Think about some big purchases you’ve made in your lifetime. Have you bought a home? Car? Computer and ancillary equipment, nursery room furnishings, smartphone? Your emotions likely played a key role in your final selection.

In fact, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio contends emotions are a crucial component of decision making.

But what about work purchases? Are your emotions tied, for example, to what fund accounting software you buy for your nonprofit? They probably should be. And, when you’re shopping for software, you should be looking for a partner, not just a vendor. Because a partner will offer you not only the commercial connection that comes with a purchase, but also a social connection that comes with a relationship.

Here are five key differences between a vendor and a partner.

A Vendor Sells You a Product – Vendors are transactional in nature and bottom-line driven. They’re pushing for a quick sales cycle and have big quotas to meet.

A Partner Sells You a Relationship – Partners take the time to learn about your business and mission and understand your challenges. They don’t sell you a product, then walk away. Their success is dependent upon your success.


A Vendor Moves Your Data – Implementation consists of you sending your database to your vendor and your vendor migrating your data into the new software.

A Partner Takes a Holistic Approach to Implementation – Not only does a partner move your data, it will also migrate your internal controls, bolster your security, and help improve your business processes.


A Vendor Isn’t in the Training Business – To learn about their software, vendors will send you an instructional manual or point you to a website. In other words, you’re on your own.

A Partner Knows Training is a Key to Your Success – Software is not going to do you a whole lot of good if you don’t know what it can do for you. Partners will provide you with a community of peers from which to learn, as well as ongoing training offerings and specialized support.


A Vendor Doesn’t Play Well with Others – Vendors typically offer a standalone product, and if you’re lucky, a cold referral to other vendors who offer tools and functionality they simply don’t have.

A Partner Offers an Extensive Ecosystem – Partners understand one size doesn’t fit all, and will have a thriving ecosystem of vetted experts and products that integrate seamlessly with its offerings.


A Vendor Will Sell You What it Has – For example, if the vendor’s solution is cloud-based, you’re moving your data to the cloud, whether you want to or not.

A Partner Offers You Choice – If you want to keep your data on-premise or you want the flexibility of the cloud, a partner will accommodate your choice.