The Non-Profit FOSS Institute (NPFI) is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports the development of free and open source software (FOSS) customized to fit the needs of individual non-profit organizations.
Most of these software products are developed by undergraduate student teams as part of a 1- or 2-semester course. Others are developed by NPFI itself. All NPFI software is provided freely to the non-profit. Click here for a list of all these products and their non-profit recipients.
An instructor-led student team may use the idea of a triad to develop the software itself. A triad is just a loose relationship among three participants — the team, the non-profit organization, and a software professional.
Using an agile development model called CO-FOSS, the team can create a customized software product that addresses a mission-critical need of the non-profit. The software professional then deploys and supports that product after the students are finished. NPFI’s role in this process may include any of the following:
- Helping a non-profit identify an outmoded clerical activity (e.g., volunteer scheduling) that new custom software could replace.
- Pairing the non-profit with a local instructor/student team.
- Providing grant support for the instructor to organize the project and guide the student team.
- Identifying a software developer to deploy and support the software after the students are finished.
Early examples of successful NPFI-inspired software projects at Bowdoin College include a 2008 volunteer scheduling system (Homebase), a 2011 room scheduling system (Homeroom), and a 2012 food donation recording and reporting system (Homeplate).
Recent examples of the viability and portability of this approach to other colleges and universities include 2012-2014 adaptations of Homeroom at St John’s University, a 2015 adaptation of Homebase at Whitman College, and a 2016 non-profit community web site at Green River College.
NPFI’s CO-FOSS approach contributes to both the education of future computer professionals and the inventory of software for non-profit organizations. Because the software is free and open source (FOSS), all source code and documentation is freely available for reuse and customization by other student teams, non-profits, and/or developers.