What is an API and Do I Need One?

by The Campaign Workshop

what is an api

Can I get by without an API for my nonprofit campaign?

Sometimes jargon prevents us from learning about useful tools. Recently I had a conversation with a client who asked me what is an API?  An API, or application program interface, is a portal to allow connection between databases, apps, or programs.

If you are trying to share data across platforms, an application program interface can make a lot of sense.

But all API’s are not created equally. Just because someone has one for their system does not mean it is an open API. An open application program interface is a portal that is built with protocol to allow for a wide range of data to be easily transmitted between sites.

Many folks throttle or control the amount of data that comes from an API, and some folks have an application program interface that will not give you the main data that comes from that application. So if you think you may need one, work with someone on the tech end to determine what you need and then negotiate with the company you want the API from and the company you want data to go to. But remember, you need to do some research on what your needs are and if the data will connect the way you want.

As our worlds become more linked, more folks are trying to more easily solve these problems. Many companies like Zapier allow you to link data for a limited purpose. It is a great tool and worth looking at if you have a simple function you want, such as to get your database to talk to your newsletter service.

Need more tips for nonprofits? Do you have more questions about if you need an API- application program interface for your nonprofit or organization? Ask them here.