So the other day I post an e-mail to the 501tech-ny list that I belong to:
Is anyone interested in creating a closed forum for frank discussion of vendors? I’d like to keep it only for nonprofit tech workers only (verified by e-mail originating from a domain run by a 501c3). I have a ton of RFPs coming out and I want to know about other nonprofits’ experiences with their IT vendors as well as other things besides…
It seemed innocuous enough or so I thought (naively). Well I started a fairly controversial (at least to most vendors and consultants) e-mail thread. In general, it seems vendors think that we’re going to whisper behind their backs in the closed forum and use it for bitch sessions about them. Another consultant even took the absurd position that an open e-mail list was much like a peer-reviewed journal that would be more reliable in information. Hey guy, even peer-reviewed journals make mistakes. Some even claimed that were vendors to do what I proposed it would be called price fixing. These attitudes are so misguided I’ve given up trying to respond. I’m just disappointed that our reputations stand so low with our vendors and consultants that the first thing they think about a closed forum for nonprofit tech workers is how unprofessional we supposedly are.
However, most of the tech workers and rightly so, seemed to think that it was just a good idea.
You see, nonprofit tech workers have a bit of a problem. We don’t always have the time to make great RFPs nor do we have the time to know our vendors. We use software packages that are unique to our sector alone from Blackbaud’s Raiser Edge to Fund E-Z to CitySoft. Worse, we don’t have forums where the membership is comprised only of tech workers. There are no slick magazines like CIO, InfoWorld or NetworkComputing with tons of information about nonprofit software and nonprofit tech vendors. Worse, we don’t have a way to share what we do know in a private way with our peers.
What we do have are the 501tech lists hosted by NTEN. Unfortunately with our vendors also there with us, it leads to odd, stilted conversations where everyone clams up about their vendor relationships. Nobody feels comfortable sharing a frank conversation about their vendors especially with the vendor and the vendor’s competitors listening in on the conversation.
Well, it’s about to change: there’s a new NTEN affinity group that is open only to nonprofit tech workers whose e-mail addresses are originating from a .org and whose organization is a 501c3. I will personally verify your membership by calling your workplace. If you are interested in joining the e-mail group, please go to the nptechhelp sign-up page. After membership is verified, you can start posting.
Sorry, membership is limited only to nonprofit tech workers who are currently employed by a 501c3. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis but only after consultation with the list. These rules I’m sure will change in the future especially if we start adding nonprofit tech workers outside the US but we’ll work that out as we go along.
And if you have any questions about this issue in general, feel free to send e-mail to abenamer['at']nonprofittechblog.org.