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Reply by MargaretBartley
Where can you post this warning, other than here? This is important, and people need to know about it!
On August 4, 2017,my nonprofit, the Giraffe Heroes Project (GHP) signed a binding licensing agreement with Metasoft Systems, a Canadian company. For the sum of $8,995 the GHP would gain access for five years to a sophisticated database of philanthropic foundations created and maintained by Metasoft.
A key Metasoft selling point was their offer of a “risk-free” money-back guarantee: if a nonprofit bought access to the company’s database of foundations, and that nonprofit did not get foundation grants at least equal to the cost of its purchase price within six months, then its money would be refunded in full. How could you possibly lose?
Very easily, as the GHP learned. After six months of diligently using Metasoft’s database we had not raised a dime. So we notified Metasoft that we wished to exercise our rights under their “risk-free” money-back guarantee. That’s when the problems started. Even though Metasoft never contested that the GHP had met every criteria for securing that guarantee reimbursement, they did not send us our money back. Instead, they first went silent, answering no emails or calls for two months. When we started to complain, Metasoft began making a series of excuses for not sending us our check. First it was “end of the month chaos” responsible for the delays. Then they said that our check has been presented to the CEO, Trevor Skillen, for signature but it never seemed to get off his desk. Finally were told that the check had been sent but could be delayed for ”3 to 4 weeks” because of ”customs.”
By this point we had had enough and our trust in Metasoft had evaporated. What would be next? That the check was lost in the mail? So we filed a complaint with British Columbia’s consumer protection agency and also contracted with a pro bonolawyer in Vancouver. These moves had the desired effect and we finally got our money back—after over four months of struggle. We’re convinced that had we not put up the fight we did we would never have seen a check.
From everything we learned from talking to Metasoft insiders, the problem flows not from the staff, but from CEO Trevor Skillen, who seems to reserve all reimbursement decisions to himself.
Our word of warning to nonprofits: if you sign up with Metasoft to use their foundation database, be prepared that, if it does not work for you, you will have to fight like heck to get Metasoft to honor its guarantee. Getting our money back was a nightmare.
Finally we think it’s wrong that the Better Business Bureau continues to give Metasoft its A+ rating. A short web search reveals that the GHP is not the first nonprofit to run into Metasoft’s reluctance to honor its money-back guarantee. We strongly urge the BBB, if it wants to maintain its reputation as a credible watchdog, to remove the high rating it now gives Metasoft, at least until this company credibly corrects its guarantee reimbursement practices.
As one of the moderators at TechSoup I tend to heavily edit or delete rant posts like this.
But I also hate scams and bad customer service,so I will leave it to others to decide if any action should be taken.
I will offer my personal thoughts and some feedback and you can take it or leave it, but it's intended to be helpful:
1) Other non-profits should find this helpful, but may not see if unless they are doing research for services that this company offers. With TechSoup forums mostly about IT products and services your post may not reach many people via hear. But we do get a fair amount of traffic related to fundraising so it may help.
2) Your post does come off as more of a rant and that is understandable given the situation. But it's a lot to digest and the emotion makes it seem less professional to me. While their service didn't suit your needs (and may be lacking for most) you complained and got your money back. Not having the other side of the story raises the possibility of doubt that there may have some other issues with communication or misunderstanding.
Dialing down the emotion and laying out the facts in a clear, organized manner would tell your story in a more effective manner, in my opinion. To really summarize it from what I read:
- The service was hyped beyond what it could really deliver.- You were very disappointed with the quality of what you were sold.- You complained and got a refund, but only after a process that made a solid week's worth of dental work seem a more attractive choice.I would lay it out something like that with a single sentence in bold and then some detail underneath to back up each statement.
3) Your focus on the BBB may seem excessive to any neutral party. You complained and got your money back and it was very unpleasant. That one complaint may not do much to lower an A+ rating and in my opinion it should not. Again we don't the other side of the story.
4) Having said those things I do applaud your effort to save others from having the same experience.If you want to be more effective I would contact some associations that work with NPs to see what communication options are available. And I would post your revised story on as many blogs and forums related to NPs and fundraising as possible. I would also link to that company's web site with a link that has something like "avoid metasoft" or "metasoft problems".
At the same time, put up links on your site that point to your BBB complaint and other places where you have posted your story with the link text, "metasoft systems inc complaints", "metasoft reviews", and "metasoft complaints"
The linking suggestions will work over time so that people find your review, but also see things like "metasoft problems" when they type in a search for the company. Include those same terms in your story about them.
Thanks and good luck!
5) Perhaps you should consider creating a fundraising guide for other NPs based on your own success?
[Update: I deleted your original post because you should have replied under that thread. All of the same information is here, so the other thread because a duplicate.]
Thank you for that helpful response.
You are absolutely right (although I wish you had some suggestions about where else to post complaints!)
Just an observation....
Mr Graham has been open on social media sites that he views his charity as a business.
He also is an adventurer, who over thirty years has minimal contacts and followers on media or sites than can be accessed when seeking his charitable credits to validate donations.
It occurs to me that over thirty years the foundation should have many more followers, comments and/or news articles.
In condensing what I have read; many adventures have taken place! Unfortunately thirty years and by the description of his work by John himself.
The obvious conclusion is that many Metasoft philanthropists simply did not find that this particular charity donation worthy.
John after soliciting funds for thirty years to go adventuring, it might simply be that people can no longer donate funds...especially when many foundations work diligently and forgo the executives adventures in the effort to make a larger impact with the donations they receive.
Metasoft certainly has longstanding and educated philanthropists who see thru solicitation letters by random parties who simple seek funds excessive to their productivity.
Just a thought....maybe I'm wrong....maybe.
I'm sure Mr Graham has great qualities, Metasoft as well....but Metasoft does not decide who is helped or funded to go out and make a difference.
I feel that Techsoup may have been correct in their initial feeling not to post what maybe frivolous or vendictive unsubstantiated complaints.
Again...just a thought.
I appreciate everyone's opinion. In no way is anything I have written intended to suggest that I am taking a side. It's an of observation and of course...my thought.
As the former VP/Managing Director/Founder of DonorPerfect for 25 years, I think (hope?) I can provide some color.
There are very, very few companies who prey on nonprofits. It makes for great headlines, but it's very rare.
The only company that I know, for a fact, held nonprofits unreasonably hostage was FrontStream Payments, who bought out GiftWorks (an installed fundraising solution), and within a few months, let all of the former GiftWork users know that they would disable the software remotely (aka, a trojan horse), unless the nonprofit paid for a perpetual (and annual!) license fee that was more than double what they originally paid.
This would be like Microsoft saying that, "The Microsoft Word 2016 download that you bought for $400 will be deactivated in one month, you will lose all of your documents, unless you pay us ~$1,000 per year for Microsoft 365".
Clearly, Microsoft never did this. But FrontStream did.
As for MetaSoft, I have experience with them, as I conducted potential business acquisition with them in June of 2011. While the statute of limitations for the NDA has long since expired, I don't have a problem letting everyone know that I felt that while the opportunity was not a good fit for us at the time, I did respect their professionalism and treatment of their customers.
Granted, that was 9 years ago, so things can change, but overall, I do believe companies who serve the nonprofit community at their word. With the one exception of FrontStream.
TechSoup Community Moderator
Jon BiedermannPresident & CEOThe Biedermann Groupwww.biedermanngroup.com
I concur. Avoid them like the plague, unless you have so much money and time you like wasting it. Their database is horrible out of date. Their money back guarantee requires letters from the foundations, but our experience is about 50% of the foundations are shuttered. About 75% remaining are impossible to contact. Don't buy the guarantee... It is worthless.
Who is the lawyer you used it you can share? We don't have resources to fight, but want to for others if possible.
This is a reply to John at Giraffe Heroes, who asserts that his organization did not receive a refund in response to his claim for one under our then active money back guarantee.
Giraffe Heroes did in fact receive this full refund, which was delayed and required my personal review, as it had not fully met our clear guarantee conditions.
We apologize for this delay. We are also pleased that Giraffe Heroes ultiately attracted foundation funding, as detailed in the link below.
We would like to reassure all of our clients and future clients that despite the ominous "beware Metasoft" thread headline, have always honoured our client commitments with our 14,500+ clients over a 25 year period, and will continue to do so.
For those wishing to review the full details of this matter, please refer to Johns letter and our Customer Service reply below.
Guarantee claim synopsis by Mitch Owens / Metasoft Client Services Supervisor
The client initially indicated their desire to exercise their guarantee in January, before the conclusion of the six-month guarantee period itself. In the same communication, the client requested a six-month extension to their Money Back Guarantee, a request Metasoft declined.
On February 23,2018 three weeks after the conclusion of the six month guarantee period, the client submitted a formal refund request . This submission lacked some of the supporting documentation required by the guarantee.
The audit process could not begin until we were in receipt of all the required documents, in early March.
The audit was completed and the refund request approved on May 3, within the time frame specified by the binding Money Back Guarantee agreement, and the file was sent to accounting for cheque processing.
On May 22, the client informed us of their complaint to Consumer Protection BC, a complaint they promised to withdraw upon receipt of their refund.
The client acknowledged receipt of their refund, after we had completed our guarantee audit on June 11.
In short, the client’s refund request was subjected in to an audit process that took no longer than the six weeks specified in our guarantee and Metasoft issued a full refund, now in the client’s possession.
From: Trevor Skillen Sent: Sunday, December 6, 2020 2:47 PM To: Trevor Skillen Subject: RE: Giraffe
From: Trevor Skillen Sent: Sunday, December 6, 2020 2:29 PM To: Trevor Skillen Subject: Giraffe
-----Original Message----- From: John Graham [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 4:51 PM To: Mitch Owens; Sue Ashworth; Connie Lui Subject: Exercising the Guarantee: Giraffe Heroes Project Hi friends at Foundation Search, Of the 250 names on the Best Prospects List you sent me—after thorough research, I found that 233 were not relevant enough to the Giraffe Heroes Project to merit an LOI. For many, it was because they were specific to a certain city or region and our work is national (international) in scope. For others, it was because they funded only direct social service programs where our work is creating the motivation for citizens to act to solve any kind of public problem. Still others were foundations which had rejected our proposals or LOIs in the recent past. (BTW, there was no line drawn across the approved list you sent us separating the best prospects from the others—so I just started working with the remaining 17 foundations in order of their score). With Sue’s <NOTE: Sue Ashworth, Foundationsearch Support Manager> excellent advice on content and style, I’ve now sent out 10 LOIs to the remaining 17 names on that list, plus 4 more to foundations I discovered myself that were not on your list. The results have been disappointing. There has not yet been not a single invitation to submit a proposal; nothing but “no’s” or no answers at all. So I’m feeling in something of a quandary. I have one week remaining in which I can exercise our guarantee but I really don’t want to do that because, just as you promised, your database is by far the best I've ever seen. It’s just that the Giraffe Heroes Project is not an easy “sell” (we’re the ones who teach people how to fish rather than giving them fish). So I’m wondering—is there any possibility that you could extend my money back guarantee for at least another six months or so? Or let me buy your services a year at a time? I’d like more time to approach the last seven names on your list but, more importantly, with the time freed up from a focus on your list, I’d like to spend serious time developing and using my own lists, using your methodology. As you acknowledge, lists that we develop in-house are certain to be more accurate and focused than anything you could do from afar. So let me know if I have any alternatives to exercising my guarantee next week. It would seem to be in all our interests to extend the guarantee limit by another six months or so. Or find some other way that is not “all or nothing.” If it’s still goose eggs by next winter, well, then, we sure tried. John
Reply to Trevor Skillen of Metasoft
I had not planned to say anything more about my nonprofit’s horrible experience with Metasoft Systems but Mr Skillen’s recent posting on this thread is so full of errors I now have no choice.
First, the Giraffe Heroes Project fully met Metasoft’s guarantee conditions for a refund from the beginning. Our original application for a refund meticulous included all the required supporting documentation and Metasoft never told us otherwise and never asked for any additional information. It is absolutely false that we failed to meet any of their conditions and I defy Metasoft to prove otherwise. Their “audit” could have been done in a day.
No, an audit, it seems, was not the reason for the four month delay. Our request for a refund , submitted in full and timely fashion, seems to have simply sat on a desk while Metasoft offered one lame and incredible excuse after the other for the delay. It is our opinion that Metasoft delayed sending that check because they simply did not want to pay it and somehow hoped we would go away. We got our money only after we filed a complaint with Consumer Protection BC and then threatened legal action.
This process took four months of effort—2 ½ times the six month time span for a refund promised by Metasoft. Metasoft was absolutely silent for the first two months before beginning to bombard us with excuses that rivaled “My dog ate my homework.”
As to Metasoft’s database of foundation leads— it's true that over 35 years the Giraffe Heroes Project has been very successful in raising money from foundations and we'd hoped that Metasoft could help us continue this fine tradition. But the Metasoft database, which looked so promising in the beginning, turned out to be utterly worthless to us. Of the 250 names on the Best Prospects List they sent us—after thorough research, we found that 233 were not relevant enough to the Giraffe Heroes Project to merit an LOI. When we sent out LOI’s to the remainder we—experienced grantwriters— received not a single invitation to submit a proposal; nothing but “no’s” or no answers at all.”
The Giraffe Heroes Project stands by its original warning for nonprofits to “Beware Metasoft Systems”. In our experience, the company offers an inferior project and it takes a superhuman effort and some legal smarts to get them to honor their moneyback guarantee.
The Giraffe Heroes Project has been around for a long time and we have the resources to stand up to a company like Metasoft that did not honor its commitment to us until forced to do so. Our concern is for other nonprofits without these resources who may be taken in by a Metasoft salesperson enthusiastically promising a risk-free money-back guarantee that, from our experience, is anything but. For those nonprofits still considering Metasoft, we urge you to read this entire thread on Techsoup as well as Googling “Metasoft reviews.”
The Giraffe Heroes Project
Thank you for everyone who has contributed to this thread. Complaints about software and customer service are allowed here on the TechSoup forum, as are responses from the company producing such software. TechSoup has let this discussion go on for a while now, but now, it's time to lock the thread, as, at this point, we think everyone's viewpoint has been heard, and there's nothing new to be said.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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