a drop in the ocean, but I think Omidyar Network’s experiment significant.
    Global Voices a project of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society likewise seems significant to me along with the various off shoots of it. Ethan Zuckerman clearly is an important figure.
    Charity badges and companies like Goodsearch are significant too.
    The McKnight Foundation has been a leader.
    I look forward to comments to this post.

  2. Beth Kanter says:

    Just pinged some people who can help

  3. Holly Ross says:

    Hi Susan – You bet! This is a conversation for the years! There are all kinds of examples all over the sector. Here are a few of my favorites:
    > The Surdna Foundation. They have supported technology and nonprofits in a variety of ways throughout the last decade. Vince Stehle has truly been a leader there.
    > The C.S. Mott Foundation. They have also funded nonprofit communities and technology for a long time. Their CTO, Gavin Clabaugh is ridiculously smart. Search for Digital Diner and you’ll find his blog.
    > The Knight Foundation. Their Knight News Challenge and other grants support community building by democratizing access to information through the Internet. They have funded some really amazing projects. Their CTO George Martinez is another leader in the field.
    Some of my favorite nonprofit community building and social media sites/tools are:
    > Network for Good. They started as online fundraising and have turned into leaders in the field of social fundraising.
    > VolunteerMatch. A bit of a stretch, but they match more volunteers to nonprofits than any other online site. It’s not an online social network, but they are certainly building communities!
    > Democracy in Action. A very solid tool built by nonprofits for nonprofits. It’s CRM plus.
    That’s about all my weary brain can kick out at the moment, but would be more than happy to think about it when fully caffeinated.

  4. marnie webb says:

    Holly’s list is a good one. I’d add:
    * Sunlight Foundation
    * Soros
    * Shuttleworth Foundation
    As for people making/working on tools, I’d add:
    * EchoDitto
    * ONE/Northwest

  5. Susan Mernit says:

    Thanks, everyone–this is a great start for me–alot to learn about this category and some strong interest/motivation on my part–thank you and keep em coming..I will post more on what I learn over the next couple weeks.

  6. Thomas Taylor says:

    Some items in the “decision support” category:
    One that’s just been sitting in my bookmarks since Beth mentioned it on her blog:, the Advocacy Progress Planner, funded by the California Endowment. Another for communications planning:

  7. Thomas Taylor says:

    (Making another comment as Haloscan complained I had too many links when it was one comment)
    In a rather different vein, here in Philadelphia (and at the Cultural Alliance in particular), we’re very proud of the PA Cultural Data Collection Project, developed through a collaboration among funders, both public and private. The PACDP collects detailed financial and programmatic reporting from cultural institutions in the region; the carrot for most is that it is a required part of the application for these major funders (but you only have to do it once per year and its good for all applications to those funders). The direct benefit to organizations is that they can then log in and easily create reports based on their input, and also reports comparing their numbers to groups of other organizations by region, discipline, budget and other factors.
    The indirect benefit is that the data can be used to support research and advocacy on the sector. Our recent reports Portfolio (whose next edition is being worked on now) and Arts, Culture and Economic Prosperity draw heavily on the aggregate data compiled in the PACDP.
    The PACDP and our publications have been really well received in the cultural funding community, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the key partners in the PACDP and host of the project, is now leading implementations in Maryland and several other states.

  8. Susan Mernit says:

    this is great, going to complile, explore and share back over next week or so.

  9. David Geilhufe says:

    I’d be interested to hear your definition of community development. That has a very specific meaning in the nonprofit context and little to do with software tools, thought I could imagine software to automate that process.
    The only funder I am aware of that is focused on software is the Knight Foundation, focused on the next generation of newspapers (hence a big social component).
    No one has mentioned CiviCRM yet ( That is the only open source constituent relationship management software designed for NGOs. Its relevance depends on your definition of community development and decision support.
    CiviCRM + Drupal provides a powerful integrated solution for engaging communities online and maintaining that engagement through the more staid nonprofit business processes like fundraising and case management.
    What is lacking… same thing that has always been lacking IMHO. There are few solution that get designed for NGOs. If you have an economic motivation, all you build is fundraising software. If you want to serve NGO needs, there is no funding.
    So NGOs cobble together stuff from commercial providers and the web 2.0 world. And the vast majority of NGOs don’t have the capacity to do this and/or can’t afford to hire the consultants.
    Who’s building? The usual suspects are involved…
    Allen Benamer
    Allen Gunn (gunner)
    Katrin Verklas
    CiviCRM team
    Consultants- EchoDitto, PicNet, Advomatic
    Laura Quinn
    and many more… linkedin is your friend ;)
    -David Geilhufe

  10. Beth Kanter says:

    looking forward to see what you come up with and what’s your planning ..

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