How to Save Money With Your Nonprofit’s Software
The software you use to run your nonprofit can be a big expense item. From the software purchase itself to implementation, customization, maintenance and training, the costs can add up.
But whether you’re considering a software purchase, implementing new software, or simply trying to lower costs on the software you already have, there are ways that you can save money, especially when it comes to major software, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) or fundraising software.
Let’s look at six ways to save money and get more out of your nonprofit’s software.
1. Find the Right Software Match
Implementing a poor software match will cost your organization in dollars, inefficiencies and headaches. So, when you’re considering a move to new software, take the time needed to truly understand if it’s a good fit for your organization’s needs today and for the next several years. Talk with vendors, watch demos and employ the help of a nonprofit technology consultant (if needed) to be certain that the software you choose is the right match.
2. Anticipate Software Expenses
When you purchase new software for your nonprofit, it’s important to understand the true costs of the software. There can be costs and fees around software licensing, transactions, payment processing, implementation, integration with other software, maintenance, software customization, training — the list goes on.
Before you purchase new software, be sure to dig into each of these costs. Ask the software vendor to provide detailed estimates about what costs and fees are applicable with their product. Understanding all of the expenses involved with a software purchase can factor into your software purchase decisions, helping your organization to avoid spending more than expected in the first place and to budget appropriately for both one-time and ongoing expenses.
3. Negotiate a Favorable Contract
When purchasing new software — or when renewing your software contract — don’t assume that the proposed contract from the software vendor is set in stone. Your software vendor might be willing to work with you on terms, such as contract length, annual fees and transaction fees, to gain or keep your business.
Take the time to talk with your software vendor about your organization’s needs and concerns, and ask what modifications they can make to the contract. It just might save you some money.
4. Avoid Scope Creep
Your nonprofit might be moving to a new software system, integrating a new system, like a peer-to-peer software platform, with your CRM system, or simply customizing an existing system. No matter what your software project might entail, beware of scope creep.
Scope creep is when you begin with a list of requirements for your project, then people across the organization throw in add-on requests during the implementation. It can be tempting to say, “Well, as long as we’re in there working on this, let’s address this, too.” And there can be valid arguments for adding to a project.
However, starting with a detailed list of requirements, and minimizing scope creep is one of the most effective ways to keep costs in check.
5. Reduce Data Storage Costs
Some software vendors charge fees for data storage. In this case, reducing the amount of data housed in your software system means lower costs for your organization. Here are a couple of tips lower data storage costs.
Keep Your Data Clean
For example, de-duplicate your records regularly so that you aren’t paying for redundant records. Make sure your data stays clean by reviewing your data policies documents with new staff members. If you begin seeing data issues, consider re-training the entire organization on data-entry standards. Also, be sure to notify your entire organization when you make any updates to the document.
Delete or Archive Old Records
Review your data and consider what data you really need now and in the future. Reducing the number of records in your system can decrease your data storage costs. It also has the benefit of helping your system to run more efficiently and for your reporting to be easier and more accurate. Plus, if you’re moving to a new software system, reducing the amount of data you migrate can help to reduce the labor (and therefore the cost) of the software implementation.
6. Optimize Your Software System
This might not sound like a cost-saver, but it is if you think about it in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. There are multiple ways to optimize the software systems you already have so that your staff can get more done for your mission:
Many software platforms include process automation capabilities. By automating certain manual processes, like sending routine email messages, your staff can reallocate valuable time to connecting more personally with donors, volunteers and other constituents.
Use More of Your Software’s Features
You might be surprised to find out how many nonprofits use only a fraction of their software’s features and capabilities. In some cases, that might be deliberate. But in many cases, they simply don’t know what their software can do. In fact, it’s not unusual for an organization to have software platforms with overlapping capabilities because they didn’t know those capabilities existed.
If you’re thinking about implementing new software, double-check that your existing software does not already have capabilities that meet your needs. And if you’ve had the same software systems for several years, consider working with a nonprofit technology consultant to review the capabilities of your current software — you just might find that you no longer need some of the software you’re paying for.
Invest More in Training
Yes, this might sound like an added expense. But training doesn’t always cost more, and it offers many benefits that can help your organization in the long run.
Many software vendors offer on-demand trainings that allow your staff to learn more about your software at little or no cost. Making sure staff is well-trained leads to more effective use of your software systems. The result is higher staff productivity, lower software support costs, and even greater employee satisfaction with reduced staff turnover.
Your nonprofit’s software might be a big expense item, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Put these practices to work to minimize your software costs and get more out of your technology investments.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “Nonprofit Tech Matters.”