For twenty years, Breakthrough Technologies has worked with associations, nonprofits, philanthropies, and other forward-thinking organizations to develop software and apps that meet their needs. We've worked with groups of all sizes and have learned that, especially in the philanthropy space, budget constraints render most custom apps prohibitively expensive. Even if the solution is relatively simple, paying for a custom app is well beyond the means of many organizations.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the United States is careening toward a major shortage of software developers. Our schools of computer science can't churn out software developers fast enough, and some projections suggest there'll be a shortfall of a million developers by 2020 — just two years from now.
Some of that shortfall can be addressed by offshoring, but even that won't be enough. There's a silver lining to this looming crisis, though. While the demand for specialty coders is growing even as the supply shrinks, new technologies are allowing organizations to take development into their own hands through "no-code" graphical tools.
For philanthropies and nonprofits, no-code and low-code is a game changer, in that it allows them to custom build their own applications without needing to have a computer scientist or software developer on staff. Indeed, so-called citizen software development is a trend that's morphing into a wave, and nonprofits and foundations would be wise to jump on and embrace it.
What's a citizen developer? In short, he or she is an ordinary user of your site or service who is empowered with tools and platforms to build a customizable application that solves a unique problem specific to your organization. By using no-code and low-code tools, he or she can create application software that meets virtually any need you might have.
Of course, what many associations and nonprofit organizations really need is a simple data management solution which addresses the fact that they have more data to manage than ever before, and that the tools they currently used to manage that data — things like spreadsheets and digital filing systems — are increasingly unwieldy. That's why low-code solutions can be a real asset to philanthropies and nonprofits that need a technology-forward, versatile, and budget-friendly way of doing things.
The problem, until now, is that there weren't a lot of customizable systems out there that give users a simple interface to manage, compile, track, aggregate, sort, collate, and tabulate their data. So we built one.
Most business applications are focused on one of two things: allowing users to manage data and allowing users to manage documents. But we built a platform called Loco that streamlines and integrates both processes, and at the same time provides access to your data and documents from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
If you're a nonprofit, Loco is a one-stop shop that allows you to manage multiple processes. Looking to build a donor database and track the donations you receive? Loco makes it easy to do both. Want to build an HR system that tracks employee attendance, salaries, and benefits? Loco can do it. Want to build an IT system that tracks and triages requests from across your organization or association and allows you to manage information generated in weekly team meetings, including agendas, attendees, minutes, and follow-up items? No problem. Our platform can be used to build all these apps, and more.
For budget-conscious organizations, Loco is an efficient solution that allows your organization to meet any need it might have. It can replace complex digital filing systems, which, with the increased adoption of low-code and no-code technologies, may soon become a thing of the past. Loco also is simple enough for a CEO, HR Officer, IT department head, project manager, or anyone else to learn.
As we've seen over and over again, it doesn't take long to get the hang of low-code development, and once you're familiar with the platform, you can design an app, deploy it to the cloud, and start collaborating immediately. You can also tailor your applications to your unique organizational needs and bundle them all into a single interface. And, to make it even easier, you can install pre-built apps from Loco's App Library to get yourself up and running quickly.
We built Loco with nonprofits in mind. After hearing from one too many organizations that $50,000 for a custom software solution was out of the question, we sat down to develop one that costs as little as $100 a month. And that's what we've done.
In the process, we've become evangelists for citizen software development, which we see as being truly transformative for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Many nonprofits are already looking for custom software solutions, and if they aren't, they will be soon. The time for them to embrace and adopt low-code and no-code technologies has arrived. The question is whether they'll take that leap into the future, or remain stuck in the past.
Doug Wilson is a managing partner at Breakthrough Technologies, an award-winning software solutions provider.