What Nonprofits Should Look for in a SaaS Provider
Many commercial SaaS vendors view the nonprofit industry as a “hot” market and as such, are aggressively marketing their existing software solutions to nonprofit organizations. While these products offer many features and functionality impressive to for-profit companies, the solutions weren’t designed for nonprofits and therefore, can’t effectively meet their organizational needs. For example, commercial vendors offering customer relationship management (CRM) software don’t provide online fundraising, Web site support/CMS, or e-communications capabilities — all imperative to meeting a nonprofit’s need to raise more money, reach more people and run more effectively. In addition, while these CRM products could possibly be used in the nonprofit sector, the customized changes needed to function appropriately in a nonprofit environment would require too much time and expense — or you may end up paying for the full product, but only using the fraction of the functionality that’s relevant to nonprofits.
Frequency, frequency, frequency
One of the many benefits to selecting a SaaS vendor vs. a traditional on-premise provider is instant access to the most up-to-date software available. Software as a service providers relieve nonprofits from the burden of regularly updating software by taking care of system updates and maintenance automatically and invisibly — ensuring that organizations using software as a service are always ahead of the technology curve.
To reap this benefit, nonprofits must partner with a vendor that follows a frequent upgrade release schedule. For example, a SaaS provider that schedules major upgrades every 12 to 18 months is not keeping its nonprofit clients consistently ahead of the technology curve. Organizations should ask whether software upgrades are built into the design process and how frequently upgrades occur — for example, major upgrades scheduled on a quarterly basis are reasonable. Also, upgrades should occur after business hours to limit disruption to the client organization. In addition, SaaS vendors typically offer upgrades to existing product lines without charge, while new product features and functionality are usually introduced and activated for an additional fee.