I received an email newsletter today with the following pitch for a web-based donor database (perhaps you can guess which one):
The Cloud offers you constituent relationship management (CRM) software that’s less expensive, easier to maintain, more accessible, more intuitive, and with greater flexibility and capacity than you’ve ever seen before.
How much would you pay for such a system?
Would you believe me if I told you…you can get it for free? Yup, free.
When talking about "free" software I think it’s important to define the limits of free. There’s free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-puppies. Defining business rules, codes, and reports, converting data, configuring screens, and training users on the new system and policies are not simple tasks. I keep hearing of small nonprofits that chose a database because it was "free," became overwhelmed, and dropped it. Donor databases need care and feeding during implementation and throughout their lifetimes. This often requires hiring consultants who have experience with these systems free. "Free" can quickly become expensive.