Book Review: The Idealware Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits

The Idealware Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits is a compact, 80-page introduction to the sometimes confusing world of software programs and web tools that nonprofits often leverage to maximize their impact. The Field Guide provides a basic overview of key terms and products, and would be most useful for novice or “accidental” techies who are hoping to familiarize themselves with the landscape. Anyone who is feeling a little lost after suddenly being charged with producing their organization’s new podcast series or developing a “search engine optimization” strategy will benefit from flipping through the pages of this small, accessible book. More experienced technology professionals will find the book is too basic, though they might learn about a few software programs they hadn’t been aware of.

The Guide is broken into three sections, and the structure allows the reader to quickly find what they’re looking for. The first section describes five functional areas of particular interest to nonprofits, and what categories of technology can be useful in each area: raising money, constituent outreach, event management, supporter engagement, and “listening and measuring,” along with a few pages on fundamental tools that are critical for all organizations. The second section is a set of fictional case studies, ranging from a small start-up with a $100,000 budget to an established $3.5 million organization with a sophisticated technology strategy. The final section provides a high level overview of specific software programs in each broad category, though it does not provide detailed analyses or reviews. For that, readers might want to visit the Idealware website which features in-depth research and product reviews. The website is an incredibly useful resource for both accidental techies and experienced IT professionals alike.

Individual copies of the Field Guide are available for $19.95 on Lulu. Additionally, organizations can purchase licenses to distribute larger quantities of the book to their networks. In this case, the Guide can be co-branded with your organization’s logo, a custom introduction page, information about your organization, and a customized set of resources for more information. For an additional fee, the Field Guide can be tailored specifically to your network. The content can be edited to speak directly to your organization’s typical processes and software needs, and can feature additional case studies and software ideas.

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[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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