Thoughts from NTEN and AFP
Several of us at Orange Leap, myself included, have spent the last couple weeks traveling around the country, meeting with a wide variety of nonprofit professionals at a few of the year’s major conferences, including the Nonprofit Technology Network’s (NTEN) annual Nonprofit Technology Conference in New Orleans and the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) annual international conference in San Diego. As exciting as it always is to visit these wonderful cities, the real thrill for us has been introducing Orange Leap Open to the nonprofit community. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, as we believed it would be.
For some time now, the nonprofit community has been hungering for truly open constituent relationship management (CRM) solutions. With increasing reliance on technology to run their daily operations, today’s organizations need to be able to easily integrate data between disparate systems such as donor databases and website content management systems. This is key for effective communications and marketing to constituents and donors – to drive giving and increase their lifetime value to a nonprofit.
As a whole, the NTEN crowd – a more technical group heavy on nonprofit IT professionals, technology consultants and systems integrators, and folks from software companies – “got it.” Many of the people we spoke to used terms like “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” when they learned that we are providing access to our source code. At AFP, the response to Orange Leap Open was similarly positive but for different reasons. Many organizations were “wowed” about the fact that Orange Leap is powerful CRM software that is as good and in many ways better than Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge AND available for no license fees.
But people at both conferences had questions about what exactly we mean by “open.” There is quite a bit of talk in the nonprofit technology market these days about “open,” in part, because some software companies serving nonprofits have launched heavily marketed “open” initiatives. These initiatives mostly have consisted of vendors releasing application programming interfaces (APIs) – or software “connectors” – so customers can integrate a vendor’s software with another solution.
Some have done it better than others. For instance, Blackbaud’s “open” attempt gives you the ability to integrate the company’s own proprietary Raiser’s Edge database with its proprietary NetCommunity website content management system. Now really, you shouldn’t need APIs to integrate two proprietary products from the same vendor, especially when the vendor is selling an “all in one” solution.
Convio is doing a better job by developing a number of APIs to make it easy to integrate their website content management system with several CRM systems, including Orange Leap. Convio takes a best of breed approach to working with clients so it is very important that the company makes it easy for nonprofits to plug in the solutions they choose to their systems.
The bottom line is, when it comes to “open” initiatives, the more, the better. But, as Orange Leap’s CTO, Leo D’Angelo likes to say, “Nothing is open like open source.” By giving a client access to source code, he/she can modify the software to meet his/her organization’s unique needs. The nonprofit user has more control and options over his/her technology and is not so dependent on a vendor. This is what Orange Leap is doing and what has jazzed the nonprofit professionals we’ve met on the early spring conference circuit. We’d like to see more vendors do the same but in the meantime, we are optimistic that everything is trending open, putting more tools, control, and options in the hands of nonprofits.
As an established company, Orange Leap offers the best of both worlds – a mature, full feature and powerful CRM product for no license fees PLUS a complete professional services organization that will convert your data, train you, re-engineer your organizational processes, and then support your ongoing use of the solution.
It is very rewarding to introduce a new business model to the nonprofit community. It is what we believe the community wants and needs, and response so far is validating that. High quality software for free. Options to integrate and build around the software. And a complete line of professional services and support to maintain a mission-critical application.