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.

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 Idealware.org and released by NTEN.org 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 organizations 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 Guidestar.org 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 Guidestar.org and has updated the organizations 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 “nameofthenonprofit@gmail.com” 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., mynonprofit.org). 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.

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