Donation Program - Frequently Asked Questions

How does my organization qualify?

The basic criteria are that you are a 501(c)3 organization or a Canadian charity and that you have a yearly budget of $500,000 or less.  See the TechSoup site here and here for details.

How do I get started?

To get the donation, you need to go to the TechSoup site and follow the instructions.

Once these steps have been taken, Tech Soup will provide you with the software or if you choose to host with CitySoft, we will deploy the software for you on a server.

What happens after I get the software?

There are no formal requirements once you have received the donation.  However, there are two primary areas of expense that you should plan for as you implement the software:
1. Implementation Services
2. Hosting

With regards to implementation services, these include services like design integration, content migration, training, support, and so forth.  Most donation clients elect to hire an experienced consultant to help with these tasks because it is faster than reading the manuals.  CitySoft can provide references to many talented professional services firms and consultants who can provide these services.

Can I install CE on my desktop computer like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat?

No.  Although CE does have some optional desktop components, it is web based software.  That means you will need to host the software on a web server and a database server.

Can my organization host CE on our own servers?

Yes. You can host CE on your own servers.  However, in most cases we strongly recommend that you don't do this unless your organization has deep technology skills.  Even if your organization has a skilled technology volunteer, this is still a bad idea because when the volunteer leaves or is no longer available, then your organization will have responsibility for hosting a large Internet application which will be a distraction from your core mission.  It is a much better idea to outsource hosting.

Can CitySoft host CE for my organization?

Yes. CitySoft can host your CE donation.  We recommend that you take this path for several reasons.  First, we offer a steeply discounted hosting rate to donation recipients of $75/mth plus a $100 one time setup fee. 

Second, there are several 3rd party components in CE that would have to be installed and / or purchased separately for some modules.  For instance, the CE email module uses a 3rd party plug in that would have to be purchased and installed separately.  In addition, you would need to connect to a 3rd party mail server to use CE's Email module.  Similarly, some CE ecommerce options such as Paypal integration require the installation of a free 3rd party component on the server where you host CE. 

Third, there can be a learning curve for any new hosting company that starts hosting CE and this may cause delays in your deployment.  Also, sometimes hosting companies will have configuration restrictions on shared servers that may be incompatible with some processes in CE.  For example, some hosts will have very strict timeout limits on shared servers which may force some CE processes to time out.  You can usually work with hosting companies to create work-arounds in these kinds of situations, but this is a good example of why it may be more trouble than it is worth to host elsewhere.

This hosting fee is not a significant source of revenue for CitySoft.  Rather, the motivation for providing hosting for donation recipients is that we want program participants to have a great experience with the CE software.  And, we have learned from experience that recipients tend to have a better experience when they don't have to worry about the details of hosting.

Can I host CE with a hosting company other than CitySoft?

Yes.  However, for the reasons described above, we recommend hosting CE with CitySoft in most cases.

Should I hire an implementation consultant to help my organization implement CE?

Yes.  This is the most important recommendation that we can make.  The biggest risk in the success of a CE implementation is whether you have a CE consultant to work with.  We cannot stress this enough.  The financial investment in a CE consultant will be modest and the benefits will be well worth the effort.  If you are not able to hire a CE consultant to help you with your implementation, we recommend most organizations not to proceed with the donation.  There are many consultants experience with CE and we or Tech Soup can provide you with the necessary information.

Can I work with a technology consultant even if they don't have experience with CE?

Yes.  We love to have new tech consultants work with CE and become part of the larger community.  However, in the event that you want to work with a consultant whom you already know or work with (e.g. a designer, project management, techie volunteer, etc.) but who does not know CE, then we recommend that you also hire an experienced CE consultant for at least a few hours to support the implementation process.

Does CitySoft provide support for CE?

There are really 2 kinds of support:

    • Software technical support
    • Professional services / training support

Regarding software technical support, CitySoft is constantly improving our Community Enterprise software and we offer software upgrades and patches regularly to our Subscription and Purchase License clients.  Donation recipients can have all new code such as upgrades and patches for free as part of the donation agreement.  However, the process of upgrading or patching a donation deployment of CE would typically be through a paid CE consultant.  It is an easy process that can typically be done very quickly. 

Regarding professional services / training support, most CE clients, including donation recipients, work directly with one of our many professional services partners. That means that rather than having to purchase expensive consulting and support contracts from CitySoft, you can actually choose from a wide range of affordable and high quality vendors for a variety of professional services including training support.  For instance, you can usually purchase packages of five or ten hours of training support with a CE consultant and then get user support on demand when you need it. It is extremely important that you have a support relationship with an experienced consultant if you are going to use CE. If you are not able to invest in a paid support relationship with a CE consultant, then we recommend that you do not try to implement CE.

In addition, CitySoft does provide free support in the form of documentation and online support forums where you can ask questions or view the questions and answers of others.  CitySoft does not provide live person or email support.   

How much does it cost to hire a CE consultant for my implementation?

You will need to speak directly with a CE consultant to get an estimate.  Prices can vary widely depending on the scope of consulting work that is needed.  However, we can give you some basic ranges based on our past experiences.  CE consulting work typically costs about $100 an hour.  Some consultants will charge more and some will charge less.  But, that is an average.  The costs of an entire consulting and support engagement will vary widely.  We have seen consulting implementations for as little as $2,000 or $3,000 on the low end.  And, we have seen CE consulting engagements cost much more than that. 

What is the biggest risk in doing a CE implementation?

The biggest risk is not investing sufficiently in a CE consulting relationship.  Because CE is user-friendly software and because non-profit organizations are frequently price sensitive, there can be a temptation to skimp on the consulting help and adopt a "go it alone" mentality.  This rarely works however.  CE is a large software platform with thousands of features.  In order to use it effectively, you need to work with someone who is experienced in using the platform.

What is the second biggest risk in doing a CE implementation?

The second biggest risk is not adequately defining your requirements and making sure that your needs match up well to CE's features.  In traditional software implementations, there is a phase toward the beginning of the process in which an organization will define their processes in detail and make sure that these processes precisely match the software features.  If there is a gap between requirements and features, this can lead to additional scope as new features or customizations are developed.  In the non-profit sector, this important "requirements" phase is often skipped or done only in a general way that does not adequately match requirements to features.  The result of not doing this homework initially is that requirements may emerge during the project that require additional budget.  So, to protect against these risks you should either 1) pay for a detailed requirements analysis, 2) budget extra funds for the project with the assumption that requirements will emerge during the project, or 3) expect to make trade-offs in the event that the software doesn't exactly match up with your requirements and you don't have enough budget to cover the gap.

What do consultants do in CE implementation projects?

Consultants who work on implementations of the CE software provide services such as the following:

  • Requirements analysis
  • Visual design creation
  • Visual design integration
  • Migration of content or data
  • Programming enhancements or customizations
  • Training, user support, and best practices consulting 

Not every CE implementation will require all these services.  For instance, you may not need any visual design creation or integration.  And, you may not need any programming work to enhance CE for your specific needs.

In addition, you may work with more than one consultant to provide these services.  For instance, you may have a designer who you already work with and who can provide design services for you.  In that case, your designer could team with a consultant who could provide other, related services for you.  One of the advantages of having a community of consultants to choose from is that you can mix and match consultants based on their expertise rather than being stuck with one firm to provide all services.

Does CitySoft provide automatic upgrades as part of the donation?

No.  The donation is for software only.  As long as you qualify, your organization can have donations of the subsequent upgrade releases of the software.  However, the process of applying the newly released code to your existing deployment is a service and would need to be provided by a consultant.  In most cases, this is very easy and can be done in a few minutes.  The only exceptions are when you have made customizations that are not "upgrade friendly" and then additional consulting time will be required in order to apply the upgrade without over-writing your customizations.

Since CE is open source, can we customize the CE base code?

Yes.  However, we recommend using care when working with the base code.  Frequently, organizations customize open source software and take themselves off the upgrade path which results in a higher total cost of ownership and fewer features.  So, when customizing or enhancing the CE base code, it is important to keep your application base code compatible and upgrade friendly.  This means either working with CitySoft to add your enhancements to the CE base code or doing "safe" customizations.  There is substantial documentation on these issues available for CE.  And, there are many CE consultants who are familiar with these issues. 

Do I have to pay anything?

No.  There are no strings attached.  However, as mentioned above, we recommend that you expend some basic resources on setup, support, and hosting rather than trying to do implement the solution alone.

If I am a consultant who works with organizations who might qualify for the donation, can I help them to secure a donation?

Yes.  Consultants working with non-profits are often the people who help to manage the donation and setup process.