Online Productivity Suites for Non-profits: Office vs. Google Apps

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posted by Jessica
on Oct 08, 2014

Many non-profits struggle with how their internal communications system works. Whether it’s because of old server or security reasons, not having good systems often result in a lot of productivity loss over the long term.

Enter online productivity suites, such as Microsoft’s Office for Nonprofits and Google Apps for Business.These suites bring together many programs that will help you run your non-profit and put them in the cloud. Imagine accessing all your files easily from home, or on the road while still keeping everything secure. This also includes:


  • Email
  • Calendars & calendar sharing
  • File storage & file sharing
  • Collaborative document editing and editing documents online
  • Internal intranet sites
  • Basic public websites
  • Instant messaging (chat) between staff
  • Video conferencing for online meetings

This all-in-one system is a great option for many nonprofits for several reasons:


1. Requires less IT support

Many nonprofits don’t have any in-house IT support, and those that do are often short-staffed, so simplifying the IT administration required to run your systems is a big win. Using a cloud system tends to be less work to administer as most of the admin is looked after for you – leaving you with more manageable tasks such as adding new users and helping staff to learn the system. Many nonprofits will still want some IT support (especially to get the cloud system set up), but overall you will likely come out ahead.


2. Great functionality that you can access anywhere

You don’t need the cloud to create an robust IT system with great functionality. However in my experience, many nonprofits don’t have this setup – they have several systems (which may or may not be synced or integrated) which cover the basics but doesn’t really provide the support they need. Online productivity suites tend to be a great way to get some solid functionality at an affordable cost. As well, since everything is in the cloud, staff and volunteers can access their work anywhere. This means that you can stop emailing files to your personal email or saving them to a USB drive, and that you can travel or work from home with greater ease.


3. Grows with you

These online productivity suites come with a lot of functionality, but you don’t have to use it all right away! Many nonprofits move their email to the cloud, and then later on decide to embrace other features such as file sharing or internal team sites. This makes online productivity suites a good choice in both the short term and in the long term (as opposed to piecing together a mix of stand-alone solutions that only focus on one area).


Which Online Productivity Suite Is The Best?



          Google Apps 

            Office 365

Cost Free for eligible nonprofits & charities or $5/user/month (USD)


Free or $4.50/user/month (USD), depending on your plan for qualified nonprofits
Quick description  Google’s applications in the cloud – Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive/Google Docs, Google Sites & more Microsoft’s applications hosted in the cloud – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Lync & more
Might be a good 
fit if…
You prefer Google’s simpler interfaces and you want to create a highly collaborative working environment. Your staff are very comfortable with Microsoft products and want increased mobility without having to learn a new system.


Let us know which one of the online productivity suites above you’re currently or will be using for your non-profit in the comment box below.