Use your tech savvy for a good cause: Help a nonprofit migrate to Google Apps

Google offers Google Apps free to nonprofits. Perhaps you should offer your expertise to make the migration a reality.

With Google Apps, you don't have to worry about keeping a mail server powered, updated, patched or backed up anymore. You have access to your email, calendar and contacts everywhere. When you add an appointment on your phone, it shows up when you access Google Apps at work and home.

All at a cost to your business of $5 per user per month.

There are likely nonprofit organizations in your community paying that much - or more - for on-site mail servers. Some nonprofits organizations don't even have shared calendaring.

However, a nonprofit organization's funds are best spent on their mission, not their mail servers.

Free for nonprofits

The cool thing is that Google makes Google Apps available FREE to qualified U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations with fewer than 3,000 users. Yes, that's $0 per user per month.

Google Apps for Nonprofits

So why hasn't every nonprofit organization moved to Google Apps? Nonprofit organizations cited three top concerns for choosing software:

  1. Total cost over time (52.75%)
  2. Cost of converting from previous software (45.71%)
  3. Time it takes to maintain the software (44.81%)

These results are according to "The State of the Nonprofit Cloud" study prepared by and released by in March 2012.

Google makes Google Apps free for approved nonprofit organizations; that addresses the first concern. And Google Apps takes very little time to maintain; that addresses the third concern.

That leaves the second concern: "the cost of converting from our previous software." That's where you, the tech savvy professional, come in.

Offer your expertise

I encourage you to help a small nonprofit in your community adopt Google Apps. Be forewarned that the application and approval process takes longer than simply purchasing Google Apps for Business. Be prepared to help the organization apply, and then wait for approval. After the approvals are received, the rest of the process should proceed like every other Google Apps migration.

1. Review the nonprofit organization's eligibility

Google provides Google Apps donations to U.S. based 501(c)(3) organizations. You can search the IRS database of exempt organizations online.

2. Update the organization's website and listing

Check that the nonprofit organization's website accurately describes the organization's programs, and includes up to date contact information. Similarly, make sure the nonprofit organization's staff both has an account with and has updated the organization's nonprofit report.

3. Have the nonprofit organization's staff create an organizational Gmail account

The nonprofit organization will need a Gmail account to sign up. I suggest a staff member create a "" Gmail account for this purposes. Do not use a staff member's personal Gmail account for sign up.

4. Apply for Google for Nonprofits

Apply for Google for Nonprofits online with a staff member of the organization. Information that is helpful to have nearby includes all organizational contact information, the organization's employer identification number (EIN), and text descriptions of the organization's mission and programs.

Typically, the nonprofit organization will be notified within 30 days of applying. The time varies, and in some cases can be a bit longer. (From what I can tell, the process is a manual one, with an actual human review of the application. It seems Google has not yet created a Python script for this process.)

5. Enroll the organization in Google Apps

After the nonprofit is approved for the Google for Nonprofit program, the organization must then enroll in specific Google offerings. These include Google Apps for Nonprofits, YouTube for Nonprofits, as well as Google Earth for Nonprofits.

Enrolling in Google Apps requires signing up with the organization's domain (e.g., Make sure the organization has their own domain name and control over their DNS servers. Staff of the nonprofit organization should always maintain access to and control over their domain and DNS settings.

The nonprofit organization again will need to wait for Google to upgrade the organization's Google Apps account from the free version to the Google Apps for Nonprofits version. The time for this approval process may be a few months.

6. Migrate to Google Apps

After Google upgrades the organization's account to a Google Apps for Nonprofit account, the setup and migration process is exactly like every other Google Apps migration process.

As with any migration process, training is critically important. If you're not a skilled teacher, you might seek out an educator in the community familiar with Google Apps to help with training.

7. Share your story

Have you helped a nonprofit organization move to Google Apps? Share your story in the comments.

Also read:


Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.


I wish I had read this article before I applied.  I am applying for Little League baseball in my town.  I applied using my personal gmail email address, which I see is a mistake.  I just found out this morning that the application is approved.  I wonder if it is possible to have the email account changed to something other than my personal email.   I don't really know who I contact or I would proceed with that.  Another concern I have is when I want to sign up for Google apps.  It asks for the domain name owned by our organization.  As far as I know, our organization just uses the domain which gets redirected to which is apparently setup to support kids athletic programs.  I just need the assurance that I won't disrupt the website by proceeding with google apps activation.  I am mainly interested in google calendar for team game and practice schedules as well as scheduling for the concession stand.  I think it will work really well.  Google drive also sounds nice for me to save receipt images that are accessible by our treasurer.

Any advice and/or assurance is appreciated.


Possibly a minor point, but in December 2012 Google eliminated the FREE edition of Google Apps. So the signup process will have commensurately changed. And if you do help a nonprofit move to Google Apps -- let me know here, on Twitter (@awolber) or on Google+. Thanks for reading! Andy Wolber


I help nonprofits with moving to Google Apps. Regarding some of the other comments on this thread, I don't move them to replace MS Office - you're right, GDocs/Drive is no replacement for the enhanced functionality of the Office suite - I move them to get them on a stable email and calendar infrastructure, which is often a server in the back room (ugh), or sometimes worse, their ISP. I also train the end users and a system administrator so they can manage the system themselves. Since Google Apps itself is free for nonprofits (below 3,000 users), the cost is in the migration and training, which is what I specialize in. If anyone wants more info, I'm at


I would not send my worst enemy to giggle apps. There is NOTHING free in this world and as soon as people stop thinking that all this data mining is harmless then we might start to see progress in personal anonymity and security.


Where do I begin with this [aside from a biased slant towards Google]..... Application compatibility with MS Office - still the king for office apps. Not available outside the US. Most charities are small and therefore wouldn't have a dedicated mail server. It's these organizations that will never have one. Large charities [Red Cross, United Way, etc.] are big and will have their own server but many of these probably already have internal IT support staff as well as nice discounts on software. tHey can also afford to have their own servers. Many orghanizations may not be able to store or use Google Apps because of state/prtovincial and federal laws. Do you really trust Google safter the amount of outages? And finally privacy issues.


Google Apps are not equivalent to MS Office. So make sure they don't need the capabilities that are missing from Google Apps. For example: Publisher, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. Google doesn't have anything like Publisher, and the features in Office are very mature and stable. Google still needs a few years to catch up.


What is $5 per month in the US - maybe 2 big macs. In Malawi, Mocambique, Zambia etc, that is almost the monthly budget for meals for a family of 4! Come on Google, please spread the goodness


I look forward to when its free for not for profits in the UK as well.


I know of one non profit that tried to work with Google apps that sends a lot of bulk news letters and fund raising flyers. The limit on the number of folks they could send a message to in one shot caused them enough pain that they moved to a different solution.


I agree that for non-profits a well executed cloud program like Google Apps can be a great asset with not having to manage servers, location, etc. yet having the full power of a professional back-office. The biggest complaint I have heard concern about Google's privacy snooping. Plus some non-profits I work with are not technologically savvy so using a "cloud service" seems scarier than the traditional version which they have at least some experience with. The second is Google Docs to MS Office compatibility. One thing that helps me talk with people about it is that I use Google Apps ("free") version for my family. Limited to 10 mailboxes and I have to register a domain ($10/year through Google), but other than that it is plenty for my family and gives me ultimate control over the kids' accounts.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you offered your services to a nonprofit? Does helping a nonprofit where you live sound like a reasonable idea? Share your story with your peers.

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