Guest Post by Brian Roemen – Brian is Lead Tech & Owner of Backpack Tactics, LLC – IT solutions for your business, nonprofit, and home. Follow Backpack Tactics on Twitter: @backpacktactics

“Going Google” (converting to Google email, calendar, docs, sites, etc.) is not a new thing, but it’s still new enough that many of us are still learning what exactly it means, and whether it’s a good idea for our own nonprofit. Questions like “Is Google for Nonprofits right for nonprofits of our size?” and “Is Google right for nonprofits that do what we do?” can have elusive answers. Working with Backpack Tactics, we’ve done numerous conversions to Google, and would like to offer an answer to these questions, as well as mention some benefits that may not be obvious at first glance.

To clarify, when a nonprofit applies for Google for Nonprofits, this registers and validates the organization with Google as an approved nonprofit. Once approved, the nonprofit can “enroll” in any of several of Google’s products, but, for the moment, we’re focusing on Google Apps, with Google email, calendar, and docs (a.k.a. Google Drive) specifically in mind.

“Is Google right for nonprofits of our size?”

The short answer is “yes, probably.” Unless your nonprofit has close to 3,000 users, you can get Google for free, so the long-term cost savings is really clear. And the smaller your organization is, the more cost savings (proportionately) you will get. Let me break down the savings of switching.

  • Google for Nonprofits is free, so there is no ongoing cost for the product. This contrasts traditional products like Outlook, for which you must pay to license and upgrade the software. Average annual savings: ~ $25 – 50 / user
  • After a Google conversion, many nonprofits no longer need a server in their office and can decommission it permanently. Average annual savings (incl. maintenance and replacement): ~ $3000 – 6000 / server
  • The Google control panel is user-friendly, and thus, with just a little training, many IT support needs (e.g., password resets, creating/suspending email accounts) can be handled in-house even by non-technical staff members. Average annual savings: ~ $500 – 1000
  • Also consider reduced productivity loss:
    • with Google search, spend less time “looking” for email. Annual savings: ~ 90 – 150 hrs / user
    • 25 GB of space means your staff no longer spends time purging email out of their mailbox. Annual savings: ~ 15 – 30 hrs / user
    • users are almost 3x more productive while mobile
    • superior spam filtering reduces wasted time managing spam. Annual savings: ~ 10 – 30 hrs / user
    • superior document collaboration with Google Docs reduces redundancies involved in the traditional “email attachment” method. Annual savings: ~ 50 – 150 hrs / user

As you can see, the cost savings are pretty clear. You can learn more by visiting the Google cost saving calculator, the source of many of these calculations.

“Is Google right for nonprofits that do what we do?”

Aside from some specialty cases such as a nonprofit that has a really unique use of Outlook/Exchange, this question is almost equivalent to “Is my nonprofit eligible for Google?” Let me make clear that any organization can convert to Google Apps if they wish; the issue is that some can get it for free while some cannot. The quick answer is that if you’re a 501(c)3 that’s not a Governmental entity, purely health care entity, or a school (there’s a separate version of Google for these), then you are eligible, but see Google’s detailed eligibility description.

Though this is not our focus in this post, you may be wondering about the specific features or use of Google Apps (i.e., what it’s like to use Google instead of Microsoft Outlook.) To learn more about this, see Using Google Apps and switching from Microsoft Outlook. We’ve seen that despite a bit of a learning curve when users first convert to Google, most users prefer Google’s feature set to those of Outlook and other mail products.