I am part of supporting Compumentor's big NetSquared event, and they asked me to answer four key questions about the future of the web and the nonprofit sector. I had fun answering the questions, and also tapped the considerable brainpower and experience here at Benetech in answering the questions.
I'll just quote the last question and my answer, because these are really critical issues!
What's the bad news? What are the greatest barriers preventing web-based technology from producing social change?:
What's the great barrier to producing social change in general? Funding availability, especially to the most capable and dynamic groups. The web-based modifier doesn't change that fact.
A second issue is the difficulty in designing effective software for the social sector. The sector is reasonably balkanized, and market incentives don't provide enough push to make better software, with a few exceptions (i.e., fund raising software). Plus, the users are not developers, and so it's hard to understand what mission-critical tasks the software can effectively assist with.
Distribution in the broadest sense is the third big barrier. Building it doesn't make them come, generally. Marketing doesn't come naturally to most social change groups.
IP rights are the fourth significant barrier. When the money is not there, owners of intellectual property believe they cannot afford to go after socially oriented applications.
Although these are all barriers, people are working on each one of them and making progress. We just need to make even more progress!