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Getting ideas and support when choosing software

This page is free to all

This page assumes you have already worked through two earlier pages in our series.

This page helps you pick and choose the type of support that'll work best for you.

You can follow the steps here either before or after you create a tool comparison grid.

Creating a tool comparison grid.

Ask other groups and organisations like yours

Make use of your networks and connections. Find people who have tackled a similar project aim with new technology or software.

Be careful not to ask 'What should we use?' because their situation might not be exactly the same as yours.

Try this approach.

  • What goal or challenge were you aiming to address?
  • What tools did you try? Did you do a comparison that you can share with us?
  • What did you use in the end?
  • What would you do differently if you were to go back and do it again?
  • Is there anyone else you could put us in touch with who might be able to help us make our decision?

If you don’t know who to ask, start with your local infrastructure support organisation. They give advice on all aspects of running community groups and charities.

Our local advice and support pages for funding will help you find them. The information on the page is about what they do for funding. Skim that and head straight to the links to find organisations near you.

If you’re in Scotland you can get specialist digital advice from SCVO. Find out how Digihelp works.

Get support from a volunteer who knows about digital

Share your thinking with someone who understands the types of tools you're looking at. If no-one connected with your organisation does, then you could look outside of it.

You can get volunteer advice calls for just an hour, or longer term support as part of a programme.

Find out more about the volunteer support available for community groups and charities.

Look for software or tools comparisons

We all hope for a shortcut that will just tell us what to use. These don’t really exist because everyone’s situation is different.

Even though there's no 'one true way' you can make great use of comparison guides. Use them to see how different tools or software match up to your prioritised needs.

Here are some things to remember when using this type of article.

  • Are any of the comparison guides sponsored? If they are they may include lots of tools but favour the one owned by the sponsor.
  • Check whether the review or comparison covers the free version or the paid for version of the tool or software.
  • Check when the article was written.

NCVO has worked with partners to produce some tools comparison guides. Go straight to our tools comparison list.

Charity Digital helps groups and organisations get the most out of digital. They have a mixture of sponsored content and objective reviews. They will always tell you if you are reading sponsored content. Explore the Charity Digital website.

TechRadar is a respected website that compares lots of different tools for general business. Try the TechRadar reviews page.

The Digital Inclusion Toolkit explains the advantages and disadvantages of using cloud tools.

Approach a software broker or partner

Software brokers are agencies that sell a range of software on behalf of the companies who make them. Whether any broker can help you will depend on the type of tool you're looking at.

The choices they offer you will depend on which programmes they have licences for so you'll be limiting your choices. A good partner will look at your needs and tell you whether they have the right product or not. A partner that specialises in work with charities will be able to access discounts on your behalf.

Work with a consultant or agency

Another option for larger projects are freelancers and agencies who specialise in supporting charities to get the best out of digital. You can pay them to help you decide which tools to compare. Look for people or agencies who do any of these.

  • Service design
  • Digital consultancy
  • Digital product management

You can find them by asking your local business groups for recommendations. Or you can try the database of digital agencies currently working with charities Dovetail.

Make sure they’ve taken the time to understand your needs. Don’t ask them just to recommend a single tool or piece of software. You need to think carefully about recommendations from agencies that only use one particular tool of the type you're looking for.

Request four things from the agency.

  • Tell us if you think we’re asking the right questions in our assessment framework or comparison grid.
  • Recommend tools we should be assessing.
  • Help us compare those tools.
  • Confirm how much you would charge for those things.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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