We are the 99%: extending the benefits of nonprofit tech beyond the few

we are the 99 % percent -occupy wallstreetIt is startling what technology can do as we begin 2012. The rate at which data can move and systems can be connected is astonishing. The potential for harnessing this to create positive social change is compelling and inspiring.

And then you look at the price tags being charged to leverage all of this fancy, powerful stuff. It can be staggering. It isn’t uncommon for us to attend conferences and sit in rooms with panel discussions showing off a nonprofit’s custom-built solution to integrate their website, constituent relationship management system, email marketing platform, and other communication channels. The screenshots are slick. The crowd is wowed. The mind races with the possibilities for one’s own organization.

Until the price tag is quoted. It’s usually toward the end of the presentation. It’s often mentioned almost as an afterthought.

“We paid $100,000 to a web development firm just for the front end web interface. The CRM setup was separate.”

Or, “we raised $200,000 for this implementation.”

Staggering. And everyone leaves the room feeling as if they live in a two-room shack and just watched an episode of Cribs that highlighted what they can never have. It’s all great and impressive and inspiring – but the real question rolling around in everyone’s head as they hit the hallway to go to the next session is:

“Damn! How in the world could they raise six figures for a web project?!?”

We usually see the 1% on stage at those demonstrations. They’re the big organizations whose names everyone knows. They have crazy amounts of supporters and large piles of cash. Or they are one of the lucky few who landed some angel donor with a broader vision and deeper pockets than most.

Even when we’re not being wowed by price tags for custom build outs at conferences, we’re wowed by price tags for off-the-shelf CRM/web integration solutions that cost an arm and a leg. And with the news today of Blackbaud buying out Convio, we’ll be curious to see if the reduced number of players in the marketplace means that cost is going to go up by the other leg.

We’re not alone in recognizing this. Our good friends over at Big Duck were concerned enough about the trend that they proclaimed that “Just as the middle class in America is disappearing, so too are mid-level websites.” They bemoan the great divide between the haves and the have nots in the nonprofit web world: those who are on stage at conferences or dropping thousands a year on off-the-shelf solutions and the rest who are cobbling together web communications tools with spit and bailing wire.

We never liked spit or bailing wire.

It doesn’t need to be like this. The industry can do better to serve more nonprofits with powerful tools at fair and reasonable prices so more than just the few can take advantage of what is possible.

PICnet has made a start. With our web integrations with Salesforce, nonprofits can accept donations, manage event registrations, run petition campaigns, search and display data from any Salesforce object, and submit data to any Salesforce object all seamlessly from their website – all for a reasonable price.

And at the dawn of 2012, we’re pledging to push even harder this year to innovate tools to make nonprofits more efficient and effective – and to offer them at prices nonprofits can afford.

We are the 99% – and we’re here to serve the 99%.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 at 6:10 pm and is filed under CRM, development, Integration, Non-Profit Soapbox, nptech, Salesforce.com, Soapbox Engage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “We are the 99%: extending the benefits of nonprofit tech beyond the few”

  1. farra says:

    Thanks for giving Big Duck a shout-out in this post. We are excited to learn more about your new Soapbox Engage product and better understand how it fits into the landscape of solutions for nonprofit websites.

    Regarding the costs–we’ve certainly done some sites that fall on the higher-end of the fee scale. Those 1% sites typically involve a greater deal of research into user needs/wants and help with content strategy. With most nonprofits having to redesign their site every 2-3 years, solutions like yours will certainly be greeted with open arms…

    Perhaps we can continue this conversation at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference? I’ll be doing a session on website redesign with Kira Marchenese from the Environmental Defense Fund–and we’d welcome your lively participation in the audience! http://myntc.zerista.com/event/member?item_id=1218930

  2. Tim Forbes says:

    Our pleasure, Farra. The Duck always has insightful things to say and we were happy to highlight your latest post – especially since we’re noticing the same trend.

    To be sure, PICnet has larger price tags for some of its projects as well. There will always be situations where a nonprofit is looking for increased strategy work or more customized solutions that broadens the contract engagement and raises the cost. For clients who can afford it and for whom such engagement is appropriate, that’s great!

    The fact of the matter is that most nonprofits have a common set of needs that a product-oriented approach that combines powerful tools with economies of scale that drive down the price would be welcome. That’s who were looking to serve with Soapbox Engage and tools within the Non-Profit Soapbox suite.

    We’d love to talk at NTEN – and it’s great to hear you and Kira will be doing your presentation again. We would also be down with doing a demo of our tools for you prior to that. I’ll reach out to you directly to see if we can schedule something.

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