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[GNU/FSF Press] Time for nonprofits to leave proprietary fundraising sof

From: Peter Brown
Subject: [GNU/FSF Press] Time for nonprofits to leave proprietary fundraising software systems behind
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2010 15:29:23 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv: Gecko/20100217 Shredder/3.0.3pre

Time for nonprofits to leave proprietary fundraising software systems behind

(News item at:

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 -- The Free
Software Foundation (FSF) today announced that CiviCRM has earned its
recommendation as a fully featured donor and contact management system
for nonprofits. The FSF had highlighted the need for a free software
solution in this area as part of its High Priority Projects campaign
( With this
announcement, the FSF will also be adopting CiviCRM for its own use, and
actively encouraging other nonprofit organizations to do the same.


Nonprofits have historically relied heavily on proprietary or web-hosted
"software as a service" fundraising software such as Blackbaud's
Raiser's Edge or eTapestry. The nonprofit organizations using them are
locked in, have little control over the functionality of the software,
and are dependent on the whims of a single company. Nonprofits also face
costly migration if they wish to switch to a different proprietary
system, never achieving independence. These factors mean that tools
intended to enhance organizations' effectiveness have actually ended up
restricting their ability to accomplish their social missions.

CiviCRM, however, shares its software code so all organizations can see
how it works, have the option of commissioning anyone to make
customizations to it, and can host it on their own trusted servers.
Since the code and the data format are freely available, using the
system does not mean being locked into it. Because it runs on the free
GNU/Linux operating system, it eliminates the need for another frequent
nonprofit proprietary software dependency -- Microsoft Windows.

"The features now offered by CiviCRM will satisfy nonprofits seeking to
organize their relationships with donors, supporters, and the media. In
addition to storing contact information, it handles online fundraising,
event registration, membership management, and personalized paper and
electronic mailings. Best of all, it's free software distributed under
the GNU Affero General Public License, which means nonprofits can host
it themselves and retain the freedom they need to advance their missions
unfettered," said John Sullivan, FSF's operations manager.

Free software ideals encouraging sharing and modification have been
central to CiviCRM's growth. Developer Dave Greenberg explained, "The
CiviCRM project was started by a group of developers and project
managers who had been working together on a proprietary donation
processing application. As folks who were passionate about increasing
the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofits, we came to realize that
there was a need for a CRM application designed from the ground up to
meet the needs of civic sector organizations. From the beginning it was
clear that this should be free software -- community driven and
community owned. On a personal level I find the engagement with our
community of users to be intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
Seeing folks with expertise in a particular area step up and contribute
their time and ideas to help improve the product is quite exciting."

In making the switch, the FSF joins other organizations like Amnesty
International, Creative Commons, and the Wikimedia Foundation, who have
also been using CiviCRM.

Executive director Peter Brown described the FSF's use of the software
and intent to publicize it: "I look forward to encouraging other
nonprofit organizations to escape their current proprietary or 'software
as a service' systems and give CiviCRM a try. As a nonprofit, the FSF
manages over 40,000 contacts and 15,000 donation transactions per year,
a book publishing operation, online store, and several advocacy campaign
websites with associated mailing lists -- all with free software. A
general purpose donor and contact management system will be the final
piece of the puzzle for charitable organizations looking to operate
using only free software. We plan to publish a guide offering our
experiences as a resource for other nonprofits concerned with the social
implications of their technology."

Nathan Yergler, chief technology officer at Creative Commons, offered
further praise for the software: "CiviCRM is a critical part of Creative
Commons' infrastructure. We've seen the application mature and steadily
improve with new features and performance improvements coming in every
release. CiviCRM's developer community is accessible and responsive,
going beyond the normal call of duty to help when needed. I would
happily recommend CiviCRM to organizations like Creative Commons looking
for a CRM solution."

CiviCRM core team member Piotr Szotkowski noted that despite the
project's maturity, there is still rewarding work to be done: "We could
definitely use more helping hands. Being able to work on CiviCRM gives a
lot of non-direct benefits, like the very warm and fuzzy feelings of
great satisfaction and fulfillment: knowing that one’s code was used to
help the Katrina hurricane victims, that it helps organizations like
Amnesty International or Front Line fight for human rights defenders, or
that it helps organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation better
organize their great work on Wikipedia and all their other projects."

Further information about downloading, using, and contributing to
CiviCRM can be found at An ongoing discussion of
comparisons between free software database options is on the FSF's
LibrePlanet wiki at

For a description of the dangers in relying on "software as a service,"
see "Who does that server really serve?".

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting
computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute
computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as
in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its
GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF
also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of
freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at
and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux.
Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement's goal is freedom for computer users. Some,
especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as "open
source," which cites only practical goals such as making software
powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and avoids
discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at
the deepest level. For more explanation, see

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Operations Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942


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