Software vendors have offered nonprofit organizations free or discounted software for years. Organizations would receive the product in the mail, open the box, and have it installed and functioning in no time at all. Without the added burden of costly software, nonprofit organizations were able to focus on paying the other fees that came with the software, such as membership fees to the clearinghouse for the vendors, data processing fees or software customization.
The emergence of the cloud has changed the nature of the software donation game. Instead of receiving a CD or DVD with a manual in a box, nonprofits are now given a site license, allowing them to download the software directly from the internet. These cloud-based products are hosted by an off-site server, usually owned by the donor company.
The Benefits of Cloud Software
While the switch to cloud services has not happened overnight, many vendors and donors have embraced the movement of products over the web. By offering software through the cloud, distributors of donated licenses and products are able to reduce shipping and warehousing costs and packaging waste. Software donations via the cloud are not only more cost efficient for the donor companies, but they are also more convenient for nonprofits. All the receiving organization needs in order to access the software is an Internet connection and a Web browser.
Donor companies have many options for donating their software licenses. Some companies simply give the licenses away for free, charging only for customization and other fees. Some donors provide nonprofits with software at a discounted rate. Others may donate free or reduced-price licenses, or provide free or inexpensive access, for a limited amount of time. However the donor decides to donate the license, nonprofit organizations can benefit greatly from the reduction in price.
Vendors and donors are not donating software to simply “give it away”. The expectation is that nonprofit organizations will grow and use more of the product, guaranteeing that the organization will invest in future products and customizations over time.
Should You Migrate to the Cloud?
Many nonprofits cannot make the initial investment for the proper technology, and, over the years, vendors have worked to solve that problem partly through software donations. With the introduction of the cloud, however, software vendors and donors are able to offer nonprofits a better solution. The most expensive part of the software investment as always been the installation, customization and implementation required to make the software work for the organization. While the long-term costs of cloud-based software may be more (as the nonprofit never stops paying for it), the cost of the initial investment is low, giving small nonprofits the perfect opportunity to invest in the software they need to help their organization grow and thrive.
While the move to the cloud will be an ease for smaller nonprofit organizations, mid-sized organizations who have already invested in on-premise systems may have a harder time making the adjustment. Migration costs may be high, especially if the organization has already invested a lot of money in their current system. Large nonprofits may also have a hard time moving to the cloud since they require a large amount of user licenses. Organizations wishing to move to the cloud must take all of this into consideration and find a way to move to a new system while preserving the good in the old system.
There have always been substantial barriers to nonprofit organizations adopting new software and technology. In the past, the major barrier has been the high price of new technology. Today, the major barrier is cloud adoption. Having a stable Internet connection is not the problem; almost all nonprofits have access to a secure connection. Some organizations simply prefer to have a physical copy of the software, while some organizations question its security and stability.
While it is true that the cloud still needs to mature, nonprofit organizations will not be resistant to the idea of cloud technology for long. Nonprofits are generally slower to adapt to new technology, but as their for-profit counterparts turn to the cloud, nonprofits will not be far behind. As always, the emergence of new technology will bring renewed growth and development among the nonprofit sector.
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