I have a simple question for my fellow information technology brethren out there: “Why aren’t Christians developing cutting edge efforts within the software and web industries?”  Really? What is keeping us from locking arms and developing cutting edge tools for the Church and non-profit companies alike and giving them away like candy? What is keeping a small group of entrepreneurs from donating their efforts towards hammering out solutions for 80% of the really big rocks that major Christian and social non-profit efforts are in most desperate need of?

Percentage of non-profits smaller than my sub-team oversite.

Percentage of all US non-profits smaller than my sub-team oversight.

Full disclosure time.  I just realized something.   (I am really stupid or… or I’m really stupid.)  As a mid-level manager/project manager at two major non-profit companies so far in my career, I have had control over funding levels that dwarf 96% of all non-profit companies in America today. 96%?!?  Are you kidding me?  I’m a small fish.  I am not a CFO or an Executive Vice-President or something.  I’ve only managed sub-teams that work solely on the web arm of the companies I have been employed for.

See for yourself.  Here is the data from the Urban institute on the non-profit size of revenues for registered Non-Profit organizations throughout the United States for 2008:

np-revenues

Numbers of non-profits by yearly revenues

To put this in perspective, I just signed the contract on a piece of software that is larger than what 86% of all charities earned all year last year.  Two things can be learned from this statistically anecdotal piece of information.  1.  High-end Software is very very expensive.  2.  Almost all Non-Profits are incredibly incredibly small.  So small that they would not have access, even in their wildest dreams to even get a chance to demo one of these high-end software solutions.

So, all that just to set up the call to arms accurately.  (Run-on sentence alert.)  If we really are one body… and we all agree that software increases productivity significantly… and non-profits are just terribly small and without funding for the real solutions that could help them grow and survive… then it stands to reason that if the Christian community was to develop a software company that existed not for profit sake but for the betterment of the larger missions of all of the companies across the body then it is obvious that this is a must do solution.  The implications here could swing from developing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions all the way out to on call help desk support.  Obviously the overhead on each of these potential solution paths vary greatly and have different costing impacts.  But at this juncture that is almost moot.

Regardless, what is keeping us from creating a non-profit company that develops and releases for free (or close to free) solutions without bias or agenda?  Basically these solutions could be open-source wins for Churches trying to track relationships and giving with parishioners.  Or maybe a solution for NGO’s tracking and solving poverty or AIDS penetration rates within communities and impact of their efforts against this blight on society.  The possibilities here are basically limitless.  Obviously there would need to be some return on investment in order to keep the effort alive long term.  But that is almost a secondary problem.

Right now I know of numerous examples of companies charging exorbetent fees to implement and support “free” technology solutions to Churches and non-profits.  Sure, they are implementing free software but the customization and development of solutions are very pricey for these fledgling NP efforts.  Maybe I forgot to take off my rose-colored glasses today before I began working on this post?  Could be.  I don’t know – what do you think?

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3 Responses

  1. pop pop

    VTaylor: your idea is terrific…Just one problem. Most nonprofits don’t even realize they need what you are offering!
    Have u talked to Mike Stuber about this idea?
    Also, take a look at I-AM. (org or com). My friend Gordon is spreading the Gospel in many languages and having special impact on Moslems who want to know more about Christ in a non-threatening (semi-secret) environment. Gordon is just begging for technical help. Some of his programming was done by an Egyptian Moslem who wouldn’t accept their agreed-upon fee once he knew that the work was totally about Jesus.

    Yes there are nonprofits out there who really need and looking for what God is calling u 2 do! DrJ

    Reply
  2. taylor

    There are two directions this effort could go in. One is more of a micro approach. The other being a macro approach (tricky I know).

    Micro being that a group of guys ban together to donate time towards A website or AN application for ONE non-profit. I have done this before with LifeNetworks and several others as well. And while this is satisfying it isn’t what I am envisoning here.

    The macro approach would be an approach that would ned some fairly significant angel funding to get off the ground. But once the flywheel was turning it shouldn’t require any funding to keep it going.

    Once the funding was in place the next step would be to do analysis of the big software/web expenses non-profits have today. Maybe CRM? Or possibly web content management? The example I always use is bulletin creation software… because we know how pivotal that can be. Then Gorilla-Labs would then bang out web hosted solutions for these problems at ridiculously cheap monthly fees (covering mainly the monthly hosting and residual costs only). So, in essence it becomes a macro-micro-loan type investment that perpetually pays dividends back to the larger goal of providing dirt cheap solutions to missionaries, pastors, non-profit CIOs who can’t afford to pay the going rate today for these services.

    Christians should see this more from a socialistic standpoint than from a profit opportunity. Myself included. But the allure of dollar signs and esteeem can be blindingly bright.

    Reply
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