If you’re like a lot of churches, nonprofits, and small businesses, it’s very likely that you use Gmail for your primary email system (or you’re thinking about it). It’s also possible, for a small team, that you signed up for G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps. G Suite has a number of obvious benefits over standalone email accounts, including single administration over all of your accounts, under a single (or multiple) domain names, ability to centrally define and manage groups/aliases, configuring consistent security across all users, and on and on.
Way back when, Google used to provide Google Apps for free for organizations with less than 50 users. They have continued this under G Suite, but as soon as you hit 51 accounts, they begin charging you $5/user (current pricing) for all 50+ users. This limitation is likely fine for many smaller churches and non-profits, but its amazing how easy it is to begin to push on this 50 user limit, particularly with growing volunteer leadership who may need email, shared Google Apps access, etc.
What you may not be aware of is that Google has created a program for nonprofits and churches called, well, Google for NonProfits (GNP). Under the program, Google provides a series of different services, including free, unlimited G Suite Basic, called (of course!) G Suite for NonProfits. This means that you get all of the benefits of G Suite Basic for free in perpetuity, as long as they don’t change the program. G Suite Basic/NonProfit provides:
- Unlimited number of user account for email/calendar/etc
- 30GB Google Drive per user
- Shared Google Apps across the domain
- 24/7 phone support and priority email support
This last item — phone and email support — can be a really valuable part of this package. If you have ever attempted to get an actual person to support your issue from Google (or Yahoo, or many free cloud services), you know how difficult this can be. Including support really makes this more of an Enterprise offering for your growing organization.
It doesn’t stop there – under GNP, you can also apply for Google Ad Grants, a NonProfit program providing sponsorship towards Google AdWords, which grants you up to $10,000 a month of Google AdWords spending for free. Now, there are a series of caveats that go with this, which document in a separate blog, but… $10,000/month for free is still free advertising $$. Also under GNP there are some of their developer oriented programs, like access to their Google Maps API, YouTube Nonprofit Program which includes access to use YouTube Studios (if your large enough), and several other services as well.
All you need to do is to signup and verify that you are a 501(c)3 in good standing. There are really only 2 issues that churches and nonprofits may face doing the sign-up process
- The sign-up process is largely automated via their website, and to verify your 501(c)3 status, Google does a quick lookup against the 501(c)(3) IRS database. For many organizations, this is not an issue. If, like us, you are not in the database, you have some additional work to do. We actually operate under the 501(c)3 umbrella of a parent organization, so when Google scans the IRS database for our name or EIN, they get no hits, and the application cannot proceed. Keep in mind that it’s nearly impossible to actually talk to a human at Google to explain anything to you, so up until recently, we were stuck and could not complete an application. Recently, Google partnered with an organization called TechSoup, and if you register as a 501(c)(3) on TechSoup, Google will honor that registration. The good news is that TechSoup has actual human beings available to look at your situation, if needed, look at the paperwork, etc.
- Now with the 501(c) 3 confirmation complete, we needed to fulfill the rest of the Google application, which includes an agreement that contains some ethical compliance language. Depending on your organization, some evangelical churches and organizations may or may not be comfortable signing off on the ethical compliance language, as it includes things like “does not discriminate in hiring based on sexual preference”, etc. Every church or nonprofit will need to read and review these against their own principles, culture, and the scriptures, and come to their own conclusion whether this aligns with your organization or not. For us, we operate in California which already has specific laws with regards to these things, so it was not an issue for us to sign off on something that’s already in California law.
Once the agreement is submitted, in a matter of minutes or hours, Google usually sends back an acceptance and a welcome package for GNP. This includes some info on how to use this status to apply for and setup G Suite for NonProfits and the other available services under GNP.