What’s the real cost of your next cloud fundraising app? – Inside philanthropy

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This article is one of a series written by members of the Okta for Good Nonprofit Tech Fellowship.

With the current state of technology, nonprofits large and small are almost guaranteed to undergo a digital transformation or continue to grow their technology stack in the cloud. CRM, finance, marketing, business intelligence, and analytics software are just a few of the cloud services that help grow your donor base and increase the impact of your mission. Fortunately, nonprofits are often offered these products at a discount or even free. There are the few that offer implementation and maintenance support for free also.

Regardless of the discount, it’s important to consider the actual cost of the software. While your CFO can look at the total cost of ownership (TCO), dollars, and pennies associated with the lifetime of the application, it is prudent to expand on this concept and consider the “true cost”.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You’ve encountered another recurring bottleneck in your fundraising flow and you think there must be an app to streamline our fundraising process. You quickly identify a shiny new tool after a few searches on Google. The provider makes it easy to get the app up and running in minutes and you can imagine the proof of concept in your head. The challenge is to remember the complexity of integrating new systems.

Adding a new software system to manage your fundraising process can be broken down into four areas after identifying the best product for your organization:

  • Financial cost

  • Implementation

  • Lifecycle of training

  • Maintenance life cycle

Financial cost

You’ve collected nonprofit discounts and maybe even discovered free licenses offered by your vendor. Have you asked your salesperson to go beyond what is publicly offered? I managed to negotiate lower prices by simply asking for it and then asking for even lower prices again later in the negotiation. Really, if you don’t feel a little uncomfortable asking for an even lower price, you should ask over and over again until you do. Use your mission as an anchor for the request. Working on an organization-wide cloud based phone system provider contract, after lowering the prices, I just asked on the next engagement if there was room to lower the price. more and it was granted! Another trick is to try to schedule the execution of the contract for the end of the month, quarter or year. Synchronizing the sales cycle can give you more leverage in the negotiation as the business seeks to maximize deals made at the end of a cycle.

Implementation

No matter how easily you activated the app for proof of concept, someone will need to connect the product to your technology stack, connect your workflow to the product, and connect your team to the new system. Is this person you? Your IT team? A consultant? Often, technical expertise is required to implement the new service. Look for vendors who have a clear process for deploying their product into your technology stack. Always ask the vendor if they offer pro bono hours for implementation. For example, Okta provides hours of pro bono professional services to help you get Okta into your stack.

Lifecycle of training

Once the contracts have been fulfilled and the app is fully connected to your organization, now comes the hard part: getting your team involved and training them to use the new system. Training material is something every vendor should have on hand so that you can integrate your team into the new system. Although the reality is, these materials are generic by design. Someone will need to use these generic foundational materials to develop training that matches your team’s workflow and culture. This training should include protocols for training new members of the organization after the initial product launch. It takes time to develop and execute a training strategy. These aspects of change management can be overlooked when considering the cost of a new software system; resource and opportunity costs can be hidden in plain sight. It is important to identify who and what resources your organization will need to train staff and who will take on this responsibility throughout the life of the application.

Maintenance life cycle

Finally, your system is buzzing and your fundraising KPIs reflect all the hard work that goes into choosing, implementing, and using an app that gets your team closer to their revenue goals faster than ever. Then the app launches a new version and boom, a plethora of new security features are added. Who will decide if they are on or not? What will turn them on on break? What risks will they mitigate or create? Will the new security break any integrations or automations within your tech stack? Someone needs to answer these questions and more when it comes to new features in apps. One of the benefits of cloud software is that it evolves to meet the needs of its customers and the ever-changing technological ecosphere. This also makes maintenance an essential consideration when considering the true cost of a new software system. A maintenance strategy is often overlooked when considering the resources required for new applications. We accept new feature releases, security enhancements, business continuity, and upgrades, and we need to plan for the changes they bring.

Remember to think about these four areas the next time you alpha test a new cloud application and assess the true cost of ownership before making the switch. My goal is not to discourage you, but to help you plan all the resources you need after the contracts are signed.

For more than two decades, Christopher Prince-Barry has cultivated and led teams of technologically innovative humans in the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors with the goal of developing autonomous systems across hemispheres. He is known for leading his team to be empowered and equipped to solve the problems that ultimately drive innovation and productivity within the team and the organization as a whole due to the systems that ‘they implement. Currently, he is the Senior IT Director of DonorsChoose and is dedicated to their mission.


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