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Lew Moorman is the CEO of Rackspace, a company that operates computer data centers for companies. Rackspace’s business, while touching racks and racks of servers, is concerned primarily with less glamorous things—electricity, for one, and air conditioning. You might think that Moorman leaves the software to his clients, which include lots of internet startups among the longer-established firms. Yet more and more, Lew says, Rackspace finds itself in the software business.

Cloud computing has Rackspace investing in its in-house software development, but there are lots of different examples. Lew cites Hewlett-Packard, which has turned some of its best-selling calculators into iPhone applications and admits that it may get out of the calculator-with-buttons business in the future.

All of which got me thinking of how the trend toward software affects the nonprofit business.

  • KaBOOM! uses web and iPhone applications to gather playground data from volunteers to support its mission of expanding playspaces for kids
  • The Extraordinaries makes another iPhone application that lets folks volunteer in their spare minutes—using just their phone
  • All For Good brings together volunteering opportunities nationwide into one searchable list

One might wonder how any of this software is going to stock the local food pantry. I don’t know—yet. But in my ignorance, I can imagine how more efficient inventory management might let volunteers spend their time fundraising, rather than distributing. Or, thinking differently, that stocking the pantry shelves might not be fundamental. Isn’t the real problem hunger? And couldn’t that problem be solved by money or by food? Or by jobs?

Now I don’t know the food pantry business, so I am sure to be wrong about all of these questions. But isn’t this the time to be asking the right questions about your nonprofit business?

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