Re: Introduction and offer of help
Since I do volunteer work at my church, I've found it difficult to pry
them away from propriatary software because it's often so specialized.
If you'd like, we could start a collaboration in this area with the
eventual goal of a subset of apps available to church's special needs.
My name is Chris Gebhardt, from Pittsburgh, PA in the US. I am an independent
consultant with a future goal of focusing solely on low-cost,
free-software-based solutions for non-profit organizations (primarily
churches, but certainly not limited to). I'm also an avid Debian fan, so
this project caught my eye immediately. :) I myself am working on a project
called OpenServe (http://www.openserve.org) as a collaboration point /
rallying call for meeting non-profit software needs. The webpage needs some
updating, but it at least gives my overall vision.
As for development, I am the lead programmer for a project called InfoCentral
(http://www.infocentral.org), which I inherited when the guys who started it
didn't have time to maintain it. It is GPL licensed and written in PHP as a
simple intranet web application. The original focus of the project was to
create a church membership database, but it is expanding far beyond that and
I know of several people using it with various non-profit groups. (Note:
there's a slightly outdated demo on the homepage if you want to see what
The features I intend to develop in the future for InfoCentral match closely
the proposed needs for the Debian-NP project. The overall goal for the
InfoCentral is to become a flexible, all-in-one, easy to use solution for all
Up to this point, the work on InfoCentral has been focused on providing
flexible storage for all possible member information for an organization.
There also now exists the beginnings of a donations tracking system and some
basic reports. In the (hopefully) near future, I intend to develop and/or
integrate the following features:
- more complete donations, pledge, and fundraising system
- basic accounting and budgeting features
- member coordination for tracking/matching skills and managing volunteer work
- contact and relationship management
- equipment, supplies, vehicle, and facility inventory and reservations (such
as reserving rooms and AV equipment for meetings, etc.)
- event information, scheduling, attendance, and registration system
- basic groupware features for staff: webmail, internal memos, tasks, contact
management integration, calendar scheduling, etc.
- online portal system for the organization's public website: easy-to-use CMS
features, public events calendar, online donations, directory of members,
moderated forums, etc.
- complete per-record user/group permissions system
- adopt a proper 3-tier design for the whole project. (ie. Client, Application
Server, Data) Right now, InfoCentral is more or less a collection of simple
PHP<->MySQL scripts. I intend to design a robust XML-based application
server so we can develop non-web clients as well. This will need a bit of
research however. Suggestions greatly appreciated as there are so many
possible directions to go here!
From my experience, this type of software is without question THE killer app
for non-profits. If we want to drive free software in this sector, I believe
this must be the focus. It is a very big goal and there is a lot of work to
do. The possibility of collaborating with others on this excites me because
I'm finding that's far more than I can handle myself.
So there you have it. Sorry that was kinda long. Looking to forward to
working with you all in the future in whatever capacities I can.