Five Open Source Projects We Love

The open source community has no shortage of projects devoted to social change and improving lives. Pick a need, and there is likely an open source solution for it, but it is often difficult for projects that have a social good application to get the notice they deserve. This is a shame as the collaborative and transparent nature of open source is a force-multiplier for changemaking efforts and when properly supported, open source software can spark innovation, accelerate social good. Therefore, here are five open source projects that we think show the potential for open source to make a real impact in the non-profit world. 


The creators of Givesource had a vision that there could be a cheaper and better fundraising platform for nonprofits. Through a partnership between Firespring, a Lincoln, NE-based marketing and software company, and the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, the team built a fundraising tool to power the Lincoln Community Foundation’s Giving Day but with a broader vision of creating a platform that out-performed anything on the market at a far-reduced operating cost. The result is a platform that empowered the Lincoln Community Foundation to set a new record for giving, slashed their processing and platform fees, and attracted the attention of local media. Anyone seeking a best-in-class tool for fundraising can tap into the power of Givesource as it was designed from the outset to be open sourced. 

Learn more at 


Seeing firsthand how little interoperability there was between diabetes devices and their data, Tidepool founder Howard Look set out to create an open source toolkit that allowed users, both individuals with diabetes and medical professionals, to better combine and analyze data from the multiple devices diabetes patients must use to manage their health. Users of Tidepool’s software can explore their data on a personalized dashboard and easily share that data with their doctor, ending the need for patients to physically go to their doctor’s office to share their data. Similarly, researchers using Tidepool’s platform can share their data in real-time with the research team.  

Learn more at 

Code for America 

Code for America empowers citizen developers to help their communities using their talents. Salt Lake County was struggling with a solution to notify people for court appearances or for court-ordered treatments. The Code for America Fellowship group approached the problem by starting with extensive research and a user-centered design process which yielded evidence to disprove the commonly-held notion that most individuals simply skip or forget their court dates and other appointments. Instead, their research showed a wide range of reasons individuals missed their dates and there was a need for a better tool for communicating with their case officers at any time. Therefore, Code for America’s team built ClientComm, an open source platform that facilitates easier communication between case officers and their clients by giving the case officer’s a sophisticated management platform to track their clients and gives end-users a simple text-message-based platform that allows them to contact their case officer immediately in any situation. 

Learn more at 


The Grameen Foundation found a key barrier to their goal of helping the 2 billion poor and unbanked worldwide was the lack of good financial services platforms. To address this problem, they created Mifos, an open source financial services suite that institutions may use to easily offer low or no cost digital banking solutions to their customers. As a totally open platform, banks may use and expand upon the features in Mifos to best serve their customers all while being part of a community of users of the tool who share and collaborate on features. Mifos’s mission now is to spread the use of this platform across the world, starting with developing regions where there is little to no access to banking. 

Learn more at 

Open Agriculture Initiative 

An initiative of the MIT Media Lab, the Open Agriculture Initiative’s works to create healthier, more engaging and more inventive future food systems and drive an ecosystem of open source tools to support transparency and innovation across their work. Some of the many open source projects they support include a set of tools for using technology to optimize conditions for growth. These applications include the Tree Computer for tree growth, the Personal Food Computer for tabletop-sized environments, and the Food Server which manages large-scale hydroponic installations. In addition, the Open Agriculture Initiative supports research to incorporate computer vision and machine learning into their projects to enhance their growth management tools. 

Learn more at 

Whether it is reducing the cost of fundraising for non-profits, improving the lives of patients, making government systems more friendly for citizens or supporting teams that are focusing on the food of the future, each of these projects highlight the benefits that can come from the wide embrace of open source by the non-profit and philanthropic sectors. We tip our hats to each of these organizations who are ensuring that their work is available to all—embodying the Case Foundation’s vision that open source is a form of philanthropy. We look forward to showcasing further examples of open source work being done by individuals, nonprofits, and companies. If you have or know of a project that you believe is fearlessly trying to make change in a community or the world, let us know at 

It’s Time for Philanthropy to Open the Door to Open Source

Innovation is driving technology and change faster than ever before. Yet, when I am asked about technological innovations that have the best chance to make an impact in the future of philanthropy, I often cite a collaborative approach that is closely aligned with the technology world, but can no longer be considered cutting edge: open source.

This may not be the answer that many are expecting, but open source’s collaborative and transparent nature is well suited for philanthropy and its ability to leverage the power of many to do good at minimal cost lends itself to being one of the keys to the next phase in the evolution of philanthropy.

Open source software allows anyone to read, study, modify and redistribute a software’s source code with little restriction other than that free access is maintained. It is often developed in a highly collaborative manner with many people contributing pieces of code and it is found in a wide variety of places – the overwhelming majority of consumer devices include some open source code.

For many philanthropies and non-profits, open source provides the opportunity to save money and time. There is a growing community of coders experimenting openly and sharing ideas and software covering everything from website and app development to artificial intelligence and blockchain. By embracing open source, foundations and nonprofits can tap into this space of bright technologists and innovators for free. In doing so, they will gain access to battle-tested code and ideas, allowing them to focus on their core missions.

For others, it is an opportunity to leverage the time and money they have put into building software and programs so others in the field can use them. In our network of changemakers, we see many organizations producing innovative platforms and technologies that are used to create social change. Why not further that effort by open sourcing that work so that many more can use, improve and share it? Our experience shows that by including open source from the outset of a plan, you reap the benefits of including a community in your work and have a product that can be shared with the larger community with minimal effort. And, frankly, isn’t the act of open sourcing software in line with most philanthropic missions?

Open source has other benefits as well. The collaborative nature of open source can encourage philanthropies to engage with new audiences and to connect technical and nontechnical participants. We have seen that reaching beyond your bubble and forging unlikely alliances between those working to solve the same problem can yield impressive and transformational results.

We’re already seeing philanthropies embrace open source. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation developed an open source platform to drive the adoption of digital financial services in developing countries. Mojaloop, the platform’s name, creates a standard system for banks and other financial service providers to communicate and execute transactions at a lower cost than competitors for the nearly two billion unbanked people in developing regions.

Throughout the Case Foundation’s history, we’ve recognized the value of open source software by both using it in our work and supporting others who are a part of the community. Some of our greatest efforts such as Make It Your Own and America’s Giving Challenge succeeded because open source software enabled us to move quickly and experiment with new ideas without having to start from scratch. We were also early supporters of groups such as Code for America which produces open source software and organizes communities of citizens to also create and contribute open source solutions for their towns and cities.

And we are now building all the software we produce for specific campaigns with an eye on making them open sourced as well. For example, we have provided the open sourcing code from our #FacesofFounders campaign allowing any organization to launch a similar campaign focusing on user-generated content. And this year, we plan to release even more open source projects produced through our broader work here at the Case Foundation. We hope that–along with many others–we can help the social sector see the benefits of open source, spark innovation, accelerate social good and ultimately help change the world.

We hope you will join us.

How can nonprofits plan for growth and impact?

This post was written by Rohit Menezes on behalf of the Case Foundation:

Growing or scaling an organization and its impact in any sector is hard. All leaders face the day-to-day challenge of operations – what one of my heroes has called “the constant grind to get folk to do what they agreed to do.”

In the nonprofit sector, this challenge is compounded by scarce resources and an incomplete understanding of what works. In this context, simply thinking about growth is difficult, and planning for growth can feel like an indulgence.

In my experience, however, planning is a vital element of effectively scaling an organization and its impact. For nonprofits, there are many ways to learn about planning for scale including resources available at The Bridgespan Group’s website. In this same spirit, I want to share some practices I have noted of organizations that have scaled successfully as fuel for dialogue. They are:

  • Focusing on critical relationships
  • Embracing opportunism
  • Thinking exponentially

Focusing on critical relationships.

Fundamentally, you grow a business at the rate you are able to grow relationships. In the for profit world, customer relationships are paramount. In the nonprofit sector, relationships with funders, stakeholders, and political champions can make the difference for organizations. To grow effectively, organizations must “planfully” scale those relationships. In some cases, this means developing even more relationships. In others it means upgrading existing relationships to get the kind of engagement you need. Either way, it requires recognizing that relationships are critical catalysts for scaling and impact. Developing board members and re-developing the composition of a board over time creates ferment for growing a broader set of relationships – an approach taken by many organizations. At the same time, most organizations need to be even more focused on external stakeholder relationships.

One local affiliate of a national network in Texas took this challenge very seriously. Its funding historically had come mostly from special events, so it pushed to diversify its revenue sources through the cultivation of state government funders. But it encountered a problem: the organization’s leadership did not have any relationships in the state capital. To connect itself more purposefully to government funders, the affiliate actively recruited board members with the right relationships, including the former chairman of a critical state agency. It also created a position called honorary state chairman, which rotates bi-annually to a new appointee. A succession of powerful policymakers has held the position, including the attorney general and a U.S. senator, helping to contribute to a dramatic increase in government funding.

Embracing opportunism.

Sometimes growth and scale come not from formal planning, but from flexibly identifying and responding to the right opportunities. An organization’s ability to respond to opportunities is shaped by many factors – including decision-making processes and IT infrastructure. Advance thinking and planning around goals, and the ways and means of achieving them, can allow an organization to contextualize opportunities, respond swiftly and appropriately to the unanticipated, and be “strategically opportunistic.”

Thinking exponentially.

Scaling impact is about more than replication. At Bridgespan, we have been asking the question: how do you get 100x impact with just 2x the organization? To answer this question, leaders need to think creatively about leverage – from the use of technology, to scaling leadership or sharing knowledge, that create a true ripple effect. Think advocacy, or new technology such as social networking. I increasingly hear clients and others speak of “starting a movement” as opposed to providing “just” direct service. Bridgespan’s managing partner Jeff Bradach wrote of this in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in June describing among other examples KaBOOM!, which helps communities build new playgrounds for children. In its first 10 years, KaBOOM! built nearly 750 playgrounds. But its reach was partly limited by the number of staff it could deploy to each site. Then KaBOOM! shifted from hands-on management to a Web-based platform that helps communities organize their projects. The result: approximately 4,000 more playgrounds in just three years.
But these are just three observations from my experience about scaling. What are yours?

Guest blogger Rohit Menezes works with the Bridgespan Group, where his recent client work and research has focused on youth development and place-based initiatives.

Charity athletic events: They hurt so good

This post was written by Nicola Beddow on behalf of the Case Foundation:

When it comes to raising funds and awareness for a good cause, some of the most popular events are ones that involve a little blood, sweat and tears. Marathons, distance biking, and run/walks top the list of charity athletic events. As co-founder and director of the Race for Hope 5k Run/Walk, I frequently get calls and requests for advice on organizing run/walks. I’m always happy to share experiences, resources and new fundraising ideas.

People are attracted to athletic fundraising events for many reasons – supporting a cause, getting in shape, accomplishing a goal and maybe even for the rewards that come from pain and suffering. In fact, Princeton University researchers Christopher Olivola and Eldar Shafir conducted a study at The Oppenheimer Lab that suggests people like to participate in fundraising activities that involve discomfort. Mr. Olivola attributed the results of the study to a phenomenon he dubbed the “martyrdom effect.” “When you have to work hard and suffer for a cause, then you become more involved and more motivated to help that cause,” he said. That could explain the appeal of charity triathlons, marathons and the latest craze: running up the stairwells of skyscrapers.

Fortunately, there are plenty of events for people at all fitness levels. The Race for Hope – DC, presented by Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers – a run/walk to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure and the National Brain Tumor Society draws over 8,000 participants, including many families. It’s inclusive – just about anyone can run or walk a 5k. The “martyrdom effect” can be seen at this level too. I often hear Race participants say “running or walking” is the least they can do in support of a loved one who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Charity athletic events are growing in participation and dollars raised. According to the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council, the top thirty “athon” programs generated more than $1.76 billion in gross revenue for charity last year, up from $1.64 billion in 2007 – a healthy 7.6% increase.

Here’s a look at the top five events from the Councils’ recent Run Walk Ride Thirty Study:

  • $430.0 million…(+5.9%)…Relay for Life…American Cancer Society
  • $125.5 million…(+0.4%…Team in Training…Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • $115.0 million…(-0.9%)…March for Babies…March of Dimes
  • $113.1 million…(+19.8%)…Race for the Cure…Susan G. Komen for the Cure
  • $110.0 million…(+26.5%)…Breast Cancer 3-Day…National Philanthropic Trust

Of course, program executives who responded to the study expressed concern about the economy this year. They hoped to use two strategies to drive growth: increased corporate team recruitment followed by providing individual participants with tools to raise more funds.

Key elements to a successful race include: a passion for the cause, a core group of talented and committed volunteers, and online fundraising and awareness building tools.

Volunteers with experience in media outreach, sponsorships and team building will be critical to your success. No one can tell a story, land a sponsorship or build a team better than someone who has been personally impacted by the cause.

Hire a running company to handle permitting, logistics and timing.

Make sure you have an online fundraising strategy. Some nonprofits use online fundraising software like Blackbaud/Kintera or Convio, while others build their own custom websites. Sites like or enable individuals to raise money for their special cause as they participate in an athletic event not directly connected to a charity. Social media tools are extending the reach of athletic event fundraising, as well. Nonprofits and individuals have set up Facebook Fan pages and Twitter accounts to help spread the word about their run or walk. See how we’ve used these tools for Race for Hope:

A new and welcome trend is the “greening” of athletic fundraising events. The running community is leading the way. While it takes extra effort and the costs are not cheap, there are considerable environmental benefits. Races are recruiting additional volunteers to help manage the recycling of thousands of plastic water bottles, containers and paper cups. They are featuring organic t-shirts, bio-degradable bib numbers and compost bins for banana and orange peels. Race directors are cutting back on printed race materials and encouraging participants to go online for information and registration.

It’s never been a better time to get fit, go green and support your favorite charity!

Here’s some great resources links:

Guest blogger Nicola (Nike) Beddow is the Director of Events at Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2), a Case Foundation partner organization.