[COMM-ORG] query: web-based software for organizers

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Thu Feb 12 12:36:26 CST 2009

[ed:  thanks to Gordon, Nathan, Chris, Amy, Jackie, Mattice, Ashwani, 
and Mark for replying to Lane's query.]

From: Gordon Mayer <gordonmmayer at gmail.com>


right on with Randy's comments, which are to the point.

Further leads: I know i've seen progressive technology project on here a 
bunch... Arif? Victor, you'd be well advised to check out 
www.progressivetech.org, a minn.-based nonprofit that specializes in 
tech for CO groups, and in particular is good on databasing...

I've run across several groups using the Databank, some that use 
Salesforce (which donates up to 10 licenses so up to 10 people can be 
online at once).

Another place to learn more about your options is idealware.org, a sort 
of consumer reports for nonprofits on social media and web-based 
applications, as is techsoup.org, a conduit to nonprofits of all kinds 
of free software, hardware, and tech-y information.

gordon mayer


From: Nathan Henderson-James <nathanhj at gmail.com>


I would look into Salesforce for nonprofits. This was developed as a way 
of managing contacts and sales leads, but the non-profit version is 
well-tailored for its audience; it isn't just a knock off of the 
corporate tool. It is used by nonprofits for donor management as a 
primary function. However, it is very powerful and very inexpensive for 
c3's. Given your small-scale needs it might be a good fit. It is web-based.

If that is not what you are looking for, you may just need a custom 
Drupal system, which is a CMS that is very flexible for its level of 
usability.There are upfront costs and a monthly fee for the data 

My two cents.

Nathan Henderson-James
On-line Communications
***New Cell Number: 213-842-8523***
510-213-1970 old cell
nathanhj at gmail.com


From: Chris <clee07 at berkeley.edu>

Hi Lane-

I'm not sure if this fits exactly what you're looking for, but you might 
want to take a look at "Mail Chimp". It's an email marketing program 
created by the developers of Survey Monkey. I haven't actually used it 
myself (recently learned about it), but from what I've heard - it's a 
great program for managing listservs, contact information and also has a 
feature for generating reports, etc.

Here's the link:




From: Amy Lipka <amy at ohiofairschools.org>

Hello Lane,
Have you looked at Google docs (free)? Or perhaps a Wiki (also free)?

And thanks Randy for mentioning the Organizer's Database. I am involved 
with Organizer's Collaborative, the organization that created and 
distributes the software, which can be downloaded for free. We have 
talked about making ODB available on-line, but have yet to make that 

Amy Lipka
Organizers' Collaborative


From: Jacdkie Kendall <jackendall at aol.com>

Try Google Docs.  (you need a gmail account - free - to set it up)..

Once there you have Word, Calendar and Database applications that can be 
accessed only by those you designate as sharers.  Not only can all your 
staff access it from the office or afar but you can literally all work 
on the same document simultaneously if you so desire.

The calendar is great if you have staff in different places - you can 
integrate all staff calendars into one and separate them out.

All of the above is very easy!!

Jackie Kendall
Midwest Academy
jackie at midwestacademy.com


From: Mattice Haynes <emailme at matticehaynes.com>

This suggestion isn't specific to community organizers.  Google Apps has 
an array of free online collaboration tools.  I'm not proficient in 
using it yet but might be work exploring further.

Mattice Haynes
Decatur, GA


From: Ashwani Vasishth <ashwani.vasishth at csun.edu>

One option is

Another is

     Vasishth            vasishth at csun.edu          (818) 677-6137
                   Institute for Sustainability


From: "Mark Sherman" <Mark at progressivetech.org>

Progressive Technology Project (www.progressivetech.org) is the national
technology organization for community organizing in the U.S. (google
community organizing  technology and you'll see us at the top of the

I don't know your needs well enough to be specific, but these are some
1) don't install something that either isn't designed for community
organizing, or isn't being used by community organizers that you know,
so we probably differ somewhat from the ED's note, but we do agree that
Organizer's Database is wonderful and a great starting point for most
organizations we see, but it's not online.

2) We've developed a rating instrument that participants in our Database
Course use to select the software that fits them. In this tool, we have
Organizer's Database which is standalone 
and three other online databases to be evaluated:

CiviCRM, is an open source database with many features. PTP is starting
a project to upgrade it and install it in community organizing
environment. Beta sites are coming on in March. If all goes according to
plan, there should be a modified version that is easy to use for
community organizing in the fourth quarter of this year. That being
said, it may fit your needs as it is.

Salesforce.com has a nonprofit version that is free to nonprofits. It's
a proprietary online system designed for sales (natch). Many organizing
groups are using it now, but some are hitting its limitations.  It may
fit your needs.

TheDatabank.com is another online database used by many groups. It's not
free, but is purpose built to support organizing.

We recommend any of the above, with different caveats for each.  For
most groups that need an online system, the rating instrument recommends
TheDatabank and CiviCRM, for whatever that's worth. Again, it depends on
your requirements.

In addition, some people are using DemocracyInAction as a database. It's
a great tool for online organizing, not such a great fit, so far, for
offline work.

Finally, two other tips:
Progressive Technology Project is offering a training on Databases and
Technology Assessment and Planning April 27 - April 29 2009 in
Minneapolis.  Further details are online here:
We are offering a sliding scale for tuition.

Since you seem to be at a University, and this is list service is read
by many people in Universities, I would like to highly recommend that
people take a minute and look over an undergraduate internship program
at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  The Global Information
Internship Program (http://giip.org/) is training students with a social
justice interest in how to use technology to support organizing and
other needs of nonprofits. We would like to find more Sociology
departments that would pick up on their approach and put a version of it
in their schools, because so many students graduate with little more
technical knowledge than what it takes to run their personal laptop.
The reason I bring them up in this context is that they've done some
evaluation of these databases and you might want to write to them.

In Solidarity,

Mark Sherman
Former Executive Director (but still hanging around)
Progressive Technology Project

On 2/10/2009 1:34 PM, Discussion list for COMM-ORG wrote:
> --------
> This is a COMM-ORG 'colist' message.
> All replies to this message come to COMM-ORG only.
> --------
> [ed:  please feel welcomed to copy COMM-ORG with replies to Lane's
> query.  A bit from me below.]
> From: "Victorson, Lane A." <LVICTORSON at ssw.umaryland.edu>
> Hello,
> I know I have seen questions about technology for organizers and I tried
> to hit on some of the technology and support resource links which ended
> in error messages. But none-the-less it might be beneficial to hear from
> you what you might be using currently.
> What I'm looking for is web-based software (so the whole staff can
> access it from various locations) that can act as a community phone book
> in a way, housing basic contact information and in addition a simple
> notes feature allowing for attachments where we can track info for each
> resident that notates interactions, highlights leadership potential,
> areas of strength and interest, etc. It can be pretty bare bones and
> simplistic.  Ideally a report out feature would be nice.  I am aware of
> constant contact, but that seems to be more of a marketing outward
> thing...what I am looking for is an internal user friendly database,
> preferably easy to use and inexpensive- long shot maybe?
> Lane Victorson
> Baltimore
> [ed:  the Organizers Database http://www.organizersdb.org/, is on
> offline option to look at.  Online, the movement now is toward content
> management systems or CMSs, which are basically systems for managing
> interactive websites with forums, file management, and contact
> management.  An increasing number of these systems have contact
> management plugins or features.  For organizations with an existing
> website, the organizations that provides your website may already have
> some of these options that you can access.  If not, you may search out a
> new provider who can offer such a system.  There are so many options
> right now that it may be easier to talk directly with your website
> provider than to look for a provider that offers a particular system.]
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