Tech for NPOs: Some thoughts

Over the past few months we have been working with various NPOs as a part of our outreach program and explore how FOSS can help the social sector. Even before FOSS United, at Frappe we have been volunteering with NPOs over the years.

Some learnings:

  1. NPOs are pretty disorganized - more so than for-profit companies. (FOSS United is also an example of this :smile:). They also have much lesser budgets for investment as software cost gets billed as “admin cost” which NPOs want to optimize.
  2. Projects requirement and pace varies. Sometimes NPOs want things fast, but then the ghost us. Their requirements change with changing team and donors.
  3. NPO projects can be fun if they are side projects. As full time work, it is very inconsistent.
  4. Projects requiring heavy customization should be required. NPOs should use whatever platform and configure their workflows rather than writing code.
  5. A lot of education needs to be done before we start a project so that the NPO understands this approach quite well.

Changes in approach

  1. Make it clear upfront what are the limitations of the platform we are using. There will be some compromises.
  2. Define the boundaries of what we can do in terms of UI, scripts, data capture etc.
  3. Implement one process at a time rather than going for big-bang implementation.

Any thoughts / suggestions?


Maybe you can get all involved NPOs to vote on features that are ‘essential to have’, ‘good to have’, ‘can live without them’ etc. Once this doc is ready and published as RFC, proceed with design and implementation.

If the most NPOs still don’t know what they are looking for, then the problem is pretty tricky.