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Sources for affordable ERP and CRM solutions

MUSE  | 

Effective management of information across an enterprise is as important to nonprofit (NFP) organizations as it is to for-profit companies. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are invaluable for integrating and automating finance and accounting, manufacturing, and sales and service information, while customer relationship management (CRM) solutions do the same for marketing, customer service and support functions.

Yet this technology can be prohibitively expensive and require expertise to plan, purchase, implement and maintain. Buying ERP and CRM solutions off the shelf is a daunting task for NFPs with lean budgets and often leaner staffs whose main focus is the missions they serve.

Discounted ERP and CRM solutions for NFPs

Fortunately, there are excellent resources available to help NFPs obtain the ERP and CRM solutions they need at deeply discounted prices. The following guidelines will help you explore your options for solutions and support.

TechSoup®.org

Many of the leading developers of ERP and CRM solutions offer their products at a significant discount to NFPs through special programs. Among these companies are Microsoft®, NetSuite®, SAP and Sage Software. One of the most popular ways to access discounted software is through TechSoup.org , which offers NFPs a catalog of more than 450 technology products, including ERP and CRM solutions from leading manufacturers. Discounts can range from 50 percent to 90 percent, while some technology may even be offered for free.

NFPs interested in obtaining discounted or donated software through TechSoup must become members by meeting a set of qualifications, chief of which is that they are a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit or the equivalent if they are based outside the United States. TechSoup also considers organization type, primary mission and budget. TechSoup serves charities, libraries, governmental bodies and other NFPs.

Once NFPs register, they can shop the catalog and purchase software – all online.

Microsoft®

While NFPs can obtain free or discounted Microsoft CRM software through TechSoup, they also can obtain these solutions directly from Microsoft itself. Eligible organizations must operate as not-for-profits and benefit their communities by providing relief to the poor, advancing education, supporting culture, preserving the environment or by fulfilling one of several other missions as described on Microsoft's corporate citizen eligibility page . Ineligible organizations, such as government bodies, educational institutions and religious groups without secular programs, may still qualify for reduced prices through volume licensing and other programs.

Microsoft has a special program for deep discounts on Microsoft Dynamics® CRM as well. This service, which helps manage contributor and donation information, uses a Microsoft Outlook-based interface to pull all constituent information into one environment.

NetSuite®

Some of the best, cutting-edge cloud ERP and e-commerce solutions come from NetSuite. This company offers NFPs a program for free or discounted software. Specifically, they look for candidates that are a 501(c)(3) organization that:

  • Focus on automating a single business process like e-commerce
  • Can clearly articulate its social impact and offer metrics to measure it
  • Has the organizational capacity to implement NetSuite software and use it to accelerate their social impact, as measured by their metrics

Make ERP and CRM solutions work for your organization

Before you begin to identify sources for free or discounted ERP and CRM software, your organization has to determine what its enterprise and customer relationship needs are, how ERP and CRM solutions can help fulfill those needs, and then how best to implement that software or update what you already have.

Ideally, a trusted advisor can help you with:

  • Design, implementation and support
  • Optimization of current or new systems
  • Upgrades
  • Customization
  • Integration with existing systems

By asking your staff questions and carefully listening to the answers, you will be able to identify the right ERP and CRM solutions that will meet your needs. Ultimately, the right solution will enhance your organization's overall performance and provide robust support for its objectives.

For more information, contact Tom Burtner at 703.336.6417.