Limited Feature Free Version

I just read the very interesting book “Free”, by Chris Anderson, and I’m giving some thought to creating a limited-feature free version of the program. (The full version would still be available to small organizations, using the same 4 criteria I use now for free licenses.) I’m not at all decided that I want to do this, but I thought I would run it by you for your comments and advice.

The rationale behind doing this is that it brings more users in, some of whom may become paid users if and when they decide they want the full version. They would also have to pay for support (other than free help getting it set up initially), probably at the $30 annual fee level.

Here are the features that after my first review, I think I might remove from a free version:

  • All handling of Gifts in Kind, including removing the optional Description field from the Donation fields.
  • The Email Address field, the three renamable Other Info fields and the Comments field from the Donor Details area.
  • Limited User features.
  • All mail merge (Letters menu) features, which thus includes removing the ability to create your own receipt formats.
  • Custom Reports
  • The All Donors and Filtered Donors options on the Receipt menu (so, all receipts must be done one donor at a time). (I’m least sure about removing this one!)
  • From the Database menu, all Importing options, Reassign Envelope Numbers, Switch Databases, and SQL Select.
  • From the Help menu, Request or Install License Key. (That’s just a side effect, because a free version wouldn’t need license keys!)

I’m very open to discussion on any of the above points, as I may not have picked the right ones. (Have I missed anything that you think free version users should not get?)

The free version has to be good enough for a reasonable number of churches and charities with limited needs to use, but it has to omit enough that at least (say) half of all users will either want to start with the full version, or will eventually choose to upgrade to it.

What are your thoughts? Thank you.

10 thoughts on “Limited Feature Free Version

  1. Interesting approach to expanding your client list, eventually!!

    I agree with your list and think you are right to include the All Donors and Filtered Donors options in the list of removals.

    Another one I would suggest is removing One Date Donation Entry.
    Many of the current users started without it, so let freebies do likewise.

    An important part of this appraoch would be development of a good explanatory piece which entices them to go to the full version after trying the free one for a while. I do not see this as being the same as the current explanatory items, but rather it being specifically directed at users of the freeware.

  2. Sounds like a good option for organizations with slightly larger budgets that don’t qualify for the free license. I agree with limiting the features to entice the trial users to purchase the paid version. As the previous writer said, you need to carefully explain what they are NOT getting.

    You might also want to consider a time-bomb or kill-switch that shuts it off after a period of time, or fill it up with nag screens after that period.

    • No, I think if it’s free, it’s free. No time limits or nag screens.

      What I might do, however, is leave in the menu options that are non-functional in the limited version, and have them all go to a window that explains that if they want that feature, they need to buy the full version, with links for downloading and purchasing.

      Does that make sense?

      • Sending non functional options to a window that explains what they need to do to obtain the functionality sounds like agreat idea to me.

        I also think that reducing the pricing levels to two (as mentioned in one of Dan’s replies) makes a lot of sense. Our church just can’t believe how inexpensive it is, to the point that we tend to overpay each year.

  3. I have seen some programs with a free option that offer a full-featured program with a limited number of records. Currently Donation has a price break for various numbers of donors, but I believe it is on the honour system. Perhaps by counting active donors and defining the free version as 20 donors (or whatever) potential clients can try out everything there is and then decide to buy it if they like it. Using this “counter” system would simplify the capacity/price structure for all your users.

    I also like the “time bomb” idea, but I’m just offering another one.

    • That’s more like my current free license criteria, Larry (under 50 donors, under $5K total annual income from all sources). I’m not entirley clear whether that concept would remain if I had a free version. Perhaps the free version could have a limited number of donors, but I’d like it to be a more usable number, perhaps 100 or so.

      The # of donors thing IS currently sort of on the honour system, but with nagging – if you have more donors with donations than your license allows, the program warns you about this every time it starts up.

      I am also considering, however, reducing the # of pricing levels, or eliminating them altogether. Perhaps having just two prices, one for the full version for regular installs, and one for multi-user network versions. This will reduce the complexity of payments and licensing for everyone (me, and users).

      Any thoughts?

  4. I agree with your proposal to make the free version, but as long as it doesn’t make it so difficult to use that the prospective purchasers don’t get frustrated with the free version and decide to go elsewhere.

    A good explanation of the available options in the full version will be very necessary.

    • Well, Robert, do you think any of my proposed changes (and the addition of removing One Date Donation Entry that someone else suggested) would “make it so difficult to use” that users would decide to go elsewhere? Are there features you think I shouldn’t remove, that I have suggested removing?

      The full version will still have its 60-day evaluation period, of course, with the same functionality it has now – everything except for real receipts.

  5. Pingback: DONATION Beta 3.21 w/ Lite version, pricing changes « Software For Nonprofits Blog

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