Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 12 seconds

saasWhile software as a service or Saas isn’t new, its been around for several years, it is growing in popularity in the non-profit community for several reasons.

As always, cost is one of the first things a non-profit looks at before making a decision to purchase. Since SaaS is subscription based and it doesn’t require additional hardware, installation or technical staff, it is a good fit for many non-profits' budgets.

Yet, Casey Golden from Small Act Network feels that SaaS offers more than just a cost savings. Casey describes SaaS as a way for a non-profit to “buy what they need”. Heather Burton, Director of Marketing and Product Development, for Sage Software agrees that the lower up front cost is great for budget conscious non-profits, but she thinks one of the best things about SaaS is its ability to help organizations do things “different”.

One way to do things differently is to give workers flexibility. Chris Cannon, Managing Associate, at Bentz Whaley Flessner believes that “if the only way to access your data is from your desk then you are hindered.” SaaS offers 24/7 access, which allows users to work from the office, the road or at home.

Along with accessibility SaaS offers versatility. Not only can users work from anywhere, they can work on anything. SaaS works with desktops, laptops and even smart phones.

SaaS is also a way to bring people together. While the data is centralized on the host computer, staff members can be located anywhere in the world, yet work on the same project at the same time. It also means that non-profits are able to free up resources. With SaaS, says Chris Cannon, non-profits don’t need a huge IT department. So, as Casey Golden says “non profits can spend less time on tech and more time on their mission.”

Since with SaaS data is kept off site, in the event of a disaster the data is safe.

With SaaS, updates are automatic, a pro in most instances, but Heather from Sage points out it can also be a con. If you come in on a Monday and find unexpected changes to your program it can be a little disconcerting. To counteract that, Heather recommends asking the provider if you can control the updates, or at least to have advance information on when and what changes are going to be made. For example, the accounting department might want to schedule updates for a special day of the week or for a time that won’t conflict with a reporting period.

Another benefit, explains Chris Cannon, is individuals receive innovations from the whole base of clients. That means a small organization gets the same upgrades as a large client.

As with anything, there are a few things to consider before signing on with a SaaS. Timothy Thomas of Timothy Thomas consulting reminds non-profits that they are now relying on the “health and success” of the SaaS company, so research the company well before choosing a provider. Also, smaller agencies should factor in the fact that SaaS requires 24/7 internet access, something a smaller company might not currently have, says Timothy Thomas, and it may represent an additional expense.

In addition, advises Heather from Sage, “there is a learning curve” so she suggests easing into the transition by selecting small things and trying them out, so the whole experience isn’t overwhelming. Heather suggests confirming that the non-profit can download their data if needed, at end of contract. While data usually reverts to the non-profit; it is a good idea to double check how the data can be retrieved, and in what formats it will be available. In some instances the data will require reformatting before it is usable.

While SaaS isn’t perfect for every organization its wide range of benefits makes it a compelling choice.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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