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Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's lesson plan: Using Alpha Five to power your nonprofit

There's nothing better than getting up in the morning and feeling like the work you do is making the world a better place. I can't say I feel that way every morning, but the day I got an e-mail from Alex Steinman, Education Director and Principal of the Harambee Christian School and head of education for the nonprofit Urban Concern in Columbus, Ohio, was one of those days.

That's when I learned that Alpha Five was powering a socially responsible application, which strengthens my sense that our technology is doing something meaningful in our world. You've heard me talk about how Alpha Five empowers the every man to do things once only available to professional programmers. Now here's a non-programmer who was able to use Alpha Five to build a Web database application from the ground up that is helping his organization in some fundamental ways.

About four years ago, Alex got the idea to build a database application for users to access information on the students and families the school and nonprofit serves. By definition, nonprofits are resource constrained, so Alex had to build the app himself. He certainly couldn't afford to hire a professional development team.

He started learning Microsoft Access, and built a database where users could remotely access the desktop app at various locations. Even at that time, Alex saw the advantages of using a Web application. He was ready to move from the desktop to the Web. When he looked at the Web-based options in Microsoft Access, he called them "pathetic."

Alex searched for a new platform to take his app to the cloud, and discovered Alpha Five. Using Alpha Five, Alex built his new Web app, Harambee Tracker. It meets all the needs Harambee and Urban Concern have, including housing contact information, group enrollment, attendance, tuition information, and other key metric data.

Because Alpha Five is so easy to use, yet so powerful, Alex didn't have to hire a developer to build his application. This saved his nonprofit thousands of dollars in development and ongoing maintainence costs. Alex has become such an Alpha Five pro that he's even baked in the new feature packs into a redesign he's rolling out in the next few weeks.

I asked Melissa, the voice of the Alpha Software podcasts, to get the full story of Alex's app in his own words. Melissa produced a podcast with Alex and found out how he went from Access to Alpha Five, the steps he took to build his Web application, how he's utilizing the feature packs, what he plans on doing to the app next, and much more.

Slide on your headphones or download the podcast to your MP3 player, and listen to it to see how Alex went from educator, to part-time developer, to problem-solver for the whole organization. If you're a nonprofit looking for an affordable way to build a database application, you'll find this podcast very valuable. Also, don't forget that we offer special discounts to nonprofits.

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