For many years, nonprofit organizations have turned to Open Atrium to make organizational collaboration easier. From USAID managing aid efforts in disparate areas of the world; to volunteers connecting in Haiti following natural disaster; to neighborhood and community development organizations connecting residents with resources -- collaboration is absolutely key for nonprofits.
So it’s no wonder that an open source tool like Open Atrium fit the bill and that nonprofits became one of the biggest user groups for Open Atrium 1.0. When we built Open Atrium 2.0, we kept nonprofits and their collaboration needs in mind, improving on some of the 1.x features with better information privacy and group management, without losing the features they rely on most, like document sharing and an events calendar.
James Carlson is the founder of The School Factory, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the business, education, and creative communities together to transform public learning. He also runs Bucket Brigade, which teaches organizations how to use social technology tools for effective collaboration. He has experience helping more than 50 organizations get started using Open Atrium.
This week, we sat down with him to learn how nonprofits use Open Atrium, and what they’re looking forward to in the new 2.x version.
Q. What are the ways you see nonprofits using Open Atrium?
A. Non-profit organizations can gain benefits from using Open Atrium for operations, strategic planning, board relations, volunteer engagement, and fund development.
Q. You mention that you see nonprofits use Open Atrium for better relationships with their Board of Directors. Can you explain how?
A. With Open Atrium, you can set up a private space or section in your installation and invite your board members. The information and documents (such as bylaws, financial statements, and meeting minutes) can be stored and viewed securely by board members. No more thick board books that no one reads, and that cost a fortune to print! Plus, it’s a more collaborative way to interact with your board, rather than just reporting to them once a quarter. Some of the organizations we’ve worked with even conduct board meetings within Open Atrium, voting on issues as they arise.
Q. What are your nonprofit clients looking forward to in Open Atrium 2.x?
A. The new depth of spaces and sections will allow nonprofits greater flexibility in designing their community than the Groups functionality of version 1. Another of the features they’re excited about is the new Messaging and Notifications set-up in Open Atrium. The activity stream is more controllable and feels more “human-readable,” so you can see more of what’s really happening in your organization. Also, the general usability of what we’re seeing in 2.x, and the ability to truly customize it for each organization’s needs, is really exciting to see.
Q. What are the challenges that you see with nonprofits moving to Open Atrium 2.x?
A. Like any new software tool, understanding how it’s set up is really key. The new spaces, sections, groups, and teams paradigm in Open Atrium 2.x is really powerful and flexible; but it is going to take some learning! Organizations will need to think about how they set up their site before jumping into it, so that they get the most out of these tools.
If you’re interested in learning just exactly how nonprofits use Open Atrium, come join us for a webinar Tuesday, June 25 at 12:30 ET. You’ll hear stories directly from the field from James and his colleague Dan Adams from the nonprofit organization Layton Boulevard West Neighborhoods in Milwaukee, WI. Then, we’ll give you a demo and show you how to get started with Open Atrium for your own organization.