One of the important responsibilities at my job is procuring (e.g. usually buying) technology for my organization to use to most efficiently further our mission. I use the word “procure” because sometimes we can get things for free—either via in-kind donations, or simply because the best software tool for the job happens to be free.
This post covers the resources and tactics I use to get us the best deals on technology. We owe it to our donors to spend the money they give to use wisely. It is through this mindset that we are able to achieve a 93% efficiency rating and the #1 ranked wildlife conservation organization by Charity Navigator, and one of a few with a perfect 100 score.
Amazon is my go-to for most purchases. We have Amazon Prime, which I highly recommend. With it you can get two-day shipping on almost anything you need, and you can upgrade to next-day for $4. There are only a few things that I ever needed to go out and get same-day (like a replacement WiFi router).
There are a few tricks you can use to get an even better deal on Amazon. First, check out Amazon’s Warehouse Deals. This is the division of Amazon that liquidates all of their open-box and ding-and-dent inventory. You can often find them under the Used & new link on a product page. But if you want to search only their inventory, go to the Warehouse Deals home page and you can search only the Warehouse Deals inventory.
Next, check out third-party sellers. Sometimes a third party will have a better price, or they will have an item that Amazon doesn’t have in stock. Also, some sellers will not charge sales tax, although you may be obligated to pay a use tax on those items.
Finally, I use CamelCamelCamel to price price tracking and alerts. For items that you have an ongoing need for (like toner, paper, mice, keyboards, tablets, GPS, cameras etc) I find it helpful to set up price alerts so you can get them when they are on sale. Camel✕3 also has a browser extension that shows a graph of the price history right on the Amazon item page.
Before you buy an unknown product on Amazon based on its high ratings, run it through FakeSpot to see if the reviews are legit.
B&H Photo is a great alternative to Amazon for electronics, and they often match or even beat Amazon’s prices. They offer free shipping on larger purchases. They also do not add sales tax (unless you are in NY).
For computers, displays, TVs, hard drives, USB drives and other similar tech, I highly recommend DealNews. They monitor all of the major retailers and post the best deals there. You can also set up your own alerts. Or just go to their site and search for recent deals when you are in the market for something.
For Mac computers (and now iPhones too!), definitely check out Apple’s refurbished inventory. Although be careful since sometimes retailers run sales where a new computer is cheaper than the refurbished model, so be sure to check DealNews’ Mac page as well.
I always check eBay before purchasing, especially for tech items. Sometimes you can get refurbished or liquidated items there for a great deal. And there are some tech items that are shipped direct from China that are an incredible deal, if you can afford to wait the ~3 weeks for it to arrive.
I use Check A Flip to get a sense for the price of a given item when purchasing—especially for used or refurbished items. It’s also useful when doing you taxes to figure out how much your in-kind donations were worth, or determining a price when selling an item.
Google Shopping is a good all-around resource for checking for those big purchases. It does index a lot of "out of stock" item pages though, so the signal-to-noise can sometimes be low.
I previously mentioned TechSoup, which is the only place non-profits should go for Microsoft, QuickBooks, and Adobe software licenses.
For Mac and iOS apps, I use AppShopper. Again you can set up price alerts for things that aren’t time critical. I also love Alternative To for app recommendations. I used this service to find Inkscape, a very full featured vector graphics app and free alternative to Adobe Illustrator.
Finally, there’s always CraigsList for lightly-used equipment. I picked up a barely-used commercial microwave for our office for less than half the price of a new one.