Nonprofits Are Too Important To “Buy Cheap”

When buying nonprofit software, it’s important to account for all expenses and savings—not just upfront costs.


When I was growing up, I remember my parents doing whatever they could to save money.

After the leftover Thanksgiving turkey was wrapped in plastic and tucked away in the refrigerator, my mother and I would comb through the Black Friday ads like pirates searching for buried treasure.

Mom would plan our routes and assign me and my sisters specific items to locate at each store. Mom had a plan to make Christmas the best it could possibly be for a large family on a small budget.

Given such money-saving measures, it puzzled me when I realized that every one of us always had a pair or two of very nice quality shoes.

I always wondered… if my mother would get us up at 4:00 AM the day after Thanksgiving to stand in line in the freezing cold for a toaster oven, why didn’t she save money by buying all of us cheaper shoes?

I asked her one day and she told me, “Honey, they’re too important to buy cheap.”

Now that I’m older, I realize what she meant.

For my big family, I could see how a good pair of shoes, sturdy enough to get passed down over the years, would be a worthwhile investment.

Which brings me to an important question: is your nonprofit organization focusing too much on cost when evaluating software?

Consider why you chose the nonprofit software you are currently using. (And if you were not involved with the selection process, think hard about its current capabilities and whether you’re completely delighted with it/them.)

Then ask yourself the following three questions.

What is the total cost of ownership?

The cost of nonprofit software is not the price. I repeat, the cost of nonprofit software is not the price.

So what *is* the cost?

It’s the amount of time you spend finding excuses for less-than-efficient processes for your cobbled-together software instead of focusing on your mission and serving your constituents.

It’s the number of individuals on your payroll who are banking hours of work performing time-consuming or repetitive tasks due to slow or inefficient software, instead of bolstering your fundraising efforts or coming up with brilliant outreach campaigns.

It’s the manual manipulation of countless spreadsheets and other documents needed to produce reports or marketing lists.

It’s the endless updates you have to continually install to keep your cheap software limping along. (And then the bug fixes and workarounds you must come up with once an update in one system causes code breaks in another.)

It’s the donation revenue that your nonprofit might not even know it is losing because, without a fully-integrated database and easy-to-read dashboards and reports, you aren’t even aware of potentially missed fundraising opportunities.

Is there a less expensive way to accomplish my goals?

This does not mean simply switching from a high-priced plan to a cheaper plan.

Think about it. When you’re shopping online and your query returns a list of search results, how do you sort them? If you’re like 99% of the population, you’re already searching for the [Sort: Low to High] button before the page even finishes loading.

This type of “cheapest first” behavior has seeped into other parts of your life. But it isn’t always the smartest move, especially not when it comes to an important long-term purchase like nonprofit software.

Oftentimes, it ends up being less expensive to replace bad or disconnected systems rather than continue to throw money at the problem. This is the same reason it may be smarter to buy a newer car instead of going back to the shop for repair bill after repair bill with your 1987 Yugo.

Yes, it will kind of get you from A to B, but what if you want to go to C? Out of luck. What if you want to get to B faster? Too bad. What if you’d like to listen to your iPod enroute? Nope. And what if you want to just simply know that you will get there without another breakdown? Sorry.

But that is often how we often purchase nonprofit software.

How could software help my nonprofit perform better?

One way is to elevate the daily workflow of your staff to higher level tasks.

With the right software, you can increase accuracy while simultaneously reducing repetitive tasks, data manipulation, and number crunching. (Enterprise Integration from StratusLIVE is awesome at this.) You can also automatically generate reports, process payments, and create more effective email and direct mail marketing outreach campaigns.

Instead of wasting time with complicated processes, your team can focus on things that move the organization forward like creating better strategies, setting up customized nurture campaigns, or engaging donors to show your appreciation and reduce churn.

If you’re losing out on gift opportunities, not reaching the right donors, overpaying for point solutions and then creating workarounds, are you really saving money?

“Too important to buy cheap” means making smarter choices, not settling for the lowest bidder.

To find out more about StratusLIVE solutions, simply request a free demo today.

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