It’s not uncommon that you hear the call to ‘buy locally’, these days. And the idea is certainly not without merit.

Buying local is a great way to support the community’s economy. Often times, buying locally is the best way to insure the best quality. This is especially true when it comes to items like meats and produce. However, it’s a lot more difficult to compare apples to software services than apples to oranges.

When choosing a nonprofit software technology partner, people often narrow their search in terms of geographical proximity and choose between the few local vendors that are available. While this practice may seem the best route on the surface, it automatically discards companies which may provide better service or be the best fit for the needs of the consumer.

Sometimes people just feel more comfortable with a local partner, and that is understandable. There are considerations that may make a local company initially more attractive. Would a non-local firm be able to keep the lines of communication open? Will there be travel expenses associated with a consultant when needed? How will I get to know the company before going forward?

These are all legitimate questions, but not as daunting as one may think. In regards to communication, any software partner worth their salt will be able to use current technology to keep the flow of communication easy and effective. And while there may be some minimal travel expenses, they are usually not common and the cost is quickly negated by the gains made possible by a more experienced and efficient partner. It’s also important to note that any company that is worth taking seriously will have a track record of satisfied customers that is easily accessible.

So, if locale isn’t the top factor in the search for the best nonprofit software partner, what is? This is best answered with a series of questions you should ask yourself when considering a technology partner.

  • Have they worked with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations successfully?
  • Have they demonstrated an expertise in your industry?
  • Have they been in business long enough to demonstrate a track record of success?
  • Do they have experience to handle the specific needs and complications of your project?
  • Is their team made up of dedicated professionals that bring a wide range of expertise to the project?

If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then it may be prudent to continue the search.

In no way is it advisable to discourage anyone from looking at local technology companies. However, it is potentially more risky not to look at a larger pool of options. The best partner will have experience with your specific nonprofit.  There’s a chance that the perfect company may be down the street. And if they are, fantastic! But there is a good possibility that the best fit is a little further down the road.