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As summer starts, we’ll report on what happened to Facebook Causes, some big developments in cloud computing including the launch of Salesforce1, a big partnership between Salesforce and Microsoft that bodes well for charities, and the launch of Box.org, free cloud storage for nonprofits. There is also your new classification compliments of the BRIDGE Project, and the first universal software for microfinance, another free cloud service. There’s some interesting news and plenty of free things this month.
As NonProfit Times reports, Causes.com, the Facebook-inspired campaign platform for advocacy and fundraising, will soon be no more. Causes began as a Facebook app in 2007, and became independent in 2012. It was one of the original 10 Facebook apps. According to the latest blog post on Causes.com, to date: “186 million registered users in 156 countries have raised over $48 million for nonprofits, collected 34 million signatures for grassroots advocacy campaigns and created hundreds of thousands of online groups around important social issues.” That’s a pretty successful app.
The project will morph in to something called Brigade, a project of Brigade Media, which is a consortium led by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Sean Parker, who founded Napster and mentored Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Parker is an original investor in the political social media site, Votizen. Brigade will merge Votizen and Causes to create a political organizing site that will that will “tackle the problem of declining citizen power and engagement in democracy.” To be fair, Causes describes the acquisition as a new chapter for the Causes community. Perhaps demise is too strong a word, then. Restoring our democracy and our place in it may be cause enough.
Salesforce1 for Nonprofits just just launched. Salesforce describes it as a “unified view of every interaction clients, supporters, members, funders, volunteers and affiliates have with your organization.” Sounds pretty good. It is a specialized cloud database to help nonprofits organizations manage their business, run programs, and maintain donor relationships from any browser and on mobile devices. It is an expansion of the Salesforce CRM offers for charities. The charity pricing on it is is free for up to ten licenses with as much as a 75% discount per seat above that.
Salesforce implementation partners like Appirio and Cloud4Good are also offering discounts to help nonprofits tailor the complex software to their needs. Rob Acker, Salesforce Foundation’s COO says "because so much of a nonprofit's success hinges on maximizing the connections between people, whether it's knowing what companies a prospective board member works with, to knowing that a donor runs in circles with others who would seem likely to kick in. To that end, Salesforce1 for Nonprofits keeps track of people not so much as customers, but as nodes on a social graph.” If the nodes on a graph thing is a bit baffling, I like CITEworld’s coverage on this news.
In related news, Microsoft and Salesforce.com announced a strategic partnership to create new solutions that connect Salesforce.com's customer relationship management (CRM) apps and platform to Microsoft Office and Windows. Because both companies provide significant software donations to charities, this bodes well for nonprofits. Here are the plans:
The Los Altos based online storage company, Box.com, has launched Box.org. The centerpiece of the philanthropic project is a cloud networking solution that’s free (forever) to 501(c)(3) organizations that need ten licenses or fewer. Larger nonprofits can get additional licenses at half off. Box already provides up to 50 GB of free storage for personal accounts. Also, Box recently acquired a company called Streem, which will allow user to mount a cloud drive onto your computer desktop, much like Dropbox does. Box has chosen Bryan Breckenridge, formerly the head of LinkedIn for Good, as Box.org’s executive director. This offer is international. Find eligibility information here. Find out more on this offer also at Nonprofit Quarterly.
The BRIDGE Project is something new that will affect every single charity on earth. That’s not a claim I can usually make. It is a numbering system that a consortium of nonprofit organizations are developing to uniquely identify philanthropic entities across the world. BRIDGE is an acronym for Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities.
The reason for BRIDGE is because there is no standard for sharing information about global philanthropic entities. Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) are used in the U.S. Other countries use different systems for identifying charities and some don’t have an ID system at all. The Bridge project will go beyond charities to include schools and churches. John Hecklinger of Global Giving describes it as the basis for an “information ecosystem for the social sector.”
Jeff Falkenstein of the Foundation Center describes some of the potential benefits of Bridge as: “Identifying opportunities for collaboration, reducing duplication of effort, building trust with the public and one’s constituents, making visible the work taking place around the world, more strategic decision making, and cultivating a community of shared learning and best practices”
The BRIDGE project is a collaborative that includes the Foundation Center, Global Giving, GuideStar, and yours truly, TechSoup Global. These organizations house data for a combined total of three million NGOs worldwide. BRIDGE will be an online registry, or database, where nonprofits will be able to apply to get their own unique IDs and other organizations can obtain the information from the registry in bulk for their own databases. Chad McEvoy of Global Giving is the BRIDGE project manager. Find more information about this project at Markets For Good.
I had a chance to attend the launch of the the Mifos X Platform earlier this month. The Mifos X Platform is free open source cloud software for running a microfinance organization that provides small loans, savings accounts, and micro insurance to very poor people. There are now tens of thousands of microfinance and financial inclusion charities and social enterprises out there, including many in the U.S.
Mifos.org originated in 2006 as a project of the fabled Grameen Foundation to create microfinance software. The name is an acronym of "micro finance open source." It is now independent of Grameen Foundation, but is still a close partner with them. They have been developing microfinance software for some years, but with the launch of the Mifos X Platform, they have built the first universal open source platform for "financial inclusion." The project aims to bring financial services to 3 billion poor and ‘unbanked’ people (over a third of the worlds population).
One of the many issues this platform will address is the fact that many microfinance organizations have field workers who do their work on paper. Mifos provides a web app with mobile phone capability. It can also plug into mobile banking services like mPesa in Kenya for making money transfers. It will allow microfinance field workers to do all their work on a phone. If the software is used in places without internet access of any kind, the software can cache data for uploading later. The platform is also suited to financial inclusion in countries like the U.S. with sophisticated banking tools.
The audience at the launch event was composed mostly of coders and engineers looking for new opportunities. Mifos.org has only five paid employees so the project must effectively plug in to the philanthropic coder community in cooperation with nonprofit projects like Benetech's SocialCoding4Good that organizes volunteer software development projects in cooperation with big Silicon Valley companies. The project also works closely with volunteer translators at Wikipedia’s translatewiki.net.
If your organization is doing financial inclusion work, check out a free trial of the Mifos Platform software here. If you become serious about using it, find an implementation partner here.
I think we’ve crossed some sort of threshold. Hackers in a group called Rex Mundi broke into Domino's Pizza IT system in Europe and stole records for 600,000 customers in France and Belgium. They have demanded $40,000 in ransom from the company or else they will publish the customer information — including customers' favorite toppings. Domino’s has vowed to not pay ransom. I don’t know what to say. Perhaps something about reality imitating Hollywood.
Finally, we offer our sincere congratulations to AbilityNet, the most excellent UK based accessibility charity, for winning the Digital Leaders 100 Award for 2014 in the NGO category. They are definitely a world leader in developing and educating all of us on electronic accessibility tools for disabled people. I particularly like their MyComputer My Way, a free interactive guide to built in accessibility features on desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
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This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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