More Affordable Business Systems for NGOs and Not For Profit Organizations

I’ve helped many NGOs and nonprofit organizations over the years with the burdensome task of finding a software solution that serves their business. Within this vertical, the needs are pretty straightforward: serve, collect and communicate with a constituency of clients, members, volunteers and donators.

So what’s needed is a system that handles CRM and billing with basic workflow. Not rocket science right? Unfortunately – and perhaps surprisingly – there has been no really good solution available. The big enterprise players are simply too expensive and not interested in this smaller market so you’re left with having to choose between a handful of small “commercial off the shelf” (“COTS”) vendors with proprietary solutions that only they can customize for you – that is, unless you can stomach the custom development approach. Initially, the COTS vendor story often seems appealing: why custom build when a COTS vendor has a solution that meets a significant portion of your requirements and a team of experts that can build the remaining functionality for you? Sounds like this approach will keep the costs under control, the risks low, and the delivery schedule tight doesn’t it?! I’ve heard too many horror stories to nod in agreement with that last statement!

So, where does my disagreement come from? Why doesn’t this approach work? The answer is simple, though not always obvious. Virtually all of these solutions are built over many many years of hacking feature after feature in order to meet every client’s last requirement. That’s the unfortunate reality of the vendors in your vertical. Building a feature rich software application from the ground up is expensive; very expensive. There’s simply not enough investment available to build a solid, properly tested application. From your perspective, your ongoing costs are going to be exorbitant… and will never really diminish. From an industry point of view, these types of technology investments are no longer viable for most specialized market verticals.

Fear not, there’s now an alternative… one of the “big player” has listened!

Microsoft has announced in April of this year that it is now offering special nonprofit and NGO pricing for their Dynamics CRM suite. Not only is the price right, but they’ve also included basic modules designed specifically for this vertical. Here’s the link to the press release:

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