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Houdini build

Note: This is the latest version (pre-2.0) of Houdini and is currently in HEAVY development. You may want to use v1 instead.

The Houdini Project is free and open source fundraising infrastructure. It includes...

  • Crowdfunding campaigns
  • Donate widget page and generator
  • Fundraising events
  • Nonprofit Profiles
  • Nonprofit payment history and payouts dashboard
  • Nonprofit recurring donation management dashboard
  • Nonprofit metrics overview / business intelligence dashboard
  • Nonprofit supporter relationship management dashboard (CRM)
  • Nonprofit org user account management
  • Simple donation management for donors

The frontend is written in a few custom frameworks, the largest of which is called Flimflam. We endeavor to migrate to React as quickly as possible to increase development comfort and speed.

All new backend code and React components well tested.


Houdini is designed and tested to run with the following:

  • Ruby 2.6
  • Node 14
  • Yarn
  • PostgreSQL 10 or 12
  • Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04 or equivalent

Get involved

Houdini's success depends on you!

Join our Zulip chat

Help with translations

Visit the Internationalization channel on Houdini Zulip and discuss

Dev Setup

Tips for specific circumstances

  • Docker: Docker was previously used for development of Houdini. See for more info.
  • Mac: Mac dev setup may require some unique configuration. See for more info.

Installation prep

Houdini requires a few pieces of software be installed, as well as some optional pieces which make development much easier.

These include:

  • PostgreSQL 12 (10 probably works)
  • NodeJS 14 (we require 14 because we want the full internationalization built-in)
  • Ruby 2.6.6 (NOTE: the default of Ruby 2.7.1 in Debian should function but you will receive a ton of deprecation warnings from Ruby)

There a few optional tools which make working on Houdini easier

  • Ruby Version Manager (RVM) - RVM makes it simple to switch between versions of Ruby for different projects. Additionally, you can use different "gemsets" per version so you can separate the state of a set of different projects. It will also switch versions at the console when you change to a directory for an project prepared for RVM, like Houdini.
  • Automatic Version Switching for Node (AVN) - similar to RVM, AVN makes it simple to switch between versions of Node. When properly configured, it automatically switches version at the console whe you change to a directory for a project prepared for AVN, like Houdini.

One-time setup

You'll want to run the next commands as root or via sudo (for Ubuntu 18.04 users or anyone running ProgresSQL 10, change "postgresql-12" below to "postgresql-10"). You could do this by typing sudo /bin/sh running the commands from there.

apt update
apt install curl -yy
curl -sL | bash -
curl -sS | apt-key add -
echo "deb stable main" | tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/yarn.list
apt update
apt install git postgresql-12 libpq-dev libjemalloc-dev libvips42 yarn -yy

You'll run the next commands as your normal user.

Note: in the case of a production instance, this might be your web server's user.

Note: We use RVM to have more control over the exact version of Ruby. For development, it's also way easier because you can use a consistent version of Ruby (and different sets of installed gems) for different projects. You could also use rbenv or simply build ruby from source.

Note: We don't recommend using Ruby 2.7, the current Ubuntu default at this time. Ruby 2.7 will function but spits out tons of deprecation warnings when using Rails applications.

Note: We recommend building Ruby with jemalloc support as we do in these instructions. In practice, it manages memory far more efficiently in Rails-based projects.

Tip: To get out of the root shell, run exit

# add rvm keys
curl -sSL | gpg --import -
curl -sSL | gpg --import -
curl -sSL | bash -s stable
source $HOME/.rvm/scripts/rvm
echo 'source "$HOME/.rvm/scripts/rvm"' >> ~/.bashrc
rvm install 2.6.6 --disable-binary --with-jemalloc

Run the following command as the postgres user and then enter your houdini_user password at the prompt.

Note: For development, Houdini expects the password to be 'password'. This would be terrible for production but for development, it's likely not a huge issue.

Tip: To run this, add sudo -u postgres to the beginning of the following command.

createuser houdini_user -s -d -P

Now that we have all of our prerequisites prepared, we need to get the Houdini code.

git clone

This will download the latest Houdini code. Change to the houdini directory and we can set the rest of Houdini up.

Let's run the Houdini project setup and we'll be ready to go!


Note: The .env file holds your environment variables for development; on production you might have these set somewhere else other than this file.

Tip: On Heroku, the environment variables are set in your Dashboard.

Also, you should set the STRIPE_API_KEY and STRIPE_API_PUBLIC environment variables which you'd get from the Stripe dashboard. On your development environment, make sure to use test keys. If you don't, you're going to be charged real money!


To verify everying is set up correctly, you can try running through the test cases:

./bin/rails spec

You should expect to see the output of the test execution, including messages about pending test cases, and eventually get the output to the effect of below:

Finished in 6 minutes 25 seconds (files took 10.35 seconds to load)
2433 examples, 0 failures, 42 pending

Coverage report generated for RSpec to .../houdini/coverage. 10552 / 12716 LOC (82.98%) covered.

The important thing to look for is that the number of failures is zero.


bin/rails server You can connect to your server at http://localhost:5000

Super admin

There is a way to set your user as a super_admin. This role lets you access any of the nonprofits on your Houdini instance. Additionally, it gives you access to the super admin control panel to search all supporters and nonprofits, which is located at /admin url.

To create the super user, go to the rails console by calling:

bin/rails console

In the console, run the following:

admin=User.find(1) #or the id of the user you want to add the role
role=Role.create(user:admin,name: "super_admin")

Known Issues

For a list of how to solve known issues

Run in production

You will likely want to make a few changes in your configuration of Houdini before running in production as you would for any Rails project. These include:

  • Using a different ActiveJob backend. NOTE: The Sneakers for RabbitMQ doesn't work properly. There are forks of Sneakers which might work but they haven't been tested. If you do test them please let us know!
  • Use a proper cache store. The development uses memory_store which isn't shared between processes or server and clears every time your server software restarts. Memcached or Redis are good choices here.

Providing the complete corresponding source code

Note: This is not legal advice and provides a suggestion which may be compliant. You should talk with your legal counsel if you have questions or concerns with how to comply with the various licenses of Houdini.

Providing the complete, corresponding source code (CCS) of your project is a requirement of some of the licenses used by Houdini. There are two methods for doing so right now:

  1. Providing a tarball of the current running code
  2. Providing a link to Github where the code is pulled from

The easiest method is to provide a tarball. Houdini automatically provides a link on the Terms & Privacy page which generates a tarball for the current running code at runtime. For this to work though, the following characteristics must be true:

  • Your have to have committed any changes you made to the project in HEAD in your git repository
  • The .git folder for your repository must be a direct subfolder of your $RAILS_ROOT
  • Your web server must be able to run git archive
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