Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Most nonprofit organizations are looking for ideas to save money, and there are all kinds of ingenious ways to go about it. One method for cutting a few corners is to use free software, rather than going with the more commonly used versions. For example some organizations choose to use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office. It offers products that are very similar to what you would get with MS Office, but without the hefty price tag.

There really are arguments to be made both for and against using freeware. It turns out that the biggest one money isn't necessarily as big of a deal as some people tend to think. This is because many of the bigger software companies will offer special discounts and licensing agreements to nonprofits. I suspect that there are plenty of hoops to jump through to get these special deals, but they're certainly worth considering.

One big advantage to sticking with these programs is that many of your employees and volunteers will already be familiar with them, so there is less of a learning curve when it comes to getting started. Additionally, you may find that people who want to donate software will be donating stuff that they would typically use themselves. That is to say, Microsoft Word and the other most popular packages. (By the way, always be sure that you have the appropriate licenses for donated software, or you could be putting your organization at risk.)

There are some who worry that the results of using free software will somehow be less professional than those created with the name-brand proprietary stuff. In reality, the quality is often comparable. In some cases, actually, you may find that the design and support of the free stuff is better than its counterpart's. Rather than just believing a bunch of testimonials on a web page, however, it will behoove you to do a bit of research before downloading something for free. A great approach is to chat with other nonprofit professionals to get their opinions on the software they've chosen.

Another reason to use free software is the fact that the upgrades are also free. With the more popular programs, you may be expected to pay a significant amount for each machine that needs the upgrade (which of course means all of them). This can also be the case with licensing agreements.

Again, it's not all about money, though. Many people feel that it is just somehow more appropriate for nonprofits to use free software. Generally speaking, this type of software is more flexible in regards to uses and the flow of information that goes into creating and supporting it. Because many of the programs are not proprietary, there is a sense of freedom that comes along with the term freeware.  Somehow, the idea of free software is more revolutionary and daring, and isn't that just the persona many nonprofits are trying to develop for themselves?

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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