Nonprofit software developers, managers and other professionals who develop nonprofit software gathered in February, 2007in Oakland, California, to discuss potential synergies and collaborations. Organizers of this Nonprofit Software Development Summit identified the primary event goals as strengthening connections between those serving the technology needs of nonprofits, share skills, map and discuss gaps in offerings and to identify points of entry for new software.
In general, attendees identified three key issues driving technology decisions within nonprofits as:
– Skill gap of staffers and the time to learn
– Ability to integrate new software or customize tools
– Affordability of nonprofit software
Much is already available to help nonprofits address needs in the context of these three key issues when selecting accounting software or fund raising software. One new and emerging area of need for nonprofits is that of scheduling calendar software.
The following questions help nonprofits qualify scheduling software within the context of these three criteria, whether the need is for scheduling software to stand alone or scheduling software to complement existing systems.
Skill gap and lack of time to learn to use new calendar software.
1. What kind of support is available for nonprofit volunteers or staff?
2. How easy will the product be to install and get up and running?
3. Many of the volunteers may have had limited exposure to scheduling software or event planning software , what tools are available to help them learn?
4. Is support available by email, by phone, by IM or by fax?
5. Are there on-line tutorials available for to do self-paced earning?
6. Will staff or volunteers be able to experience the features of the software before purchasing through a product tour or a limited time trial?
7. Who specifically will use the software and what is the skill level of users?
8. Is there a cost for training? How will that impact the budget approved by the board?
9. Will new IT staff be needed to support the program?
Ability to integrate or customize the tools to meet needs
1. How much control users have over what can be done with the scheduling software ?
2. How easy is it to schedule multiple people, projects, resources and events at the same time?
3. How flexible is the scheduling software and how quickly can changes be reflected?
4. How does the scheduling software allow people in the organization to share information and collaborate?
5. Can users save time by reusing recurring schedules for events that happen over and over?
6. Different people may need to see data in multiple ways, how many views are available?
7. Is it possible to import and export data into other formats for reporting? XML, CSV etc
8. Will I need to have IT support to customize the scheduling software to our needs or does it work off the shelf?
9. Is the scheduling software compatible with other time management devices?
1. Will the product fit comfortably within the budget the board established?
2. What discounts, if any, are available to nonprofits on the scheduling software?
3. Are there volume discounts for multiple units and site licenses?
4. Are updates free of charge? How often should they be expected?
5. Are there monthly recurring fees eg some web calendar software charge monthly fees which can quickly become cost prohibitive?
6. Will we be paying for features and modules we don’t need? Are we overbuying?
7. Are the scheduling software fundamentals like scheduling recurring events or appointment reminders included in the price?
8. Are there maintenance contracts involved on nonprofit software ?
9. Is the software compatible with existing systems in place?
10. Are there any hidden costs? eg some scheduling software companies may even charge you for a pdf copy of the Help file.
11. What costs are associated with internal IT support to get up and running? Can we handle the installation ourselves?
Whatever your needs, there are solutions. One key to making good technology purchasing decisions is to think ahead and anticipate your needs. Use all the resources available to you to make a good decision and network with colleagues to find out what solutions may have worked well for their organizations.