Proposed: Funding Open Source Accounting software

Josh Berkus josh at
Thu May 2 22:10:03 UTC 2013

> The needs of a NPO are quite different than those of a for-profit business such
> as OfB might help, especially a fiscal sponsor like either SPI or Conservancy.
> The key difference is a large number of temporarily restricted accounts (for
> Conservancy) or earmarks whose purposes we need to respect (for SPI). The
> financial statements are also different. Further, most of what you listed
> amongst OfB's features are irrelevant to fiscal sponsors like SPI, while of
> course they're useful for other businesses.

For those who don't do accounting, they often thing of "accounting
software" as a single undifferentiated thing.  It's not; accounting is
specialized according to the organization that needs to use it.  ERP
systems, which are excellent for manufacturers, are all but useless for
law firms, and despite similarites law firm accounting software doesn't
work for other kinds of "time & materials" consultants.  And none of it
works for nonprofits.  In fact, even within nonprofits, general
charitable foundations, fiscal sponsors, medical NPOs, churches,
performing arts groups and political foundations all have different and
incompatible accounting needs.  This project is proposed to only serve
the first two kinds of NPOs/NGOs on that list.

BTW, there used to be a large and diverse ecosystem of proprietary
software for NPO accounting and donor management.  However, a single
company, Blackbaud ("the Microsoft of NPO software") bought up all of
the other companies, forcing NPOs nationwide onto its high-priced and
restrictive platform.  This is one of the reasons it would be a real
service to open source to have a quality solution out there; NPOs who
don't even care about software freedom would love to have an alternative
to Blackbaud, which can cost over $100,000 in licensing alone, even for
a small nonprofit.

--Josh Berkus

More information about the Spi-general mailing list