Reliability of Resources: The 2012 Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits

The other day, I drove circles around a cement plant outside San Antonio, Texas, looking for a Google-recommended barbecue joint that just did not exist. That got me thinking about where I get my information, and how much I trust it--or how much I should trust it. 

Where do you turn for your information? For most people, the answer today is probably very different from the one we might have given in the past. My first job out of college was a few years before Google became a search engine--and longer still before it became a verb synonymous with looking things up--and back then, looking things up meant going to the library, or a bookstore, or finding someone with a different experience than my own and asking questions.

Now, looking things up means typing a keyword or two into a little box. The rainiest place on earth is the village of Mawsynram, in northeastern India, with an annual rainfall of 467 inches. The T-Rex probably weighed about nine tons. You can rent Johnny Depp's private yacht, Vajoliroja, for $130,000 a week. It took me 11 seconds to learn those three facts on Google, something that might have taken a few hours and a trip downtown before the advent of the search engine. 

Sometimes, though, Google--like all search engines--can lead you astray. It also told me that Cherrapunji, India, is the rainiest place on earth with 498 inches each year, that a T-Rex probably weighed from five to seven tons , and that Johnny Depp's yacht is spelled as the more phonetic Vaholiroha.

In each of these cases, Google was not necessarily wrong--the world is full of conflicting opinions, interpretations, and from time to time even disputable facts. Google is merely a tool that presents information, and it's up to us to use our judgment to determine which information is the most accurate and most reliable. But what if the information you're looking for is mission-critical? Or what if you don't know enough about it to determine which source is the most reliable, or the most accurate? That's a challenge each of us faces at one time or another, and when it comes to keeping up with all the software tools regularly hitting the market, it's one we face on an ongoing basis. 

At Idealware, we work hard to be the source that provides the most accurate and reliable information. I met a lot of people at the Nonprofit Technology Conference a couple weeks ago who were familiar with our work because we're often the first result to pop up when they Google software types that are useful to nonprofits. That's a goal of ours, and we take it seriously. Being impartial is so important to us that it's in our mission statement. 

Today we're proud to release the 2012 update to our Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits, our third annual edition. It covers nearly 70 types of software, from association management to wikis and everything in between. We tell you what’s available, what it can do for you, how you might use it, who the most common vendors are, and what you can expect to pay. Learn more about it, or pick up your copy, here.

It's a handy reference to keep on your desk that will get you started learning about all the different types of software that can help your organization.

Once you're ready to research them further, learn more, or start choosing the best one for your needs, our website is full of free resources just waiting for you to explore them. Visit us directly at www.idealware.org... or find us through Google. Either way, unlike that Texas barbecue joint, we'll be here. We value your trust, and want to continue to earn it.