A colleague forwarded the following email from a vendor and asked how I think a potential buyer should respond. I've redacted the message to anonymize the vendor:
I thought you might be interested in a recent analysis of low cost fundraising software, conducted jointly by independent organizations Idealware and N-TEN. If you are not familiar with Idealware and N-TEN, they are both well-respected non-profit organizations that focus on helping non-profits enhance their use of technology. They have published numerous reports and whitepapers on technology for nonprofit organizations. Bottom line – (our software) received more “Excellent” ratings than any of the over 33 products reviewed!
(The report they sent is actually from 2011, so I wouldn’t call it “recent” if I were them.)
My response: These reports are definitely useful — if a vendor is rated well they’re worth considering (assuming the rating criteria are appropriate for your needs) and if they’re rated badly they’re probably not. But while nonprofits aren’t like snowflakes, each unique in its own special way, they’re not clones, either. Needs vary tremendously from one organization to the next. Nonprofits need to know what they need and then test systems against those specific needs. In fact, the section of the report that discusses how to go about choosing a system concludes:
Each available option has its own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter how good a particular system is if it doesn’t fit your organization’s needs. Regardless of what we say in this report, it’s critical to take a look for yourself, and make your own decision.
Bottom line: you need to do your homework and be a smart shopper.