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The Mac for Non-Profits: A Value Proposition

If you manage a small to medium sized non-profit chances, are that you’ve never considered Macs for your organization, or that if you have, you’ve quickly been turned off when you see that the cost of entry starts at around $1000 per machine. Let’s face it, operations budgets at non-profits are usually the tightest, and that’s saying something, especially in today’s economic environment.

That budget goes not only towards things like putting a computer in the hands of each employee, but also keeping the lights on and paying the rent. Given those constraints, many non-profits are much more likely to look at sub-$500 Windows computers instead of Macs.

Unfortunately, by making that decision you may be costing your organization in the long term. Here are three reasons why even a non-profit with a tight budget should be strongly considering Macs.

1) Support costs

There are the obvious reasons why Macs cost less to support, ranging from the fact that you don’t need to worry about viruses to the stability of OS X. Less obvious is the fact that recent surveys of IT professionals have found that Mac computers are less costly to manage than Windows PCs.

For smaller non-profits who don’t have an in-house IT department, you’ll also want to consider the value of the Genius Bar. If you have an Apple (s aapl) store anywhere near your office you can simply walk in with a problematic computer and usually have your problem solved quickly and easily. Compare that to the cost of spending time on the phone with Dell (s dell) or HP (s hpq) support, or the lost opportunity that can accrue if you have to ship your computer away for repairs.

2) Longevity

I’m not one of those people who thinks that all Windows PCs are built like junk. You can certainly find a reliable computer running Windows, but there are two key things to consider. First, your chances of getting a reliable computer at a very low price isn’t great. Second, the odds of picking the right model from the array of available Windows computers also works against you.

By contrast, almost any model of Mac is a solid bet to be a reliable computer for three or four years. Trust me, I’ve been in organizations that have had to replace their entire collection of computers barely a year after buying inexpensive Windows laptops. You have to ask yourself if you want to buy two cheap computers over four years or one more reliable one. If it’s the latter, you’re probably better off going with Mac.

3) Software

This is usually a mark against the move to Macs, the argument being that you will need to repurchase all of your expensive software for another platform. Non-profits can avoid much of this cost due to services like TechSoup, which allow them to purchase software at a steep discount. If you’re a small non-profit iLife provides you with excellent tools to produce multimedia and a simple website without spending a single additional cent.

If you do need to do something more complex you have an incredible array of easy to use, attractive and relatively inexpensive applications to choose from. A few suggestions that would work well in a non-profit setting include Bento, RapidWeaver, iWork, iBank and Acorn. These range in cost from free to well under $100.

The value of any computing platform is defined by what you can do on it, and the Mac is without peer in this regard. There is value in having software that just works, and there is also value in having employees that enjoy working with their platform rather than suffering under it.

17 Responses to “The Mac for Non-Profits: A Value Proposition”

  1. Macs are the way to go kids seem to have move fun on a mac even with out being on the internet. there are all kinds of applications for mac computer that will keep you happy. for one i have own just about every From IBOOKS – MAC Air And not once have i ever had a ever had a problem with a mac. it like one in 2mil that you will get a mac that dose not work up to standard.
    And now other for windows That are more like to just drop dead while you are working on them. so pronged to virus and crashing.
    Did you know that Windows is based off of Macs. Bill gates started window in April 4, 1975. but how is it that apple Covers 1976 to the present, with interesting photos of key people.
    here is a link if you would like to read up on it all

  2. wendell

    really great post.

    not only is a mac a great value proposition for a non-profit but it is an excellent option for small to medium sized businesses.

    my wife’s business consists of five individuals that all use macs. they have no IT support and little to no unexpected computer costs.

    my work consists of eight people all using pcs. we have a full time IT firm on call 24 hours a day to deal with the many support and computer break downs we deal with on a regular basis. we’re not talking about cheap computers either; ibm machines are supposed to represent some of the better machines on the market.

    my wife’s business benefits from a savings of over $14000 in IT costs compared to my daytime business.

    more small businesses should consider the value that macs provide over pcs. if you do the math, you have to consider the strong package a mac computer provides.

    • Glad it was of some help. You should also try version tracker which is mainly for tracking updates of Mac software. Use:

      Make sure you are in the OSX part of the site and punch in “accounting”, “bookkeeping” or some other search and see what pops up. Limited number of user reviews and the quality varies, but it should list most everything that is available on the Mac side of things.

      You could also try “I Use This”, using:

      Less to pick from, a growing site that is also slowly becoming more annoying, but has user suggestions and opinions of free/shareware.

  3. j wrote “Another advantage is that a Mac will allow the non profit manager and worker to feel * just as pompous, pretentious and holier than thou* as the hipsters with more disposable income do!”

    And what are we supposed to glean from a comment like that? That Windows users are opposites and need cheap equipment to match their underperforming income and their generally worthless, devalued and depressed personalities?

  4. JV wrote “It’s true, when I think of mac I think of charity. Just think of the billions Steve Jobs has given to charities already! Oh wait, that was Bill Gates.”

    Another snide comment. Bill Gates has been retired and away from daily Microsoft activities for a number of years. He has the time. Steve Jobs is still very much active in leading Apple. We’ll see what the future brings.

  5. Hi all,

    Best thanks for the many good articles.

    I’m just in the phase of setting up a business and have to make the decision soon (Mac-Microsoft). Personally I prefer Macs.

    Could someone help me with mentioning a good website for SMB startups where various Accounting software (manufacturing with 25 employees) is listed and compared (the wikipedia is not so helpful)

    Thanks in advance,

  6. My small nonprofit was all windows when I came as executive director, and I insisted that I get a Mac as a part of my employment agreement. After some grumbling by the existing staff, it happened, and they were amazed I could open their crappy floppies and extract their files when their Windows machines couldn’t.

    I don’t believe in forcing people to switch, either me or anyone else. Use the tool that works for you. Interestingly, over time as my Mac continued to work year after year, when the l-o-n-g replacement cycle came around most of the employees asked for a Mac and learned quickly to use it productively.

    We now have 87 Macs and four Windows computers, plus three Apple Xserves for our email, Web, and data management. Since becoming a majority Mac shop, we save money because we just don’t need full-time IT, and when a Windows unit goes bad, if the cost of repair is more than it’s worth we just replace it.

    With four times as many employees and computers as when I came, our technology costs are 25% less than before, including cost of equipment, software, repairs, and support. Now we’re looking at iPads as inexpensive alternatives to laptops in the field. At half the price, it could be a compelling solution.

    As for J’s snide remark, he’s welcome to come work as a volunteer at my agency to see if we’re pompous, pretentious and holier than thou or if we deeply care about the children, families, and communities we serve.

  7. Another advantage is that a Mac will allow the non profit manager and worker to feel * just as pompous, pretentious and holier than thou* as the hipsters with more disposable income do!