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Should My Church or Non-Profit Buy or Lease Its Printing Equipment?

non-profit copier and printer buying lease usage

"We've purchased and leased before. We know what's best." 

The issue of buying or leasing has likely already come up during committee meetings for your church, synagogue, mosque, or other non-profit organization. When your staff or congregant numbers started to push against what your facilities could handle, you had to decide to lease or buy a new building. When your organization needed vehicles, the decision to lease or buy was likely an agenda item for your board. For this reason, deciding to either buy or lease office equipment should follow the same route, right? There are, however, many benefits and drawbacks of either purchasing or leasing copiers, scanners, and printers. This piece aims to help you understand them to equip the board of your church or non-profit with the information needed to make the most appropriate decision. 

“What does it mean for my non-profit to buy or lease printer equipment?” 

Whenever your church, mosque, temple, or other non-profit organization needs to obtain printer equipment—such as office printers, copiers, or production-level printers—you have two likely options; buy or lease. If your organization buys its equipment outright, it has complete ownership of it and is responsible for all of its upkeep. If your non-profit chooses to lease its copiers or printers, it pays a monthly rate to a business solutions company for the use of said equipment at your location for a predefined term—typically five years. After that time, your organization can decide to upgrade the equipment or buy it—either as part of a fair market value purchase program or a one-dollar buyout lease program, which is more akin to a lease-to-own program.

Owning printer equipment sounds like a no-brainer for many non-profit organizations. For others, owning such devices may not make a lot of sense. Let us break down each of these advantages and disadvantages in greater detail. 

“What are the financial advantages and disadvantages of printer device ownership versus leasing for non-profits?”

Financial Pros & Cons of Owning Printer Devices

One of the main reasons why a church or non-profit will opt to purchase a copier or printer is price. Over the average span of ownership of the device, owning will likely be cheaper. There are no interest costs to pay and no monthly fees to manage. A significant hindrance is the high upfront cost of a commercial printer device—some of which can run into the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. 

Financial Pros & Cons of Leasing Printer Devices

Many organizations—both non-profit or for-profit alike—enjoy leasing copier and printer devices because of the lack of an upfront cost. Instead, for a designated monthly expense, your organization enjoys the use of a particular device or device fleet at your location. Many accountants and organizational boards also prefer leasing due to the lack of expensive hit to a church's or non-profit's finances due to buying something as pricey as a copier. Still, over the use-life of the device, organizations will pay more for a lease due to interest. 

“What are the service-related advantages and disadvantages of printer device ownership versus leasing for non-profits?”

Service-Related Pros & Cons of Owning Printer Devices

If you're a church that has purchased a printer or copier, you own it. You enjoy the freedom that comes with having your printer device serviced by any entity you choose—provided they're equipped to do so. You also enjoy the flexibility of being able to move said devices without any required assistance or insurance. However, for those who choose to buy, it is recommended to seek repairs from bonded and insured professionals. Failure to do so may result in a repair situation going from bad to worse. 

Service-Related Pros & Cons of Leasing Printer Devices

Printing device leases likely require that the vendor's service department perform all repairs and relocation of what is technically their device. And they may not be the cheapest game in town. While this seems like an immense limitation, most leasing vendors will be the best equipped to perform such repairs due to their affiliation with the device manufacturer. This relationship frequently translates into faster parts availability and factory-certified service technicians. 

“What are the device-specific advantages and disadvantages of printer device ownership versus leasing for non-profits?”

Hardware-Related Pros & Cons of Owning Printer Devices

As mentioned before, owning a device comes with the benefit of immense freedom—no monthly payments, no repair restrictions, and no additional moving fees. However, owning a device also means that once the printer device begins to struggle to keep up with the production, technology, or security demands of your congregation or staff, it's your organization's problem. Upgrading devices means buying or leasing a replacement and then finding a place for the old machine. It's also worth keeping in mind that used printers over five years old don't have a particularly high resell value. 

Hardware-Related Pros & Cons of Leasing Printer Devices

One of the most significant benefits of a non-profit organization leasing a copier or printer device is their ability to remain on the cutting edge of imaging technology. Because most lease agreements run five years in length, this means your church or non-profit can enjoy a frequent and effortless copier or printer upgrade. Also, because your non-profit leased your devices, older devices are the leasing vendor's problem—not yours. 

As mentioned before, if you decide you'd like to purchase your devices at the end of your lease, most technology leasing vendors will allow for a fair market value (FMV) purchase option. Though a one-dollar-buyout opportunity also exists, these terms would have had to have been included in your lease agreement, as they would have adjusted your lease payments.

“How should my church or non-profit organization decide to lease or buy printing equipment?”

Because you're likely taking this decision to your church's or non-profit's board for consideration, there are a few questions whose answers may help you make the best call for your organization. 

Would your non-profit prefer predictable monthly payments or one high cost in association with its printer equipment? 

Leasing equipment makes the most sense for non-profits who would prefer monthly payments over one lump sum. Purchasing, however, makes more sense for organizations that would favor one large payment. 

Does your non-profit value having the latest imaging technology, or would older models suffice? 

Your organization may need access to the latest copier and printer technology for the sake of staff usability or data security reasons. For such a group, leasing would make it easy to perpetually upgrade devices at the end of an agreement. If your organization has less demanding copier or printer needs and little desire for the latest technology, purchasing your devices may be the more appropriate and economical decision. 

Does your organization's size fluctuate (whether in congregant or staff size), or are you expecting a fluctuation in imaging needs?

If your congregation is growing, and with it, your staff, leasing may allow you to easily upgrade without figuring out how to manage obsolete devices. However, if your organization is of a reasonably consistent size with highly predictable imaging needs, purchasing reliable printers and copiers may be a wise choice. 

Signing a lease or buying a copier outright is a significant investment for a non-profit organization. Whichever route you choose, it is crucial to take the necessary time to discuss your organization's future needs with your board to come to the best decision. 

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