The following post was originally published on the GuideStar Trust blog.

Just because vendors say they’re trustworthy, it doesn’t mean that they are. When making technology decisions for your nonprofit, it is important that you take the time to evaluate your options and select a vendor who can earn your trust.

In this article, we’ll offer five steps for identifying and selecting a trustworthy technology vendor.

Step 1: Determine a Functionality Match

Does the product actually do what the vendor says it does? Most vendors these days offer the ability to try their platforms risk-free. Take advantage of the free trial period to see if the tool could possibly meet your organization’s needs. You should also make sure it really works the way it is advertised. If the software application doesn’t live up to its billing, you may consider seeking other vendors.

Step 2: Investigate the Vendor’s Reputation

Along with evaluating the software’s functionality, make sure to do your homework on the parent company. You’ll want to look for a company that is firmly established and financially stable. The company should be happy to give you the contact information of a few satisfied customers. It’s always a good idea to talk with an organization that already has the product in use. Don’t just assume that everyone loves the tool. Collect some evidence and make that determination for yourself.

Step 3: Inquire About Customer Support

Even if you take great care to select the best software available, sometimes the best technology will still experience the occasional glitch. An important hallmark of a trustworthy tech vendor is the ability to give support to its clients. Of course an active knowledge base is helpful, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want the ability to submit support tickets, and, optimally, the company should give an emergency tech support telephone number as well.

Step 4: Review Security Precautions

Everything is moving to the cloud these days, so you may naturally be concerned about your data. A top-notch vendor will alleviate those worries. Your data should be protected by a powerful firewall with servers under constant monitoring. Additionally, the information should be mirrored to a reliable back-up system.

Step 5: Evaluate Integration Opportunities

There’s an old adage that says, “No man is an island.” The software you choose shouldn’t be an entity unto itself either. Vendors should be looking at the larger picture to make sure the products they are developing integrate with other software you already use (or may plan on taking advantage of in the near future).

For example, VolunteerHub recently announced its partnership with Blackbaud, the premiere name in constituent management and fundraising. VolunteerHub works seamlessly with Blackbaud’s fundraising systems (The Raiser’s Edge, Blackbaud CRM, and eTapestry) by automatically converting volunteer records from VolunteerHub into constituents in Blackbaud’s products.

Trust is Earned

You don’t have to feel like you’re in a maze when searching for new technology. Use this article as a checklist. Strong technology vendors should score highly in these areas and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve. Just remember to look beyond the software to the provider and its reputation in the industry.

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