Eliminating the Software4Nonprofits Support Forum

Hello again DONATION advisors.

We are considering getting rid of the Software4Nonprofits Support Forum, for a few reasons. First, it isn’t used much. The most commonly used of the four forums there, DONATION Technical Support, has only had 9 new posts since January.

Second, most of the questions posted there are really fairly specific support questions, whose answers may not help other people who have problems, because their problems will be different. As such, those questions would have been better asked by sending us a direct email.

Also, nobody ever answers questions there except for us in Software4Nonprofits (Kwame and I), so it’s not like it is creating a community of users.

My idea would be, before getting rid of it, to review questions posted there and make sure that anything commonly asked is in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the website, and/or covered well in the program’s Help.

So I just want to know what you think about this idea – is there any really good reason that I’m missing why we should keep the forum?

Thank you.

Comments on Software4Nonprofits Vacation Email?

Hello DONATION advisors. I’m about to go on a 2-week vacation to Great Britain, and have drafted the following email to send to all registered users of DONATION (and ACCOUNTS), tomorrow morning. If you have any suggestions for improvements in the wording, please let me know today. Thanks!

Hello [Name]. This is Dan Cooperstock, author of the DONATION software program that you have [Registered/Purchased for Organization Name].

My wife and I will be going on our first big vacation for years, to Great Britain, from Sunday May 24th to Sunday June 2nd. As a result, it will be hard for me to receive phone calls during that period, and extremely hard to return them at any reasonable hour to catch you, given the 5-8 hour time difference from most of you who are in North America, and the fact that I will be out being a tourist for most of each day.

So, please do not phone me during this
period!
Instead, use email, to info@Software4Nonprofits.com. And please be patient with me for email responses – there will be days when I may not be able to get to my email for 8 to 12 hours at a time.

Don’t worry, I will respond to you, just a little slower than usual. And someone will be opening my postal mail for me, so if you have mailed me any cheques, I will hear about them and acknowledge them by email as I normally do.

Thank you for your understanding.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions! (No need to reply at all if you think it’s OK.)

DONATION receipts and “intangible religious benefit”

Hello again DONATION advisors. This blog post is only for those of you in the U.S.A.

A couple of users over the last week have advised me of a court decision that seems to require receipts from churches (or other religious organizations) to include wording saying that the donors received only “intangible religious benefits” in exchange for their donation. In the court decision, because that wording was not included, the donation was not allowed to be claimed as a tax deduction.

One reference on this that was brought to my attention is: http://www.openforum.com/articles/simple-tax-error-costs-couple-25000-deduction/. You can also see the IRS publication http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1771.pdf.

So, I’m assuming I should change the wording:

“Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code requirements for substantiation of charitable contributions, no goods or services were provided in return for the Tax Deductible contributions”

to instead read something like:

“Pursuant to Internal Revenue Code requirements for substantiation of charitable contributions, no goods or services were provided in return for the Tax Deductible contributions, except for intangible religious benefits”.

First of all, do you agree with this change? Any better suggestions for how exactly to change the wording?

Obviously, this change should only be for churches or other religious bodies, so there will have to be a way in the program to specify that the organization is such a body. Perhaps an option on the Maintenance -> Receipt Options window?

While the program can change this wording on the built-in receipts for the U.S.A., I think existing users who are using the mail-merge version of the receipts will have to be instructed to add the wording in themselves, because I (and the program) cannot know whether they have already made such a change.

Obviously I need to do something about this very quickly, and advise users that they may need to send out corrected receipts with the revised wording.

Thanks in advance for any comments those of you in the U.S.A. have on this.

Software4Nonprofits name on Credit Card Statements

Hello again DONATION advisors. Very quick question this time.

When you pay for something from me with a credit card via PayPal (the only way you can pay me with a credit card), it currently shows up on your credit card statement as “PAYPAL
*COOPERST SW” (short for Cooperstock Software). The “PAYPAL *” part is required by them, and then I get 11 further characters that I can specify.

Occassionally people challenge the payments, because they don’t recognize the “COOPERST SW” part, since the Cooperstock Software name is not so obvious on my website. While the email receipt you get from PayPal does say that it will show up that way on your statement, it’s in small print, so people could easily ignore it.

Would “PAYPAL *SOFT4NONPRF” be more obvious, to your mind? Any better suggestions, remembering again that there are only 11 characters available after “PAYPAL *”?

P.S. I’m also going to add the following sentence (possibly adjusted if I change that name) to my own emails acknowledging your payment, which may also help:

Your payment will appear on your credit card statement as “PAYPAL *COOPERST SW“, which is short for the payment being made via the PayPal service to Cooperstock Software (my official business name).

Thanks for your thoughts.

DONATION Licensing, Renewals and Upgrades

Hello DONATION advisors. I recently got into a bit of a dispute with a user who had not chosen to pay the annual renewal fee, and needed to install the program on a new computer. He wanted me to make his prior version that he had paid for available for donwload, but I do not do that.

Rather, my policy has always been that the only way to install the program on a new computer is to download the current version of the program from the website, and since that is an upgrade, payment would be required in the case where a user had not paid in the last 12 months. This issue has come up in the past with other users, and they have seemed to understand (perhaps grudgingly) and have paid.

The user read the License Agreement (which you can see at http://www.software4nonprofits.com/license.htm) and felt that it granted him a permanent license for the program. I reviewed it, and I do not feel that it says that (the word “permanent” certainly never occurs). It does have a paragraph about updates, which says that ” Your eligibility to download and install Updates may be subject to an annual fee.”

However, I also see that the license agreement does not make clear that if you have not kept your payments up to date, and just want to re-install your current version, there will be no way to do that (unless you have chosen to keep a copy of the installation program from when you were licensed). So I can understand why the user was upset, and I did cut a deal with him about it.

So first of all, I’m wondering what your thoughts are about this policy overall.

Second, I’m thinking that I need to add some clarity about this to various places, including the License Agreement, some web pages, and the emails I send out inviting paid users to pay their Annual Renewal fees. As a start on that I have drafted the following paragraph to add into those annual renewal emails:

If you do not choose to renew, you can continue using the program, but you will not be eligible for support or upgrades. HOWEVER, if you ever need to re-install the program on your computer, or install it on a different computer, the only way that can usually be done is by downloading the currently available version from the program’s website. Since that would be an upgrade at that time, an appropriate payment would be required. If you wish to avoid that, your only option is to download a current copy of the installation program from the website now, and make sure you have a secure permanent copy of it. We do not retain older versions of the program, and they will never be made available for download.

Any thoughts or suggestions for improvement on that paragraph? Changes in other places would be based on similar language.

Thank you in advance for any contributions you have to these questions.

Software4Nonprofits Bookkeeping Software Survey

Hello DONATION beta testers and advisors.

I have been considering for some time whether it would make any sense for me to create a fairly simple bookkeeping program. It’s not at all clear that it does make sense, given how many programs are out there, but I do keep getting asked about this by my users. There are also some things that I know existing standard programs (like QuickBooks) do relatively poorly, lilke fund accounting, that I think I could do better.

So what I’m planning is to send a link to a web-based survey to all registered users of DONATION, asking them (or whoever does the overall bookkeeping for their organization) to tell me what they are currently using, whether they would consider switching, and what features would be required for them to switch. (If they say they wouldn’t consider switching, they don’t have to fill out the rest of the survey.)

Before I launch this survey, though, I would really appreciate some feedback on the current draft. You can see a printout of it in this PDF file:

www.software4nonprofits.com/files/BookkeepingSoftwareSurvey.pdf

What I’m interest in is your comments on things like:

  • Do the questions, and the options for the answers to those questions, make sense?
  • Any suggestions for improving the wording?
  • Am I missing asking about anything important?
  • Am I asking about anything that I don’t need to ask about?

One thing I should make you aware of is that in the question about optional features, where I ask the survey respondents to tell me how important each one is, there are features there that I absolutely will not do. In particular, payroll calculations – they are just way too complicated, with too many variations by country and I believe even in some cases by state or province. So, if a large percentage of users said that payroll calculations were a required feature, I would almost certainly not create such a program. I’m also quite unlikely to be willing to include handling investment accounts, accounts receivable, or accounts payable.

My feeling is that I should not mention this in the survey, so as not to bias the responses. Any thoughts?

Many thanks in advance for any comments you have. Obviously, if I’m going to launch this survey to my now over 4,500 registered users, I want it to be as clear as possible before doing so!

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.