Technology expenses stack up quickly, so it’s a good idea to keep up on where you can maximize your budget and value. One easy way that that many nonprofits use is in-kind donated software offerings from major software suppliers.
Here are some options for donated or discounted software that we recommend to clients. You may be aware of some or all of these, but it’s a good idea to keep up with new offerings. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but many of most widely used.
In addition, some words of caution: like any really good deal, there may be unintended consequences. When registering for any program, be sure and read the fine print, and check in with colleagues who have used the product or service before you sign up and get too far down the road. In addition, the migration to a new product can be complex. Before you switch, be sure to do your homework, and ask the question: Do I need a new product or do I need to better use the one I have?
Resources available to nonprofits
TechSoup: This organization is a 501C3 that serves other nonprofits. Not only does it provide software resources, but it also provides training and insights on its website to help educate nonprofit organizations on technology. Its mission is to connect nonprofits, charities and libraries with technology resources and to help the members of those organizations make educated decisions about those choices.
Many well-known software providers (you HAVE heard of Microsoft?) donate software to TechSoup for licensing to qualified organizations. TechSoup is a preferred clearinghouse because it is a nonprofit and isn’t in the business of selling software.
Google: Just like all the cool products aren’t available at your local retailer, not all great software resources are available at one location. Google has a robust nonprofit program, including its Google Apps for Nonprofits.
Your organization’s program or outreach manager might be interested in Google Ad Grants, another in-kind product available from Google that can help promote your nonprofit’s website and track donations. It’s another way to use technology to further your organization’s reach.
Office365: This suite is similar to Google Apps and since last year has been free to nonprofit organizations. It is an online suite and does not include a local, desktop, version of the Microsoft Office software.
Salesforce.com: The arm of Salesforce that supports nonprofits is Salesforce Foundation. The key to many connectivity efforts where technology assists is integration. Salesforce is very good at integration and its program has helped organizations, such as the Polaris Project and the American Red Cross.
Take advantage of educational resources
While taking advantage these programs, don’t pass by user forums and online communities. They can provide information about technology-based resources or companies offering in-kind donations of software or services. Just because something is free or very low cost doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for your organization. Education is a powerful ally when making technology decisions.
Chip Heberden is the owner and president of Netlink, Inc. For over 20 years, he has supported local community businesses through IT managed services.