Running a nonprofit comes with all the same challenges as any for-profit business. That includes making tough financial decisions, especially with software. So how much does custom software development for nonprofits cost? The answer starts with getting as much information as possible.
Nonprofits benefit just as much as for-profits by having custom software solutions. There’s even an entire subcategory of software development that is focused on creating good for the world, called social impact software.
If your nonprofit is looking to develop custom software, your first thought is probably about the cost. Developing custom software is a big investment, but knowing how big can help you decide what’s right for your nonprofit.
While there’s no one easy answer for how much your software might cost, we can break down the range you might be looking at. Developing a custom software that stores thousands of user’s data and has lots of features could cost over $100,000, but a basic mobile application could be only a fraction of that.
Any developer worth their salt should explain their development process to you during a consultation. Still, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind before getting starting with development.
Let’s look at some basics so you can better understand the costs involved for developing custom software. This will help your nonprofit develop a more accurate budget.
What Type of Software Do You Need?
One of the best ways to reduce costs is to plan ahead. Make sure you understand what you need out of custom software, what type of product you need, and when you need it. Development costs vary widely depending on what you’re looking for, so it’s best to start by figuring out what type of software you are interested in developing.
Let’s look at some important questions to ask:
- Who will be using this software?
- How many people will be using it?
- Do people need access on the go?
- Will it store data over the cloud?
- Are design and aesthetics an important factor?
Let’s break these questions down further to understand the cost of developing software.
Who’s Using the Software?
Do you need software for employees or customers? If a program is for internal use only, you’ll probably need a desktop or web-based application. If you need software for customer or client use, you may be looking for a Software as a Service (SaaS) product or a mobile app.
A well-designed mobile app that supports a few thousand users could cost around $10,000 to make. However, there are ways to create software on a budget, too. Here’s a handy guide on reducing app development costs if that’s what you’re in the market for.
If you need a software that’s only used for employees, you may need a basic desktop application for dozens or hundreds of employees. In this case, you can count on development costs reaching the ballpark of $10,000 per month of development.
The length of development depends on many factors. If you are using software to store valuable information from customers to your company, you’ll need pricier encrypted storage solutions for your software. If you need a basic collaborative tool for local employee use only, this won’t be as important.
If you really value the visual presentation of your software, you may want to account for higher costs involved with design. All software developers have an eye for design, but working with dedicated designers really boosts the look of your software. That’s valuable if it’s a customer-facing product, but it will also add to your costs.
Note: Never sacrifice usability.
Whether it be software for employees or customers, software that’s difficult to use lowers the returns on this investment. Employees waste company time if their software is too hard to use, and customers can be turned off from using your product if it isn’t easy to figure out.
Who You Want as Your Developer
Who you hire to develop your software for nonprofits can be a major factor in the cost. You may be tempted to hire one or more freelancers as opposed to a development agency in order to save on costs, but let’s look at the difference between the two options.
Freelance software developers come with a lower initial price tag. Some may charge between $50-150+ per hour, but work hours can be difficult to estimate depending on the type of software being developed. Needless to say, the more complex your software is, the more hours are needed to develop it.
If you go the freelancer route, complex software requires that you enlist multiple freelancers. This can get really tricky, since you’ll be the one coordinating who is doing what in the development process. As there are countless freelance developers, you’ll have to spend time searching for the right candidates.
Ultimately, while freelancers charge lower rates, they can end up costing more time and money. You’ll probably need to give a lot of attention to their development along the way to make sure that the software is being made as you envisioned. This means you’ll not only have to account for dollars invested, but also the time it takes to manage the process.
How about working with development agencies?
The Cost & Benefits of Development Agencies
Working with a software development team can come with a higher upfront price tag, but it saves you money in the long run. Working with a dedicated team means a load off your plate.
While you may need to budget more up front, you’ll save time and money throughout the process. Since you usually pay for a flat fee upfront, you won’t have to worry about sinking in extra costs if revisions need to be made.
Just like searching for freelance developers, there are a lot of options to choose from with software for nonprofits. Design teams come in all shapes and sizes, and no two are equal. That’s why it’s best to know what you’re looking for before you start reaching out to every company out there.
You’ll want to find a development team that is highly rated by customers on a consistent basis. An agency’s previous work is the easiest thing you can look at to see what quality you can expect from them. You should especially look for a company that has experience designing and developing the type of product you are looking for.
Once you start narrowing it down, make sure any agency you talk to knows your timeline. Since you are investing a lot into the development process, you want to make sure that a team can get it done within your timeline.
Ready to look into developing software for nonprofits?
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