Google Apps and Nonprofits

I recently came across the Google for Nonprofits program and thought it might fit the need for a local nonprofit called Ojai Valley Green Coalition. At my 7pm appointment with their Executive Director and another volunteer, we had a great time talking about utilizing Google Apps for the organization. Originally, they came to me with a need to integrate document sharing, conversation, and calendaring. One of their biggest challenges as an organization is communication – making it sophisticated enough to be practical and easy enough for most people to use. Many things have been tried over the years. With the Google Apps option, this organization can integrate it all under their domain name and provide organization accounts to the key players. The added components for nonprofits are a bonus.

Based on past experience with Apps, I thought setting up the Google for Nonprofits would be a breeze. Though it was very simple to complete the application (contact information needed only), we then discovered we’d have to wait up to 30-days before it was reviewed and approved. This was only 5-minutes into our scheduled meeting! Fortunately, not all was lost, we discovered we could move forward by setting up a regular Google Apps account and later link it with the nonprofit component.

It took about an hour, but we setup and configured our domain to be hosted on Google Apps with a handful of users. Explaining as we went along, the two members seemed to understand the options provided by Google. Possibly the most challenging piece we’ve yet to resolve is that they are using .com for email right now but everything else is on .org – I think they should transition the email to .org to keep it all consistent (and then redirect).

Two key steps remain:

  1. Editing the CNAME and MX records for the custom URLs and the mail.
  2. Explore the Sites component to build an integrated environment for the organization’s committees – this is what they asked! Here’s an example of what it might look like. I’ve actually never used Sites, but I’m optimistic about this type of solution.

I had a great time teaching and learning more about these free tools. We have a month to tinker while we have Google review our nonprofit status. A fun Friday evening.