DONATION companion products questions

Hello again DONATION advisors.  (For those of you who are also beta testers, my apologies for two posts in one day!)

I have found four products or services that I feel could be useful to at least some of my users, or someone else within your organizations, and am working towards an email to all users in the USA to recommend these products. (I’m restricting it to users in the USA, at this point, because two of the services only work there.)

The products and services are:

  • CauseVox, at www.causevox.com, an affordable online fundraising platform with social-network-like features available. (USA only for now.)
  • PerfectTablePlan, at www.perfecttableplan.com, a simple and affordable Windows program for doing table planning for any form of seated event with tables, such as formal fundraising dinners.
  • PayrollCentral USA, at http://www.payrollcentralusa.com, an affordable and very easy to use online payroll processing system. (USA only.)
  • NetMinistry, www.netministry.com, a relatively inexpensive service for designing and hosting an attractive website, with a content management system that you can use to maintain the site yourself, for churches or other organizations.

The last three of these are already listed on the Links page on the Software4Nonprofits website.

I would appreciate your comments, about the products themselves, and about the appropriateness of doing something like this. I would not intend to email users about companion products in this way more than once a year.

One final question relates to the fact that in all of the cases, I will be receiving some form of commission for sales that come from my users. This forms another revenue stream for my business. However, I would not be recommending any of these products and services if I had not checked them out thoroughly, including checking references, and did not feel they would be of good use to at least some of my users. At least two of the products/services will also be offered with some discount to my users. (N.B. I am still waiting to receive and check references for NetMinistry, and I know the author of PerfectTablePlan so do not feel a need for references.)

One very specific question I have though, is an ethical one. I’m not clear whether or not I should mention in the email to my users that offers these products that I will be receiving commissions on the sales made to my users. I sort of think I should, but am not 100% clear on this point. Any opinions?

As always, thank you in advance for any comments you post, or email replies.

6 thoughts on “DONATION companion products questions

  1. Thanks for posting the links. Th perfectable one looks like it could be a benefit. I agree with you that posting these links is fine as long as it is indeed clear that you’re receiving a commission on any sales that result.

  2. Dan,

    As an alternative, have you considered letting those companies (and possibly others) advertise on your website (and possibly in emails) on a “per click” basis and avoid the need to endorse or acknowledge commissions?

    I would think you should still have a vetting process, but paid advertising is just that… Paid and everyone understands It. It also allows you to allow any company who meets your criteria to participate on an equal basis..

    Otherwise, I would recommend owning up to the commission relationship.. Not necessarily as a major feature of the web site, but also not buried so deeply as to be impossible to run across.. Perhaps some asterisk in a prominent place in the write up for the company leading to a generic footnote.

    I actually think you are treading on dangerous ground and may write you more about that feeling later.

    I will have to do some checking on QB Payroll, but I think it is less expensive than the one you mention… And probably comparable in features and ease of use (for QB users)

    To summarize…. Allowing advertising is less offensive than targeted endorsements unless there is some really compelling reason for the endorsement.. such as a program that is designed to integrate with yours and fills a unique niche in the market.

    • My impression is that the payroll system takes care of more stuff for you than QuickBooks payroll, including doing direct deposit for the pay cheques. And it’s not much more expensive. It also integrates with QuickBooks.

      It would be possible to integrate CauseVox with DONATION, to incorporate donations made via their website (and the donors) into the DONATION database, so that they could then be receipted. I don’t want to commit to doing that integration yet, until I see that several users are using it.

      I really don’t like serious websites having explicit pay per click ads on their sites. I actually feel better about a clear endorsement. I think as far as what goes on my website goes (as opposed to an email to users) endorsed/commissioned products could go on a separate page from the existing Links page.

      I think the commonality in these products is that either they are something targetted at my same market (churches and/or charities) that does not compete with DONATION, or something that at least most users in my market would need (payroll).

      I do appreciate your hesitancy about this though, as I have some hesitancy myself. But overall I do feel it’s reasonable. I’m open to further discussion …

      • Upon double checking QB, you are correct that there is not really a price difference.. the details of what each provides are different and price is similar for the 10 employee example I looked at.. sorry for being misleading.. PM to follow.

  3. Dan, if a commission is being earned I think it needs to be stated. However, there is a downside. With an endorsement and commission you become the point person for problems of whatever type may arise. Yes, many will be able to be handled quickly by referral to the software author. The others, potentially more serious ones, will be around to haunt you even after they have been settled. I think your best revenue stream is the paid advertising with the click count. You are off the hook for any problems. You still have control of the programs referred but it doesn’t give anyone the sense of your ‘ownership’ of the software. Advertising is advertising.
    I found an interesting website where the owner didn’t want advertising pop ups to be a concern for the visitors so all of their advertisers have a link on a link-page. One would have to specifically click on the links page to see what offers might be available and of interest.

    Like any good business you have to keep looking for new and exciting revenue streams. Good Luck in your endeavours.

    • I’m not sure I see that, Clyde. If someone refers me to a product, even when I know they are getting a commission for my sale, I might feel badly about them if I had problems with the product, but I would hardly expect them to offer support.

      If one of the products I endorse ends up being disliked by my users, I would of course stop endorsing it, and if it was really bad, perhaps even write to everyone again to revoke my endorsement. But I feel fairly confident this would not be the case with the products I am considering endorsing.

      I do think these will be on a separate “Companion Products” page on my site, or some page title to that effect. There is an existing Links page (which several of them are on at the moment), but I think I should clearly separate products I’m endorsing from ones I’m merely informing people about.

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