OK, I have something to confess. I’m quickly becoming a Quora addict. In short, Quora is a question and answer system that enables you to ask and answer questions of anyone on the social network. It also ties in superbly to your facebook and twitter accounts, giving you the ability to follow your friends from the other social networks or invite them to join. The service revolves around the concept of “following” people, topics, and questions that you’re interested in. You can checkout my profile and see what I mean.
At first the social network seemed like another unnecessary web app to clog up the social media space, but I’ve recently realized its true potential as a source for true knowledge from pro and amateur experts alike. One thing I have been noticing specifically is that my answers to some of the questions on Quora seem to be rather long, almost like a blog post. So instead of just sending you links to answers I give over there, I thought I’d recap one of my proudest ones so far.
The question was “What is a good cloud-based CRM solution for a small non-profit organization/NGO?“. So below is the full answer I put together. Feel free to add any CRM ideas you have for small non-profits in the comments here, or even better yet, join Quora and add them over there!
Pros: Probably the most robust and customizable CRM you could get that focuses specifically on what NGOs need. The beauty of it is not only its CRM capabilities but also its CMS underpinnings built on top of either Drupal (http://drupal.com) or Joomla (http://joomla.com). Best of all, their is no licensing fees! The only thing you have to pay for is hosting and probably someone to set up the system for you and make any necessary customizations. Lastly, it can also handle management (if you want) of email newsletters, event registration, fundraising campaigns, donors, staff, and volunteers.
Cons: With that said, its not an easy install or customization for someone who doesn’t know code. I don’t mean you have to know code to work with it, but to get it up and running, you’ll need a web developer. Other con is there is no technical support. If you have issues you’ll need to pay a web developer for help or try to figure it out on your own but if it is properly setup, you should have no issues at all – clients rarely contact us about technical issues after we setup an installation, instead they usually contact us about add-ons and upgrades they want to make because it gives them new ideas on what is possible.
Pros: Great little web application that looks relatively new. The interface is terrifically simple and the support team looks to be top notch. I’ve personally taken it out for a spin a few times and find it simply delightful. They have a free account that you can sign up for to test it out, but the free account never expires so if that is all you need then you can cut some costs. There is also a well built API that they have put together that would allow a good web developer to hook up Donor Tools to other web apps you use or even perhaps a legacy system you might have for other management of your NGO. The most impressive thing I think I have found about it is how quickly you can get things done on it. I mean, you find yourself working faster than you had thought you could. Very very intuitive and a clean user experience.
Cons: It is a paid web app but its not necessarily that expensive for an NGO. Complete customization of fields might be the only true thing that its lacking and integration into third party apps such as Google Apps or Basecamp.
Pros: Very similar capabilities to CiviCRM and phenominal tech support. The people at Bonasource (the makers of Wild Apricot) really do like their jobs and their product and it shows when you talk with them. I have not used this specifically but from what clients have told me, the interface is easy to use and adding new records or setting up an event is pretty simple.
Cons: The only downside I have heard of is that there are just many limitations of the web application that can be frustrating. I can’t remember what exactly, but I do remember the specific gripe was that it has had the same capabilities for a few years and hasn’t really evolved as much as this client had hoped (we ended up moving them to CiviCRM). But with that said, it could have just been the needs of this NGO were too robust, so I would suggest doing a trial run – after all, its only $25 a month and that is not bad at all.
I purposely won’t be reviewing Convio or Salesforce because, while they might be great for large organizations, I don’t feel they are as good for small non-profits as the ones I’ve mentioned above.
Update: I’ve also found a great breakdown of some other CMS for non-profits over at Idealware. Check it out if you’re looking to get more specific information on Opensorce CMS options for your cause.