When I talk to nonprofit organizations that feel trapped by a contract with a software company, in some cases that they aren’t even using, I get very upset. Most modern, cutting edge auction and fundraising software companies, like BidCoz, don’t require a formal legal contract or agreement. However, there are still a few old-school, been around a long time (too long), too big to care, focused on payment processing and not events, provide less technologically advanced auction software, companies that require a 1 to 5 year contract when signing up. From my research, and in talking to many nonprofit organizations who have signed up with these companies, they come to regret it.
Read the fine print. In some cases, the nonprofit charity or school didn’t realize that they were signing a long term contract. If you don’t read all of the fine print, on EVERY PAGE of their website signup process, you might not realize it. For instance, I was told that there was a small checkbox that said “5 years” checked by default, that the user is required to un-check if they want a shorter term. They signed up for 5 years and didn’t realize they were even doing so. This checkbox was not on the contract page itself mind you.
Is it really a good deal? The way these auction software companies convince you to sign up for a longer term contract is by offering a better pricing rate. But, what you may not know is that these are some of the most expensive auction software companies on the market. Even their best rate is among the highest. Comparatively speaking, BidCoz is priced in the mid-range of all auction software companies, and we are considerably less expensive than these companies. Plus, in their contract, you may be agreeing to pay them a minimal amount every year, whether you host an auction or not or whether you are satisfied with their services or not. You need to add the total cost, not just a signup fee or a percentage for this year.
How does a contract benefit you? At BidCoz we require that customers agree to our Terms of Service that basically says that you can’t use our software for illegal or immoral purposes and, if you use our services you will be required to pay for them. It’s simply a way for us to protect ourselves. However, it doesn’t say you MUST use us, this year or next. You can stop your service at any time. The reason is because we provide software and will provide great software and support in order to maintain customer loyalty. We don’t feel the need to trap you into a long term contract. Companies that get you to sign a long term contract now do not have to “sell” you on their software for that many years. That’s the advantage TO THEM in requiring a contract.
Legal contracts are binding. I have heard that there have been cases where nonprofit organizations, unhappy with the software or service under these companies, decided to break away and use a different software for their next event. They were then sent threatening letters and were accused of breach of contract. I have also heard of others that received them but nothing really happened. In either case, a company that would try to force you to pay them for services that you no longer want and/or are no longer using, would have such a black mark in your mind that you would choose to use no software before you would use them again.
The best way to protect yourself. Don’t just take your friend’s word for it or the word of a salesperson. Until you use a software program, you don’t really know what you are getting. You don’t know if it works well, is easy to use, and will provide you with the tools and features that you need for your specific event. The best way to protect yourself is not by signing a contract but by reviewing a sample of their software in action, by participating in their free trial offer so you can look under the hood, and by reading through their Terms of Service to make sure it’s not secretly some kind of long term contract or that you are agreeing to something that doesn’t work in your favor.
Know what you are getting into. If you are already under contract with one of these companies and are happy with their services, great! If you are already under contract with one of these companies and are unhappy with their services and would like to move to another software company, consider what you are bound to with your contract but, in the long run, you might just find that, even paying out that contract, you might still be better off moving to the company of your choice.
Do you find yourself in a situation like this? At BidCoz we are committed to helping nonprofit charities, foundations, and schools use technology, specifically auction and fundraising software, to raise the marketability and profitability of their fundraising programs. If you are looking to make a change, and find yourself in a binding contract with a company that is not meeting your needs, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and explain your situation. We would be happy to work with you, and help you find a way to make the change.