Exchanging data – April 30 debut

By Todd Cohen

The charitable world is poised to join the ranks of roughly 300 other vertical markets that have established industry-wide open standards for online transactions.

Set for release April 30, version 1 of the new OPX standard is designed to seamlessly link online fundraising data with software that manages donor data and relationships.

OPX is the product of the Open Philanthropy Exchange, a consortium of 30 nonprofits and e-philanthropy firms that have worked together to establish a standard based on programming codes developed last year by software vendors Blackbaud, Charitableway and MyAssociation.com.

Version 1, which anyone can download for free, uses Extensible Markup Language, or xml, which lets different computers, software and Web sites share data and talk to one another without having to use the same language or applications.

Currently, industries ranging from travel to financial services have adopted open standards to ease the transfer of data between and among any parties in that industry subscribing to the standards.

OPX is designed to save time and money that users otherwise might spend trying to integrate different software products, such as those for receiving online donations with those for managing donor data, says Paulette Maehara, chairman of the OPX Forum and president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, formerly the National Society of Fund Raising Professionals.

Shaun Sullivan, chief technology officer at Blackbaud and a co-author of the draft OPX standard, says the main use of version 1 probably will be the transfer of Web-based online fundraising data to computer-based donor software.

Future versions, he says, will boost broader integration of systems, whether Web-based or not, such as the simple exchange of data on computer discs between organizations using different software programs.

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