Conflict of Interest Policy
Idealware Conflict of Interest Policy for Authors, Contributors, and Staff
Idealware conducts research and publishes resources to help nonprofits make smart software decisions. We provide a trusted and authoritative online guide to the tools that will allow US nonprofits– especially small ones– to be more effective. To do this, we offer several different types of resources, from extensive reports to short overviews and articles.
Idealware has a dedicated Conflict of Interest Working Group, composed of board members and advisors. The purpose of the Working Group is to proactively monitor any potential conflicts and adjust our processes and procedures as required. This document describes Idealware's conflict of interest policy, which guides the staff and board in to keeping our work product synonymous with quality and integrity.
Idealware strives to maintain the highest level of professionalism and objectivity in our service to the nonprofit sector and the diverse communities of software users therein. We are guided by an overarching set of values which inform all aspects of our work:
- Nonprofit organizations and their individual staff members deserve access to objective, thorough and high-quality information about relevant software tools that support their programs and operations;
- An organization cannot provide objective reviews of software products while also accepting advertising or funding from those who sell the products being reviewed
- Organizations serving the nonprofit sector in decision support roles should operate with a maximum level of transparency and accountability to the stakeholders they serve;
- Idealware should strive to keep most of our research free to nonprofit organizations;
While the above values manifest in all of our programs and publications, the nonprofit technology realm is a complex and interconnected one, and from time to time potential conflict of interest situations arise which require specific attention and intentional decision making. In such cases, Idealware applies the following policies.
Idealware has very strict guidelines about receiving monies from software vendors. By software vendors, we mean those companies who sell or distribute packaged software to generate a substantial portion of their income.
Unlike other subscription-based models, Idealware does not usually charge users for its research. In order to maintain our independence and objectivity and our ability to provide these resources at little cost to nonprofits, we have established the following guidelines about the funding we can and cannot accept from software vendors:
- No general operating support or donations are knowingly accepted from software vendors.
- We do not accept sponsorships or advertising from software vendors
- Idealware does not ever ask vendors to pay to be reviewed (i.e. a Pay to Play model).
- Idealware does not in general accept software vendor funding for specific research or reports. On rare occasions, we may accept funding from a software vendor to fund general research if it does not include product reviews. We would only accept this funding if a) the research itself is of high interest to a large percentage of the nonprofit community, b) Idealware has full editorial control over the report, and c) we can publish our research publicly with no conditions or restrictions on the part of the funder.
- At times, we may work with a third party who commissions a report from Idealware and the third party solicits income from software vendors in order to fund the report; the income generated is then passed through to Idealware anonymously so that we do not know who funded it. These reports would include reviews of all vendors who meet the report criteria, regardless of who funded it. For example, our Consumers Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Software was created in partnership with NTEN. NTEN solicited contributions from vendors to ensure the report would be written; they then passed the contributions through to Idealware anonymously. Vendors received no credit for their contribution, and Idealware did not know who funded it.
- If a company distributes a software package but does not generate substantial income through it, but instead the majority of their income comes from unrelated services (for instance, a website consulting firm that also offers a product as a sideline business), they may purchase sponsorship on the Idealware website or advertising in a particular report for their services but not for their product. This is true if, and only if, the company’s product is not being reviewed in report or section in which they are advertising and there is no mention of their product in their advertisement.
- If a company only does work with one particular software package (i.e. a Drupal or Raisers Edge consulting firm), we consider them to be a specialist service provider. Idealware can only accept money from a specialist service provider that is specifically not contingent on the specific content of a report (i.e. they can sponsor a report, but not under payment terms that they approve the report before paying), and when Idealware has made reasonable efforts to provide similar opportunities to service providers specializing in relevant competing tools.
For our articles and major reports, we ensure the authors and editors who are writing, researching and summarizing results have not had a paid relationship with any of the vendors in the study for a period of two years prior to the study.
We do not consider simply having experience with the tools to be a conflict of interest. Complex technologies require experience to be effectively evaluated. However, except in rare cases, if a contributor has a specialization with only one application/vendor in particular, this would exclude him/her from participating as an author for comparative study of several tools. If a particular application tends to engender strict specialization and/or has a more limited following, a rare exception may be made in order to get the most insightful information on the application.
Vendors and products reviewed in these reports are chosen by a set of objective criteria developed through interviews with experts in the field, who are also named in the report. These criteria include, but are not limited to, required functionality, popularity (as measured by external standards), and any cost requirements stated in the report. All inclusion criteria are clearly stated in the report. A consistent methodology is used to review all products in the report, with the rubric becoming part of the report. Vendors are asked to do demonstrations of their software based on a consistent list of questions. See our How We Review Software page for more information on our methodologies.
A Few Good Tools Articles
These articles are, by definition, high-level overviews of tools readily available and used in the nonprofit sector. The content of these articles is based on recommendations by nonprofit technology experts from whom we solicit input and who are named in the article. We ask the contributors to suggest the go-to tools that they have found to be high quality and good values in their own work. Thus, any given product will be included in this article series only if the contributors for that specific article recommended them. For a tool to be mentioned in the article, it must have been cited by two or more contributors. See our How We Review Software page for more information on our methodologies.
Authors contributing expert articles are required to disclose any conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest related to the subject matter about which they are writing. These conflicts are cited with the author’s bio and included with the article. These authors are occasionally, but not always, paid for their work.
Ongoing Improvement of this Policy
While our commitment to the highest principles of integrity and accountability apply in all of Idealware’s work, we acknowledge that the nonprofit technology landscape is an ever-changing and ever-expanding realm, and as such, we consider this document to be an actively maintained and evolving statement of our governing policies. We welcome feedback and suggestions for improvement in all our policies, and thank you for taking the time to read this.