Should your Non Profit Rent or Buy Database Software?

501c3 Non Profit Software Buying Tips


To be sure, how a 501c3 or 501c6 organization deploys and licenses database software is a critical decision in your nonprofit. In this article, we explore a question which may be applicable to your nonprofit database software licensing.

What Type of Non Profit Software is The Best Fit?

Cloud Based Software vs. On Premise Software 

In my train of thought, “Cloud based” software clients could be construed as “renters”.  And, conversely “On-premise” clients are conversely a “homeowner” type of client. Without question, “Cloud based” software systems have gained huge popularity in the last several years for 501c3 organizations and associations alike. And, rightfully so! Due to the nature of associations and nonprofits, it’s easy to be allured by the catch phrases and ease of deploying a cloud based solution. You hear it everywhere today, “With a cloud based solution your association can deploy a solution quicker and less ”. And, this is likely true for you too.

The Renter vs. Homeowner Choice

However, a “renter” and a “home owner” are distinctly different in terms of mentality.  Apartments/Condos/Duplexes all  serve a purpose in our society. And, buying a home is still for many considered an intricate part of achieving “ The American Dream”. Quite frankly, renting is a necessity for many transient individuals/families/students/retirees which need a temporary place to store their property (like your associations data) and provide a safe secure place to call home. For example, an apartment communities are usually very accommodating.  One will likely enjoy a huge expansive swimming pool, workout center, nice club house lounge area at the office, wonderful landscaping and sometimes a nice size park area for kids to play if the property caters to families.

The shared amenities can be quite attractive. The “shared amenities” are not it! There is more to substantiate the allure of going down this path. The renter does not have to worry about costs when the dishwasher breaks (at your kid’s birthday party), the a/c goes out ( in the heat of the summer) or a tornado comes through in the spring to destroy your roof. Finally, a renter usually pays less, signs a one year lease term, & you have way more than you could get if you had to buy.

A home owner is usually in it for the long haul, right? As a home owner you have  the choice to make changes to your existing structure (if and when your family needs change) like building a new room for your new little one or modifying an existing space to update it to the new trends, paint a room a different color, or update the outdoors with a nice garden to plant vegetables. And, at the end of the day, you likely will enjoy the build-up of equity.

Obviously, “home owners” have their pitfalls. When it breaks, you fix it. When it needs updating, you buy it. When the taxes come, you pay them. You get the idea!

Cloud Based Non Profit Software is Renting

For well over a decade now, “Cloud based” software vendors have enjoyed the limelight. As an association executive, it’s important to know if a “Cloud” based database system is really the right choice for your organization. Understanding your nonprofit needs in order to better understand which donor database or membership software system option is best for your company, is warranted. Choosing the right enterprise membership management system is integral to your business. Here are some benefits of cloud software to chew on:

  • Database efficiency:

Keeping member or supporter databases up-to-date can be a daunting task using installed software. When all data or files are stored online (in the cloud) files can be updated and shared remotely and easily. This means, no duplicate member lists or outdated email lists and no need to email or copy files onto USB sticks.

  • Saves time:

Instead of staff making changes to member contact information or membership status, with cloud solutions, your members and supporters can quickly and easily update their own membership or contact information. In addition, staff or volunteers can update websites and manage event registration remotely and easily.

  • Increased Collaboration:

Cloud software can facilitate easier collaboration. Many cloud systems also allow you to see previous versions, so you don’t need to worry about editors accidentally deleting important information.

  • Reduced Infrastructure and built-in backup:

Most nonprofits and membership organizations do not have the resources necessary to update their systems and software, often leading to outdated systems, crashing computers and security holes. With cloud-based software or systems, the “burden of maintenance” is shifted to the vendor. Their automatic updates, backup and tech support save time and effort previously required for updates and infrastructure maintenance. In addition, with cloud systems there should be limited downtime since they have back-up servers as well as expert support to manage and minimize service disruptions.

Your Choice in Non Profit Software Option

The decision to “Rent or Buy” is becoming less applicable. But, for some the question is still pertinent and will be for some time. Like all decisions, there are many factors involved in finding the best fit. We encourage our clients to review the pros and cons of each option before making your decision. To be clear, we do not believe that one or the other is right for every association today. We can help with understanding your unique needs and determining the “Smart Fit” for your nonprofit.

Please contact us today if you would like more information or would like help in selecting your next apartment or home!

501c3 Software Options for Non Profit


WRAPPING Your Head Around Software Decisions

Alternative CRM Software Decisions

Wrapping Your Head Around Software Decisions

There are some nonprofit executives that I visit with that are bit overconfident when it comes to their software decision making ability. They tend to think that they can “google” their way to the best fit. Or, simply call a friend to secure a good software choice. While certainly that may be true for some rare situations, the overwhelming majority of software buyers cannot.

In fact, choosing the best CRM software to help your non-profit thrive is no easy task. It allows for no margin for error, it impacts so many stakeholders in your nonprofit, and it’s usually tacked onto your to do list with little reward. Further, to add insult to injury, the most frightening outcome of this choice is that it can stick with you for years and years after the selection has been made. This is why it may be wise to use a systematic approach like the highly successful WRAP method developed by Chip and Dan Heath to help find your best software fit. In this article, we take a quick look at how the “WRAP” approach  may be put into practice.

Widen Your Nonprofit Software Thoughts and Options 

The first step of the wrap method is to widen your viewpoint. Narrow framing may lead us to overlook options. I have found that many nonprofit executives pigeon hole their decisions with “whether or not” thinking . In contrast, widening your approach, you are able to uncover new options. And, when possible, you may consider options simultaneously through multitracking.  In other words, Think AND not OR.

As written before, it’s important to evaluate your software needs and requirements before going out to “demo” products aimlessly. Early on in the software selection project, it’s important to widen your discovery and open your perspective to all the important use cases which you may be dealing with now and want to be able to do better in the future.

For software selection projects, “widen” may simply mean being open minded to the fact that you should consider all your issues and don’t limit your mind when you begin the software search.

Reality Test Your CRM Software 

The best thing you can do for any idea is to put it to the test. Many ideas and software decisions too get considered only hypothetically before being implemented, but nothing is more reliable than past experience.

Therefore, using this approach in the software selection process, begins with testing to a certain degree that your issues are grounded in truth before “drop kicking” what you have in place now. Further, I encourage my clients (regardless of size) to try out the software and solutions in a small-scale to see if they work in the real world before commitment.

Further, testing your options might be achieved through a proof of concept situation where the vendor creates a solution to address your primary use cases with core functionality.

Testing your issues, doing a trial version of the software, and a proof of concept  lets you see and feel how a software can help solve your problems instead of relying on a sales pitches. Certainly, these options are not something you do to start the search, but when placed correctly in the process tends to add a tremendous amount of value.

So, test!

Attain Distance in Software Decisions 

This may be difficult for some and very easy for others. Attaining distance is a powerful step to take as it challenges your own confirmation bias. Here, it is recommended to take a step back and ask one simple question, if someone else had your same needs, what would you recommend they do.

In software decision-making, this means looking at the solutions you are using (or considering) and deciding if you would tell others non-profits to use the same things. This simple question adds objectivity to your thinking, and it can help you see if a software feature or issue might be causing more trouble than it is worth.

For most of us, short-term emotion tempts us to make choices that are bad in the long term. To avoid that, it is advised that we attain some distance by shifting perspective.

The next time you are faced with a software decision of any sort ask yourself, “What would I tell my best friend to do? Or, what would my successor do?”

Prepare to be Wrong in Your Software Choice 

The final step of the WRAP process is used to help you prepare for failure and/or success.

In the event your software is not succeeding, you may need to consider other solutions that can help feed or support your growth. In order to know if your software is a failure, you must have clear goals or metric for which you can evaluate your software to see if it is truly meeting your needs.

Further, if a software is failing, it is important to have a plan B or at least a support contract for further development. The key to this step is to remember that no decision is irreversible, and we can use failures to learn. Even if simply you know how to walk away from it.

It’s prudent that we should prepare for bad outcomes (premortem) as well as good ones. And what would make us reconsider our decisions before making a software decision.

Wrapping up, if you need help in your software search, check out and download our guide below.

CRM Software Options for Nonprofits


The True Cloud: What A Nonprofit Needs to Know

Cloud Software For Nonprofits

With so many purported cloud-based services, it can be difficult to understand the similarities and differences between different software deployment models available to a nonprofit today. There is a difference in cloud technology for Nonprofits. In this article, we’d like to clear up some of this information so you’re better prepared to make the right choice!

The True Cloud: Defined

The basic idea of a cloud service is deploying your association’s software remotely. That is, running software and storing data on a computer that is not on your premises. Instead, the cloud allows users to deploy their applications from a computer that belongs to the cloud service provider.

An astute reader may ask, “isn’t that just a server running applications from a data center?” The answer is “yes, and no.” Servers represent the oldest, most basic and cryptic form of a cloud service.

Modern cloud platforms take the server model. In other words, running applications on a server and interacting them via query-response patterns. And, then expand them to improve functionality and user interface (UI) features. Beyond this distinction, a cloud service can be anything from a bare-bones remote computing platform to a full-service, managed software solution.

The Fake Cloud

What we and many others like to call the “fake cloud” is essentially a remote computer-for-rent. It fits the technical definition of a cloud service – in that it’s a way to deploy an application off-premises – but it does little more than what a server does.

Using the fake cloud technology means that an organization is responsible for installing, updating, and maintaining their remotely-deployed software and applications. This requires a considerable amount of ongoing technical support, not to mention other complications such as hard-to-see security vulnerabilities and system outages due to updates or problems that can’t be resolved immediately.

In this way, the fake cloud is really no different from on-premise software. Migrating an on-premise software instance to this type of cloud service is just an additional headache that offers no major benefits.

Cloud Application Platforms

For organizations that are interested in developing their own custom cloud-based software solution, there are a number of cloud platform services that allow developers to build applications on a remote, cloud-based environment.

Some popular examples of these services include Microsoft Azure, Apache Stratos, and Google App Engine. They offer flexibility and full access to the benefits of cloud deployment. But, in large percentage of cases this is best suited for organizations that are interested in developing and deploying cloud-based applications themselves.

A True Cloud Offering

The true cloud is the very best of what cloud software technology has to offer including Multitenancy.

Often referred to as “Software as a Service” (SaaS), this type of service includes continuous cloud-deployment, software and security updates without interruption of service, and continuous technical support.

It’s a business model. A business model that combines software development, cloud platforms, IT support and customer support into one subscription-based model.

This model provides benefits to both the software vendor and the client association, given that the suite of services are within the client’s needs. It simplifies software logistics, reduces the up-front cost of software, and entices the vendor to continuously “earn” the sustained business of their clients. For the vendor, it makes deploying updates, patching security vulnerabilities, and providing technical support much simpler by enabling full control over these factors.

What’s the right type of cloud solution for my nonprofit association?

Finding the right solution starts with identifying the needs of your nonprofit organization. From there, you can begin comparing services apples-to-apples within the type of cloud service that best suites those needs.

For additional information and guidance on choosing the right cloud software for your organization, contact us! We here at SmartThoughts are specialists in software assessment and selection assistance services and would be happy to help you make a well-informed decision.

Membership Software Advice