Your nonprofit isn’t all that different from any small business. Sure, your goals may be slightly different, but the ways in which you work toward those goals are actually quite similar.
Likewise, you probably also face a lot of the same organizational challenges as a small business and seek similar software solutions to address them.
Nonprofits also differ from SMBs in another key regard: Your charitable status qualifies you for discounted software, allowing you to afford technological solutions that might otherwise be too expensive.
In this article, we’ll highlight important nonprofit software discounts and other tools available that can help charitable organizations afford these useful systems.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
The Unique Software Needs of Nonprofits
Whereas many small businesses begin with at least one person on their staff who is familiar with IT (or at least has experience working with business software), smaller nonprofits often lack even these IT resources.
As such, they not only need software for their operations, but also require a great deal of advice and support when it comes to choosing and implementing that software.
According to Jim Lynch, a staff writer at TechSoup (an organization we’ll discuss in depth in the next section), “People who are starting a charity usually have 25 pressing technology needs.”
Rather than allowing themselves to become overwhelmed by this, he recommends identifying one crucial problem. “[Start with] the first thing that’s really killing you in your IT and then work on that one little thing until you’ve gotten on top of that.”
“Oftentimes,” he adds, “that’s just your website. Because charities have to fundraise and go after individual donors, their website is actually critical for that.”
Nonprofit websites need to be optimized, but not just for SEO and user experience purposes. They must also draw in donors and move them to commit to helping fund the organization.
Once those donors are on board, however, another frequent nonprofit pain point comes to the fore—donor management. According to Lynch, “There is an array of donor management software tools that . . . do a lot of different things to manage donors and communicate with them and keep them interested.”
These software tools can help nonprofits with one of their biggest problems, which is donor retention.
Lynch notes that well over half of all donors only give to an organization once, rather than providing recurring donations, which nonprofits rely on to survive.
Donor management software can help with this problem, organizing and scheduling donor outreach to optimize its effectiveness so that you don’t, as Lynch puts it, “spam them and make them hate you.”
TechSoup Provides Product Donations and Education
The reason Lynch knows so much about nonprofit software needs is because he works for TechSoup, one of the leading nonprofit organizations that helps charities meet their technological needs.
As he explains, most nonprofits start with nothing—no staff, no budget, sometimes even no business experience—except for a passion for their cause. That’s where services such as the ones TechSoup provides come in:
“Our job at TechSoup is really to try to professionalize these charitable organizations.”
Jim Lynch, staff writer, Tech Soup
That professionalization, which aims to make nonprofits’ processes more streamlined and formalized, largely comes in the form of two programs—product donations and education.
TechSoup is probably most famous for their product donations program, wherein they serve as a middleman between large software vendors that want to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and charities.
Vendors supply software to TechSoup as a donation grant. Then, TechSoup does the work of validating nonprofits and providing the software to them at a huge discount, sometimes as low as 5 percent of retail cost. Rather than going to the vendors, that fee goes back to TechSoup itself to support their operations
With eight million donations distributed across the globe, TechSoup has saved nonprofits over $7.2 billion, with an average of $17,100 saved by individual donation recipients, according to senior specialist of strategic communications, Franziska Marks.
Lynch notes that, with the transition of many software services to a cloud-based model, TechSoup’s product donations program has seen some recent shifts.
He explains that, “hard costs are bigger for companies on providing cloud services, so we’re becoming more of a discounter, whatever we can negotiate with a big company,” rather than being able to provide software at a flat percentage of retail cost.
For small nonprofits with no IT resources or technical staff, simply acquiring software isn’t always enough. They also need support for implementing and learning to use the software.
As Lynch explains, “We get lots and lots of calls from people. And our education arm does articles and trainings and online courses, webinars, all that kind of stuff, to train people on how to use all of this stuff.”
Through this free educational outreach, TechSoup aims to show nonprofits the importance of investing time and effort into software training and adoption, and not just securing the software itself. In doing so, they will lower their overall costs in the long term.
Idealware Offers Free Software Training
For education resources, Lynch also recommends, Idealware, a nonprofit that he says provides “world-class, free information.”
According to Idealware’s mission statement, they “collaborate with nonprofit technology experts to uncover and synthesize vast amounts of original research, so that you can focus more of your time on what matters most—your organization’s mission.”
Though they don’t directly deal with vendors like TechSoup does, they focus on providing “impartial, thoroughly-researched and easy-to-understand resources to help nonprofits use technology to create greater social impact in our communities.”
They do this in a variety of ways, including publications and e-books, assessments and trainings.
Conclusions and Next Steps
Getting started as a nonprofit isn’t easy, but the long-term results—making a positive impact on your community—are well worth it.
Software vendors recognize this too, which is why they work with organizations like TechSoup to provide cheaper rates and easier access to their systems. It’s also why TechSoup, Idealware and we here at Software Advice want to help you figure out how to choose the best system for your needs and then properly implement and use it.
Here are some next steps to take as you consider your own nonprofit software needs:
- Read user reviews of the top nonprofit software to see how other nonprofit organizations feel about different vendors.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own nonprofit software needs might be and to connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!