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


Top 10 Signals Your NonProfit Database is Done

TOP 10 Reasons Your Nonprofit Database is done

There comes a time when the tipping point is reached for many of us in various aspects of our lives. And, sometimes, it’s just time to move on. Whether it’s a career change, a bad long-term relationship, or even Membership Software; sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.

Over the last decade, we have had the fortunate experience of working with hundreds of nonprofit organizations selecting new software. Through that experience, many have wondered and asked us, how do you know if your association management software is up to snuff? What are the signals that it is time to leave? Is it me or is it the software?

Top 10 Signals Your Nonprofit Database is Done

With that thought as our inspiration, here are some clear signals that it’s likely time to review new association’s software:

  1. 5 Years or More: If you have been on the same platform for more than five years, it’s likely time to change. Technology is moving rapidly and there is a lot more you could get for fewer dollars.
  2. 2 Versions Behind: If you are one or two upgrades behind, it’s time to move on.
  3. On Premise Only: If you have got anything in your office that resembles a server that runs your software, it’s likely time to move on.
  4. Lack of Mobility: If you can’t get access to your system from any computer, any mobile device or from anywhere in the world, it’s time to move on.
  5. Programmer Needed: If you have to involve a programmer to create a report, yep, it’s time to move on.
  6. No Metrics for Engagement: If you can’t easily monitor member behavior and measure member engagement, once again, it’s time to move on.
  7. Lack of Segmentation: If it’s taking your staff too much time to segment the database or pull simple information from your database, adios old system!
  8. No Integrated Web Content Manager: If you have to get an outside resource to make changes to your website, it’s time for an upgrade.
  9. No Integrated e-commerce Website: If you don’t have a connected store, online event registration, and online billing solution connected real time to your association management software, you got it, hasta luego!
  10. You Suffer from Disparate Data Syndrome: If you have multiple disparate systems used by various departments to run your association, tiempo de seguir adelante (it’s time to move on)!

If you would like to visit about the signals you may possibly be facing, please contact us. We would enjoy having the opportunity to visit more with you. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

What can 3 Idiots teach us about technology?

Nonprofit Software Selection requires uniqueness

While working at a former company, I felt very fortunate to work with a diverse workforce. With this diversity, we are able to benefit from the various backgrounds in what we do in helping Nonprofit Associations achieve great things with software. We believed that our diversity adds considerable value to our mission and helps with the execution of our strategy day to day. We believed it was a differentiator.

During a recent “Margaritaville Go Live”, a company meeting we have to celebrate the accomplishments of our team members and customers after completing a project, one of our staff recommended we watch a movie called “3 Idiots” , which is made in India. The movie is about 3 Engineering Students from India.

The moral premise is that each individual is unique and has special gifts. You should follow your passion, not the will of others. If your passion is nurtured and developed, success will be achieved. One must follow “Your Dreams” not “Others Dreams”.

There is one special “Idiot” in this movie. And, the other ” 2 Idiots”  are driven by pressure from parents, peers, and society to achieve excellence in a noble profession, engineering, at a prestigious school.

In the view of society, as played out in the movie, “Excellence” and “Worth” is achieved only with “Perfection” & “Conformity” . 
3 Idiots


In the For Profit world,  this theme is all too applicable to most organization. The bottom line is the bottom line. Success is usually attained by increasing revenue and keeping up with your pack of peers.

However, the wonderful aspect of being a nonprofit (or working for or within the community) is that there is a common likeness or shared cause which stimulates the work to be performed each and every day. Certainly, revenue and being a good steward with your resources is adhered too, but the goals are unique.

We believe your strategy and passion should be paramount in the pursuit to find new ways of enhancing your mission forward. In the pursuit, technology should be viewed as an enabler for your organization. One that allows you to foster, develop, and nurture your mission.

It’s important that your strategy is clear, the metrics by which you determine success explicit, and it should be used as your litmus test for the question of which technology you need to succeed. We believe that it is imperative that Strategic System Assessments are performed prior to the review of any technology.

Without your purpose defined and agreed upon by all stakeholders (staff, executives, board, & donors/members), you are limiting the possibilities of your growth potential. As in the movie, be careful not to fall into the trap of “conformity“, “peer pressure“, or “a silo voice” in the ranks which could lead you down the wrong path.

For example,  if only one person is leading the charge, invariably there will tend to be bias toward their particular needs and not necessarily the needs of the enterprise. It’s critical that you have a collaborative exploration of the desired outcome which is tied to your mission. The movie, 3 Idiots, is lighthearted in spirit, and intended to provide a view into how well intended pressure can sometimes cause unintended consequences.

With software selection searches, it’s easy to move down the path of least resistance. Ex. It’s less expensive, so at least it will please the executive or board. In reality, the consequences can be detrimental long after the contract is signed.

In the last 18 years, we have been through many software selection projects and are well positioned to help identify and frame your path in making a good decision for all parties involved in the process ( staff, members, and boards).

Please contact us, if you are interested in discussing more.