Why nonprofit organizations choose open source software

Open source software increases in importance as more European nonprofits shift to products like Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE.
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With tech and data safety awareness rising, open source software is becoming a go-to option for organizations of all classes more than ever. Nonprofit organizations are particularly vulnerable on the financial side while at the same time dealing with vital social and environmental issues.

This article observes the adoption of open source collaboration technologies in nonprofit organizations by using Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE as examples.

Transparency and security

Open source is basically democracy written in code: It liberates and democratizes knowledge, gives access to vital technology to governmental and social institutions in all communities, and pursues the idea of transparency.

People and organizations can access and reuse the software code. At the same time, contributors bear individual responsibility for the quality of their products and are more driven by initiative and ideas and much less by profit.

Open source applications are seen as more reliable than proprietary solutions with source code reserved to a single vendor who decides how user’s data is handled and is in many cases the only observing party to this process.

According to the latest State of Enterprise Open Source report, the enterprise use of open source is expected to grow with 79% of surveyed IT leaders willing to build up their use of open source in the next two years.

Universal access to collaborative tools

For decades, Microsoft and Google have been the de-facto standard for collaboration tools. But privacy and security concerns, together with a massive boost in cloud collaboration usage over the pandemic, have ramped up nonprofits' preference for open source tools.

For nonprofit organizations, open source is a way to cut expenses by providing their employees and contributors with core collaboration tools such as content management and sharing environments, online office, and communication tools to manage operations, organize data, and create content.

One example of an all-in-one system that sees constant growth in popularity among nonprofit organizations in Europe is Nextcloud. It is a free and secure sharing platform that combines document management space with various productivity add-ons. It also integrates with ONLYOFFICE Docs for document editing and collaboration functionality.

ONLYOFFICE and Nextcloud in practice

Over the past year, several nonprofit organizations with diversified profiles have joined the users of Nexcloud and ONLYOFFICE. Some are newly in business and some are switching from proprietary solutions seeking a better match to handle their jobs.


Sea-Watch is a rescue organization that provides emergency aid for civilians in the Mediterranean amidst the ongoing refugee crisis and has saved over 38,000 lives to date. It has deployed a collaborative system for its 90 employees and over 400 volunteers.

After having tried several free online solutions to maintain internal document flow and collaboration, Sea-Watch now relies on open source software to be more and more protective of the security and privacy of the organization’s data and the personal information of its employees and volunteers.

Sea-Watch finds the solution to this problem by combining the Nextcloud file sharing platform with ONLYOFFICE online editors to enable secure editing and collaboration on documents online using the organization’s own physical infrastructure.

Vegan in Leipzig

Vegan in Leipzig, a young activist association in Germany, advocates for animal rights and promotes a vegan diet and lifestyle. Around 100 people in the organization’s team work on creating vegan dining maps, scheduling and promoting related events, and uniting online communities to collect and organize all information for Leipzig’s vegan community and allies in one place.

Vegan in Leipzig has been using Nextcloud to facilitate the organization’s internal file management and content sharing. A reliable and free platform for community users, Nextcloud is built to provide a sharing space of required scale for distributed teams and incorporating online communication tools such as videoconferencing and chat.

In March 2021, the organization introduced its contributors to ONLYOFFICE editors integrated with Nextcloud for online collaboration on shared files, including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

“Our employees are almost 100% satisfied. For now, there have been no complaints, feature requests, or reports of technical problems. As an administrator, I would go even further and say that ONLYOFFICE is the part of our application landscape that requires by far the least maintenance,” says Christo H., a volunteer administrator with Vegan in Leipzig.


Among various nonprofit organizations grounded in helping struggling societal groups, one plays a vital role in the German social agenda: Wegweiser. The organization helps people with mental and physical disabilities integrate into society by dealing with daycare organizations, outpatient care, and school-to-employment transfer.

Wegwiser had been using SharePoint for managing its content and documentation, but with growing concerns for the privacy of processed data, the organization opted for a Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE combination to ensure full control over data in its own sovereign infrastructure. Wegweiser uses Nextcloud to document daily work, accounting and controlling, simultaneous document editing, and working with Microsoft Office-formatted documents.

Wrap up

The list can be continued by numerous nonprofit organizations that have recently become users of Nextcloud and ONLYOFFICE, including The German Life Saving Association, Foodsharing Austria, and International Youth Community Services.

Stories like this show that it’s not only cost-cutting that defines the value of open source for the global community but also the vitality of universal access to technology and knowledge.

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Public Relations manager at Ascensio System SIA, tech enthusiast, and an artist.

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