Monday, December 22, 2008

Beware of FREE

Great post today from Laura Quinn, Executive Director of Idealware. Idealware provides solid and objective advice about software for nonprofits and educates charities on the pros and cons of different vendors/packages.

In this post (which you should read in its entirety) she's railing against an all too common nonprofit request.

"We can't afford software for our nonprofit. What can we get for FREE?"

I agree with Laura. This is a REALLY ANNOYING REQUEST.

No one is suggesting that you break the proverbial bank with your next technology purchase. However, if you want to reap the benefits of technology, i.e. enjoy the ability to share information among stakeholders, integrate data among platforms, get better reports and analytics, etc.) you have to make some investment in technology. More important, you have to invest in training for your employees so that they can USE the new tools.

Don't scrimp when using technology. Determine your goal, do you homework and invest the cash and human capital to achieve success. Beware of FREE.


1 comment:

David Kinard, PCM said...

Just yesterday a similar post was made on LinkedIn where somone asked "Do small non-prifts tend to invest in effeiceint operations (e.g., investing in IT ) and marketing?" I was disappointed to see so many of the responses deride non profits as being cheap and run by amateurs who know nothing of building out the infrastructure and resources of their organizations.

I would suggest just the opposite. Having worked a good deal of my career with non profits, I would submit that most of their leaders are highly educated, very-well connected, and posess a skill-set that easily compares to their for-profit counterparts. And indeed, their sense of accountability is indeed profoundly felt though some may decry poor results. In fact, the amazing things these leaders are able to accomplish with limited resources makes them far better managers than many of their budget-rich corporate peers.

I think many small non-profits have limited resources -- specifically cash. If given the choice to put that cash to use in serving a human being (e.g. serve another hot meal or provide needed medication) versus paying a contractor to customize or install a $10,000 email server -- these good natured leaders will likely choose the human opportunity over the operational one.

There are two bottom lines in a non profit: Human and business. It's been my experience that the best leaders manage to both. But when push comes to shove, they will always choose people first. Thus, the pay for nothing or get it for free mantra will likely continue. After all, that's their core mission -- to serve, not to be operationally the most efficient.