SaaS for Nonprofits

Three things to consider before selecting a cloud-based case management software

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is empowering nonprofit organizations in ways that were not possible years ago.

Over 65% of small businesses are already using an average of three SaaS solutions for automating tasks and enhancing critical processes (See BCSG’s Small Business Report) and the number is growing. Social enterprise and nonprofit organizations are also becoming increasingly SaaS savvy and benefiting from access to more effective and affordable software.

If your organization is still using poorly-designed software that is limited in functionality but still costly, you may want to consider SaaS as an option.

You may be struggling with finding an off-the-shelf solution that meets all of your needs, or you may be overwhelmed with the idea of building your software. There are very clear benefits to both and drawbacks to both — but what if you could get the best of all options?

After defining priorities and completing a needs assessment (e.g., structure, growth, time, finances) decide if your nonprofit will make the plunge into SaaS. If so, consider these five things as you evaluate your options.


Even SaaS solutions with an intuitive user interface may take a little time to get used to. Remember to build training time into your implementation timeline for a smooth transition. Consider the challenges you are looking to solve and the number of features you would like to have in a SaaS solution, and use that information as you evaluate the training needs of your employees. Think about the pros and cons of web-based training, in-person training, or libraries with training materials and videos.

Ask the vendor if training and support is offered at an additional cost or if it is included with the SaaS user subscription fee. Ask if you will have access to customer support, technical support, or both. Remember, these are not always the same thing depending on the software. Find out when training and support is available and how these options are delivered (email, chat, phone, in-person, etc.)


Think about the type of data your nonprofit will collect and store. There are things to consider with regard to storage of data, access management, and regulations or policies that you may be required to follow depending on the type of data you will collect and manage. Let the vendor know if your nonprofit or division is a “covered entity” as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Is your SaaS application HIPAA compliant?

As a provider of SaaS software for health and social services, we are often asked this question. First notice that HIPAA was enacted in 1996 before SaaS, but during a time when the use of technology was growing rapidly in healthcare. The entire 349-page document makes no reference to SaaS, but there are a number of considerations and certifications that a vendor must have in order to be compliant with HIPAA. This topic is beyond the scope of this article, but here is a quick checklist to review in preparation for discussions with your prospective SaaS vendor.

First and foremost, find out if you are a covered entity and if you will be storing electronic personal health information (ePHI) in your application. There is no such thing as “HIPAA-certified” SaaS. There are rules and best practices. Ask about SSAE16, SOC1, SOC2 or SOC3 compliance reports.

Find out about the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards that are taken by the vendor. Understand your role and responsibility in security and risk management.

Learn about the breach notification rule and the business associate agreement.


That could mean a lot of different things. By this time, you may know if you will continue using other third-party software systems in addition to your SaaS solution, or if SaaS will replace all of your current systems. Either way, it can be a real headache importing legacy data from other systems into a new application. Find out how the SaaS application accomplishes this, and if there is support provided for this in case you need it. Ask your prospective vendor if you are able to use the SaaS application as a data hub and link between multiple systems. If you’re looking to consolidate applications, inquire about how the data is stored and what support is provided for accomplishing implementation and integration.

VerticalChangeis a SaaS application for the health and social services sectors. It is completely web-based and comes with customer support for users.

Find out if VerticalChange can meet your software application needs so that you can focus on programs and less on data management.

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