This time last week I was at the DMA Nonprofit Federation conference in Washington, DC. Along with all the usual sessions looking at fundraising innovations, new media channels and last year’s success stories, cost-cutting and efficiency seemed to be the buzz words of the day. This is no surprise given the times, but what got me excited is that most people were not simply talking about classic cutbacks. Rather, much of the conversation was around new models of operating and how technology is allowing organizations to do more with less.
Naturally, interest in Open Source technologies was high. I actually led a session on “Demystifying Open Source CRM” along with David Michael Jeremiah of Turning Point and Brian Bitler of America’s KESWICK (You can download the presentation here).
One of the things I stressed in the presentation was that open source software is not inherently better than proprietary software. Rather, open source software is simply a model for developing and delivering software. But the open source model is proving to be an inherently more effective way to build and distribute software.
The analogy I made was with You Tube and Wikipedia. Both are a new and open way for creation and delivery of video and topical information. Both forgo the old ‘top-down’ model and instead leverage the creativity, knowledge and contributions of millions of ‘amateurs’. And, crucially, both are reliable, trusted and used primarily by people who may never edit or contribute something themselves. In those aspects, they are analogous to how open source software works. David and Brian then walked our session through what that has meant for their organizations in concrete terms. The new model is not only exciting, it is proven.
In all the engaging conversations I had with folks at the conference, I realized people are really beginning to understand this model, not only because open source saves them 40-70% in total cost of ownership, but also because they are getting better–often much better–software. In difficult times, we are forced to adopt new models and innovative approaches. The net result can be a better, more effective way of operating.