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.