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The Dangers of Software Piracy, and How to Stop It in Your Nonprofit Organization

Nonprofit organizations tend to be the moral backbone of the business world. If only more for-profit companies would uphold the ideals of their tax-exempt counterparts, right? Well, that is certainly true in many ways. But does it mean that nonprofits should be held to a higher standard? In fact, it does.

An issue that tends to creep in and spoil the reputation of many decent nonprofit organizations is that of software piracy. Even if no one outside of your organization realizes that it's happening, using stolen copies of software in-house can undermine the mission of your group or organization. In addition to costing your reputation, the issue can also cost you a lot of money.

In order to determine if you have unlicensed software running on your organization's machines, you will need to perform an inventory. If you have a software inventory tool, that's great; but if you don't, you can still perform this function manually. On each PC, look under Add or Remove Programs and record the titles that appear.

The second step is to learn which programs are licensed. While some organizations have a purchasing department to keep track of these things, many do not. It is possible that each department has been filing them or that your IT person or department is responsible for keeping track. If you just can't find them, then you're going to need to do some legwork to contact the resellers from whom you purchased the software. Once you have located all of the licenses, it is a good idea to store them offsite in a fireproof, waterproof container or safe. Any software that requires a license but doesn't have one needs to either be deleted or legitimized by purchasing a license.

While this can help bring you up-to-date, the best approach to the future is to create a standardized Software Asset Management plan. This includes creating a spreadsheet or database to keep track of the software you have, as well as creating organization-wide policies on the acquisition of software. Whether all software installations must be pre-approved or must simply be added to the spreadsheet, knowing what is installed on each machine is vital.

Finally, you can take this opportunity to make sure that each employee has the same version of software titles, to free up hard drive space by deleting unneeded programs, and to save money by having fewer IT support calls. Most importantly, though, you can show that your group upholds the ideals that are expected from a nonprofit organization.
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