Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Open Letter To Non-Profit Organizations About Technology

Something that has been bugging me a LOT lately is how I see some of the wonderful non-profit organizations I'm involved with making big mistakes when it comes to technology. Here's my rant.....feel free to tell me I'm nuts if you have a different perspective. I'm not feeling particularly chatty today so I'm just going to put these tips out there in plain English.

1. You don't have to trade your cow for magic beans - Sending your Office Manager or Receptionist to make complex buying decisions spells disaster. Becky can't negotiate rich media annual contracts with large publishers. Skip, your Intern, doesn't know how to pick the right web hosting for your site much less manage moving it from one host to the next. Your Receptionist or Office Manager shouldn't be deciding which payment gateway to use if for no other reason than the fact that they will make the decision with a narrow vision and without all of the data points required to put a complex technology solution in place.

You have people in your organization (members) that do tech for a living. They will help you. If you ask them they will provide valuable insight (for free!) that their business customers pay them big money for.

2. Technology isn't your enemy - Just because you don't do tech for a living doesn't mean that it's the Boogie Man. Now......some of the people that SELL technology services, hardware and software to organizations like yours ARE less-than-honest. But technology, in and of itself, isn't the enemy. See #1 above with regards to how to start putting technology to work for your group without getting taken to the cleaners.

3. Donors cannot equal vendors - Let me tell you what I think is the largest mistake organizations make when it comes to technology buying decisions. That donor in your member base that runs a software company will not donate more money to you if you buy your software from him. He will also not cancel his membership to your club and go to another one if you don't buy from him. But...he WILL likely be upset if you buy software from him, it's not the right solution, you then complain constantly and cancel your subscription to his services before the contract runs out. I see this a lot. Church Pastors think that if they buy a software system from a guy in their church that they will get a good deal and free lifetime support and free upgrades.....not hardly. This is a whole other issue that I could (and will) write a separate posting on in the future. Many times in my professional career I've been brought in to tell an organization that the software they're using isn't right for them and to help them "justify" getting rid of the vendor when that vendor company is owned by one of their largest donors. Awkward.

So in conclusion: Use the people in your organization to help you in unfamiliar territory. Get some new technology in use where it makes sense. Don't buy from friends of your group unless you want to lose that friend and potentially spend money on fees to cancel your contract later. Finally........this goes for other things besides technology. Vendor selection and management is something that non-profits "get wrong" all the time from my experience and it's a shame.

p.s. I'll tell you what I think before you make a bad decision if you email me. : )   Scott

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