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Software alone can cost not for profit organisations thousands of dollars a year in license fees and upgrades, but the reality for many small not for profits is that they struggle to purchase the hardware let alone the software to meet their needs. Thankfully the open source software community has reached a level of maturity that most of your organisation’s major needs can be met for free. Here are three essential apps for not for profits:


1. OpenOffice
The OpenOffice suite has been a standard feature of my personal computers for years. This free office suite covers most of the basic functions you’d find in commercial package and is available across PC, Mac and Linux platforms. This is the software that got me through my university studies and can easily handle files from other office suites. If you’re a Microsoft Office devotee you might notice the odd quirk or missing feature, but OpenOffice can handle most of your basic word processing, spreadsheets and standard office suite functions with ease.


2. Gimp
Adobe Photoshop has long been considered the standard for image editing and graphic design, but the costs associated with Adobe products are prohibitive for many not for profits. Gimp is a basic image editing program available for free on PC, Mac and Linux. It’s not as intuitive as Adobe’s programs, but it does the basics well. You might need to experiment for a while to get used to it but once you do it becomes an invaluable image editing and design tool.


3. Audacity
One of the most powerful ways to evaluate projects and capture insights into your work is through capturing regular audio of staff, volunteer and participant reflections. I highly suggest breaking free of the standard paper or online surveys for evaluation and using audio interviews for qualitative feedback. You’ll get much more insightful feedback and can share audio recordings (with permission) with key partners or funding bodies. For that reason Audacity is a great free audio editing tool for any not for profit. Audacity provides another open source and cross platform (PC, Mac and Linux)  option for not for profits without needing to invest in expensive software packages.

As the open source community continues to develop we’re seeing many great options for those who can’t afford commercial options. Having a small (or often non existent) budget doesn’t necessarily mean missing out! I’m excited to see what the open source community comes up with next.


What great, free software have you come across? Let me know in the comments.

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