Have You: Looked Into Software Licensing?

There are many advantages for non-profit organizations that purchase licenses for software as opposed to hiring a developer.  Among these include better prices and the ability to tailor the program. However, when not done properly the repercussions can range from wasted money to litigation.

In order to enjoy the many advantages you must ask yourself the following:

Have you…

1.    Thought about what your organization really needs in terms of software and flexibility?  Do you have the necessary manpower to handle any specific reporting or monitoring requirements? You might need to do some research and compare different products to find the best fit for both your budget, resources and needs.
2.    Involved the person who handles the technical responsibilities in the deliberation process?  Being the expert, they will deal with the software the most.  They will also know best whether or not the organization will be able to adhere to any any specific terms in the licensing agreement.
3.    Done research into what discounts software companies are willing to offer?  Remember, most companies offer special discounts to education and tax-exempt organizations.
4.    Looked into applications that are available online?  If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of licensing  you might be able to find free applications that work just as well.  Quick tip: Google Docs is a great replacement for Microsoft Word – not only do you get all of the same capabilities as far as formatting, but it’s also remarkably easy to share documents with other users, and it’s all for free.
5.    Paid attention to all the terms and conditions in the licenses?  Many people overlook the fine print, but you need to know whether you’ll have to pay fees if you move offices, open another office or merge. Must you pay per user or per server?  Also, keep in mind growth when considering these things. You never know what direction your organization will take in the future.
6.    Considered the what-ifs? Make sure the license covers you in case, for example, the software doesn’t work once installed or messes up your computer systems.
7.    Kept a copy of the license?  You never know what troubles may arise in the future – it’s always a good idea to keep a copy of the license on hand.  But take care to look at the license first to ensure this is allowed.

When it comes to software licensing, honesty is the best policy for any non-profit organization.  Be honest about what you need, can handle, and can afford, and be honest when it comes to compliance with whatever software license you eventually decide to go with.

Further reading:

Warner, Norcross & Judd has some great tips for negotiating software license agreements here:



For quick reference, here are the offers for three of the more popular software companies that license and offer discounts to non-profits: