Common Back End Software/Process + Software Tools to Help Get Sleep (Common Software)


Facilitator Siamack


  • Siamack – apple, worked for company that build apps, then infrastructure. Not a programmer, but seen 200 large-scale implementations, 800 small-scale implementations
  • Bill – similar background but do know how to code – 20 years at HP, currently mgmt. consultant, working w/companies on biz strategies. Lots of experience working with non-profits on adopting systems, emphasis on IT systems to make the “overall” system run better (the people system).

Why Build / Use Software?

  • Tracking inventory
  • For Productivity (if SW can do something, you don’t have to)
  • Data Management (ex – data can be very impt for grant applications and how to tell your org’s story)
  • Manage people (volunteers, staff, etc)
  • Customer Service (could go to volunteers, donors, etc — thank you’s, etc)

Overall Model: SW – why?

  1. productivity – by-product is the data – to use
  2. Strategic development – help in making decisions – data on particular things, help you make the best decisions for the future.

SW Options for non-corporate America:

  1. Write your own / pay someone to do it
    1. Pro: custom – get it the way you want it
    2. Con: cost (money or time), need to have the skills, bugs, changing technology. Limited to your vision.
  2. Buy
    1. Pro: time to market, shop for features,
    2. Con: can get outdated (unless maintenance fee/upgrades free), need to adapt your processes (not customized)
  3. Rent
    1. Pro: time to market, shop for features, maintenance usually included
    2. Con: recurring cost
  4. Open source
    1. Pro: free (?),
    2. Con: learning curve, time investment, how good is the fit?, extensibility
  5. Open Source SW that is sold (see Buy above for Pros/Cons) – example Drupal for Community management, or WordPress for a website.
  6. Leveraging Google / other free sources
    1. Pro: free,
    2. Con: Point solutions – different components (mapping, web/email, inventory, etc). Work required to “connect”.

Building a Common System –

  • Siamack agenda part 1 – believes best use of time, share knowledge / design of what we need (not building it yet – just sharing the design). Even the design helps with other people using as a template to get started (in whatever tool approach they will end up using). Documentation is critical to this.  Part 2 – how do we fund something like this (building an application that will meet a lot of needs)
  • Interjected – to get round-robin on what people are using today

What people are using for interfaces:

  • Marin Organic – Kerry: Google (mostly for everything). National Gleaning Day – Google maps for location, Google docs for volunteer signups
  • Sonoma County – Crop Mobster – post gleanings, more like a listserv
  • Sarah: Google Sites / Google Calendar / Google Forms – website – volunteer registration (like VH)  feeds into a Google spreadsheet. Home signup to sign up the trees. Add extra columns for harvest tracking, other property notes (adding to registration listing)
  • Food Forward:  Built out own SW – also use Google docs – slowly building administrative backend (but still using Google docs for primary. Org at stage where starting to invest in SW.
  • Constant Contact – for emails out to people. Suggestion: Event Spot (extra $10/month)
  • Harvest Sacramento: Salesforce – initially using for gleaning, now using for entire organization – paying someone to design it to work for trees, volunteers, etc. Also using Event Bright (spelling may be incorrect), and Constant Contact. Would be happy to share system design once it is in better shape.
  • Example story around Software Selection:
    • Bill – story about needing to get off old SW solution: suggested initially (owner invested $1B in it). Free license for non-profit orgs. However after examining – decided not to go down that route – as it’s really focused on Sales (didn’t really “fit” for non-profits)
    • Donor Perfect – cloud-based (now) software package – small thing (relative to Salesforce) – so not as great at look and feel, etc — but very tuned to Donors
  • Many use – takes multiple things (spreadsheet input), put it in a Google Map. (shows all the different locations on the map with details)
  • Salem Harvest – Dick Yates – SW available as a service – for this purpose.
    • Caroline – using it as a pilot. Discovering a lot of things that are different, but the bulk of things were similar. Three different tables – crops, volunteers, harvest.    Repeat harvest – easy to add another session. Ways that people can sign up (crops – backyard grower vs farm glean). For Caroline’s org: patching things together – now able to print out a roster, people can cancel themselves, etc. So increased efficiency. Dick very into documentation – so a lot of that incorporated.


What people would like to know out of the session:

  • Sarah: Expense tracking – what do people use?
  • Sarah: Info: Encouraging people to use “Share my position” to ID their trees that they want to get harvested. How to integrate into Google?

Broader Umbrella of Scope beyond Gleaning

Sarah: Building system around food resiliency. Tracking – who interested in food skills (educational level). Different interests of different people – want to be able to vector in to ask potential “prospects” what they are interested in and serving up the questions to get more info on those areas.

Challenges: People at different stages in their organizational growth – how to create SW that meets timing, etc of different orgs.

Bill suggestion as a next step – finding a way of creating a connection point – starting a blog, starting a listserv. At a minimum, sharing stories, potentially moving to a simple set of steps on things to consider when evaluating systems. Using the “we’re all in this together” mentality.