4 Reasons Popular Nonprofit Software May Not Be Right For You

Nonprofit Software

Everybody wants a mansion, right? A big, beautiful 10,000 square foot home with a pool and a tennis court?

But what if you live alone and can’t afford maids, a pool service, and landscape artist? Would it be worth it to have that mansion considering the additional costs, and the fact that you’d probably only use one or two of the rooms? Maybe… but not without giving it some serious thought.

Same goes for software. Just because your pals at big nonprofits are using a certain solution, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Here are four reasons the most popular nonprofit software (and that mansion) may not be what’s best for you.

It Has Features You Don’t Need

Just like you don’t need that 6th bedroom, you may also not need certain features provided by popular nonprofit software. Many of the big name solutions have a suite full of features you may be just fine without.

For example, if you’re already using QuickBooks (and are happy with it), you probably don’t need accounting features (although you may need the ability to integrate with QuickBooks). You may find other functions, like volunteer management, fundraising, and donor management would be nice, but don’t justify a higher price tag, and can be handled well with your current processes.

It Doesn’t Fit Within Your Budget

Those rooms don’t come for free. Another reason not to get the biggest, baddest nonprofit software is the cost. Nonprofit software can range in price from free (for a set number of users) to several thousand dollars a month.

As a nonprofit, you’re working for a cause. Don’t take money away from what matters to pay for things you don’t need.

It’s Difficult to Actually Use

An electronic fireplace is cool, but not when you’re intimidated by all the buttons it takes to actually turn it on. Similarly, if the software you select is hard to use, nobody’s going to use it.

That’s why you need to find a solution that fits your particular users. For example, if your volunteers aren’t the most tech savvy, maybe you want to look for software with a quick learning curve. Something more basic that people can catch onto quickly.

You should also consider whether you want web-based or installed software. If you don’t have reliable internet access in your office or in the field, you may want to consider something in-house.

It’s Tough to Get Support

Sometimes you just don’t mesh with the way the homeowners association operates. Make sure your nonprofit’s personality matches that of the software company you choose. Some only offer support over email. Others take phone calls, but may take more than 24 hours to respond.

Think about how your nonprofit operates and make sure you find the software solution with the support to match.

Bonus Tip: Buy Something You Can Grow Into

The same way you don’t want to move to a new house every other year, you don’t want to change software again either. One specific thing to think about is the depth of your member information.

Maybe right now you’re collecting names, email addresses and phone numbers. But will you soon want more? Will you want them to be able to sign in and edit profiles themselves, add pictures, and maybe even connect with Facebook? Will you want forums where your members can talk to one another and share their experiences?

Many solutions have different price points based on features. Take some time to think not only about today’s needs, but also where you see your nonprofit going in the next few years. Just because you don’t need an Olympic-sized pool this year, doesn’t mean it’s not in the cards for the future!

Related Reads

10 Ways Your Website is Like a Fireworks Display

Web Security: 4 Things Your Nonprofit Should Almost Never Do

7 Questions to Ask When Starting a Nonprofit Blog

4 Pages Your Nonprofit Website Should Include

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Johnson, Flickr

Besa Pinchotti works for Capterra, a company that helps thousands of people research software for their nonprofits and membership organizations each year. Besa is a former journalist who writes regularly about marketing tips and membership management software on Capterra's blog. Follow Besa on Twitter @CapterraMemMgmt.

5 Comments on “4 Reasons Popular Nonprofit Software May Not Be Right For You

  1. 1 Andy Adams September 6, 2013

    Besa, these thoughts echo mine exactly, and as software becomes easier to develop and more widespread, I think we’re going to see micro-niches served with software tailored specifically to them. We already see software for managing food pantries, as one example – not applicable to general nonprofits, but very useful to those smaller operations who need specifics.

    On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into the “must be free” trap on the other extreme. You may not want to purchase the bloated software that the “big guys” use, but you also don’t want to get too caught up in trying to minimize costs. I wrote about this recently on our blog.

    The basic idea is that every software decision has a cost, even if it’s free in terms of dollars. You can spend many hours trying to learn a system that is “too big” for you, or you can spend those same hours trying to save $20 by finding a free version!

  2. 2 Besa Pinchotti September 10, 2013

    Freedom isn’t free… especially when it comes to freedom from your excel spreadsheets and other paperwork.

    And you’re right, @Andy– smaller organizations may benefit from a software with a (low) price tag. So my main point is… do your research and don’t shut the door on something just because it isn’t “free.”

  3. 3 Tech Crawl February 3, 2014

    A lot of software developers offer much better pricing for nonprofits than commercial versions. In some cases, you can even get the big name software for free. Lots of options for paying and not.

  4. 4 Cooperative Computing March 7, 2014

    welll written and deep.

    1. 5 Jan van As April 10, 2015

      You also see the trial kind of softwares more and more. May it either be web based or client sided. People would like to see where they’re getting into and where they’re building their future upon.

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