Could charities open source their websites?

Could and should charities open source their websites? Would developers get involved more if they did?

This is a semi-formed opinion. If you know more about this stuff and would like to guide me to a fully-formed opinion let me know via our contact page.

There are a lot of really bad charity websites. It makes sense because most of these places have no money and only a handful of well meaning staff. Budgets are thin and paying to keep a website maintained seems like an extravagance.

Because a lot of them understand the importance of a good web presence they budget accordingly and will occasionally get professionals in, but these are rarely for long term engagements which means the site will get a lick of paint every couple of years at most.

Agencies and freelancers who take on charity websites obviously want to give them as much value as they can, but there are limits to how much stuff you can do for free.

One way charity websites could stay more up to date with the latest web developments would be if the site itself was open sourced.

The company that initially made the site would ask the charity if this was ok, and would act as maintainers (for a fee).

The charity would benefit from well meaning developers submitting fixes to help keep the site accessible, fast, and usable.

The developers would benefit from being able to showcase work they’ve done for a charity, which is a great CV addition for folk starting in the industry.

The original developers would benefit because they are on a small retainer to help keep tabs on the PRs coming their way, and would have complete say in what gets in.

It feels like this would be a win–win for all parties involved. I could even imagine sites being made to help get people involved with the charities that could use it the most.

Just a thought.


Since writing this article I’ve been contacted by Knowbility who pointed me in the direction of OpenAIR. OpenAir gives non-profits a chance to get some professional accessible web development and design for free.

Here is a better description, from their site;

OpenAIR is a global web accessibility challenge that pairs participating teams of web developers and designers with registered non-profits looking to create or improve their website. OpenAIR increases awareness of tools and techniques that make the Internet accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, by training professional web developers and designers in accessibility standards. OpenAIR then puts them to work, creating professionally designed websites for non-profit organizations.


If you’re interested I highly suggest you get involved.

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