We've used Civi quite a bit and I'm happy to share any experiences if you'd like more information on the platform and the pros and cons. We are a tech consulting company so our experience is from that perspective, from many clients that we help to run Civi.
Probably the main suggestion I would make is to have access to some sort of support on the system to help you with the configuration and with any technical issues that may come up, as well as training. It's a powerful platform but there is a definite learning curve and having some assistance is invaluable. With setting up basically any CRM it would be advisable to have assistance, but Civi in particular.
There are some pretty obvious tradeoffs with this platform, basically that there are absolutely zero licensing/purchasing costs (although you need to provide some sort of hosting to run the software on), which goes along with not having free support from the source company itself. I would suggest to budget for this, both as an initial cost to set up the system (I have no idea what your situation is but expect to need $5,000 or more, depending), as well as ongoing costs for the support and hosting as mentioned above (on average maybe expect in the range of a few hundred dollars /month). You can do it for less, but again it just depends on your situation.
One obvious benefit of the pricing model here is that it's not based on the # of users, unlike most other systems. That can be hugely beneficial to many organizations. As well, a caveat to what I've said above is if you have someone quite technical on your team. That is a definite asset, although you would still benefit from someone with Civi-specific experience to advise them.
In terms of options for partners, Civi does have "official" partner organizations but there are many more out there to choose from outside of that list. Obviously the ideal situation is if you can get a direct referral from someone else that you trust, as you're asking for on this list. :)
In terms of whether Civi is a good fit for your needs, that's hard to say without knowing more details, but if you need pretty typical contact/donor management it's likely to be quite reasonable as an option.
I'm happy to discuss if you have any questions or to give a quick demo if you like, no big deal.
Martin Hansen Senior Consultant / R&D Lead 519.725.7875 x2120 | 888.817.3048
PeaceWorks™ Technology Solutions 101 - 554 Parkside Drive, Waterloo ON N2L 5Z4 www.peaceworks.ca
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