Updated: Sproutbuilder Widget making tool changes to paid

Sproutbuilder – a great drag and drop flash widget creation tool that has been a great boon for nonprofits trying to get their message out on blogs and Facebook etc. announced yesterday that they are moving to a paid model and will no longer be offering a free version.

Unfortunately this was handled a bit poorly with the information that there will be discounts for nonprofits buried in their FAQ and no real indication of what that will be. Also the timeline of the announcement – that you could be shut out of your account as soon as 2 weeks from now and no clear answer as to what happens to your published sprouts once this takes effect led to some panic and hot tempers.

Because I have been a vocal proponent of Sproutbuilder for nonprofits and have recommended it to clients and used it with clients already, I have been keeping an eye on the discussion on Twitter, news and blog feeds. There is good news. In response to Michelle Murrain’s very wise take on this at the Idealware blog, Carnet Williams posted the following:

“We are doing our best to provide Sprout free or at a highly discounted rate to NPOs. Meaning if you are a small nonprofit and not using a ton of our bandwidth, most likely free. If you are a large NGO with tons of traffic, we will discount the rate so we cover our COGs.

Michelle… you know I am going to do my best to make this type of powerful tool available to social change organizations… as long as I can keep my lights on.”

Combined with the interview he gave Adam Ostrow at Mashable, where it states that the intention is to keep Sproutbuilder available for free to nonprofits, I am optimistic at this point. However I would still like to see a public announcement from the company as to exactly what their plan and pricing structure is for these groups since most of the discussion I have seen from NPO’s is around what alternative service they can switch to.

So while I listen to Michelle’s sage advice and get my clients going on Plan B, I’ll continue to keep an eye and ear on the developments and will update here with what I find out.

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UPDATE

Received email from Sproutbuilder saying that there will be a grace period for existing users to sort themselves out and make a decision. Whew, good. Also that email will be sent to all nonprofits contacting them at pricing@sproutbuilder.com with details about the the special discount. So if you are in a nonprofit or educational institution, get your email in to them to receive the announcement when it comes out.

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UPDATE 2 : January 21, 2009

In their email newsletter Sprout has announced the following policy for nonprofits and educators –

Non-Profits and Educators:
Qualified non-profits and educators can contact us for discount pricing. Basic accounts will be free and 50% discounts will be offered for the other levels. Interested in pricing for your classroom? contact pricing@sproutbuilder.com with specific questions about pricing for education.

This means that up to 3 sprouts are free with some bandwidth limitations, 3-7 for $30/per month and over 7 sprouts will be $150 a month.


3 comments on “Updated: Sproutbuilder Widget making tool changes to paid
  1. Corey says:

    Sigh. It’s sad, but understandable. YouTube would have vanished without Google, and the only way Google can get it to work is with ads, which is probably still a cash sinkhole. Something this cool had to succumb as well as a victim of its own popularity. Servers, bandwidth and energy cost money, and as long as that’s true, nothing on the net will really be “free.”

  2. carnet says:

    We are committed to providing our service as low cost as possible to NPOs and Educational institutions. We are assessing the best fee structure (discount) at this point. Sprout is committed to giving back to the community, but we also want to make sure we are around a long time.

    Just to give you a little insight.. it has taken about 15 people over two years to build sprout and we have 20 people on payroll today. I hope everyone will understand how much we need to recover to stay alive.

  3. admin says:

    Thanks so much Carnet for the quick response. It really helps organizations to understand what is going on. And Corey’s point speaks to your situation as well. As you point out – not only is this a quality tool worth paying for, but it is also the result of a significant investment of resources.

    I think everyone hopes that Sproutbuilder will be around for the long haul and that they will quickly get a good place with the new business approach that allows them to support the work of nonprofits.

    One thought I had is that maybe some of the larger agency clients might be able to donate some of their usage or bandwidth to nonprofits or sponsor a pool of nonprofit use on Sproutbuilder.

    Or maybe those of us that consult with nonprofits and want to utilize this great service for them might be able to get collective accounts so that we can afford it and reduce the cost for our clients.

    Just brainstorming possible win/win options at this point.

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