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Free access to premium apps via Google for Nonprofits

By Clay Morgan

We’ve covered the advantages of working virtually and several tools to manage teams efficiently, but now we’d like to delve even deeper into Google Apps, one of the most robust virtual management tools for churches. We'll discuss the advantages of this premium suite and walk you through the process of gaining free access through the Google for Nonprofits program.

Advantages of using Google's premium apps

What does it profit a nonprofit to use Google's world class suite of premium products? Probably a great deal, especially when access is free. Many church leaders may not realize how or why they should utilize these powerful resources.

Many churches and small organizations do not have staff or space in their budgets for developing the technological infrastructure needed to create a stronger digital communications strategy. The Google for Nonprofits program equips organizations of all sizes with a variety of great tools, allowing leaders to brand their organization professionally without an IT staff. For instance, churches can use Google’s email system but still keep their own domain address (ex.

The Google Apps suite includes much more than just Gmail. If you've never dabbled in the world of Google tools, you might be surprised to learn that creating and setting up an account is free. Let’s quickly review the best Google tools before discussing the specifics of how you can qualify for free access to the full suite.

Google Drive
Google Drive is a cloud-based alternative to Microsoft Office. Most useful for organizational leaders is the ability to collaborate online and revise documents in real time from any device. Some users do similar work with Microsoft OneDrive, but the ability to share documents with others is greatly streamlined by Google's cloud-based repository. You don't have to worry about finding a file that has been passed around via email for review and revisions, wondering if you have the most recently updated version.

You can create Word-based documents, slide presentations, spreadsheets, forms and more. While they differ from traditional Microsoft Office applications and may not have some of the advanced features of desktop applications, these apps meet most of the daily needs of users. The name “Drive” reflects your storage capacity for documents, photos or whatever else you want to save online. Nonprofit users get 30GB of storage across Gmail and Google Drive.

Google Hangout
Collaboration isn't just about developing documents. With Google Hangouts, you can live broadcast your worship services and conduct meetings or training virtually via video chats. Google will even save a copy of the recording for later use. If you don't need to see your team, Hangouts also provides quick and easy instant messaging or audio conferencing capabilities.  

YouTube Nonprofit Program
Nonprofits can take advantage of an enriched YouTube Nonprofit Program. The primary features in this premium version are additional branding capabilities and call-to-action overlays. However, you also get a greater uploading capacity. YouTube videos drive search results these days, so why not tell your story and champion causes through this dynamic platform?

Google Ad Grants
Google also has Ad Grants for nonprofits, a free version of AdWords, Google's online advertising tool. You see AdWords when you search for something on Google and advertising results appear next to the listed information. Through this grant, organizations may receive $10,000 per month in qualified advertising to promote missions and initiatives on Google search result pages. Here is a brief visual introduction to Google Grants.  

Google Earth Outreach
Organizations with a broader geographic focus, such as missions agencies, may take advantage of Google Earth Outreach, which uses Google Earth and Maps to visualize causes, stories and needs for people all over the world.

Google Calendar
Don't forget about Calendar, which is capable of a great deal more than many folks realize. To committed users, Google Calendar is an effective time-management tool, especially useful for smartphone users, and even more effective in conjunction with Google Now.

Google Now
Google Now provides smartphone users with notifications in real time — everything from local weather, parking and attractions to reminders about appointments on your calendar, events in your Gmail and Google Maps navigation to wherever you're scheduled to be.

For example, you may have a friend or family member scheduled to visit you by plane. They can email you their flight details, and Google Now will provide you with updates about their travel when the time comes — flight numbers, updated departure/arrival times, gate and terminal information and so on.

What does Google have to do with United Methodism?

In early 2013, the United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration provided legal clarity for local churches as it pertained to gaining Google Nonprofit status. The specific determination was that:

"Organizations included in the United Methodist Church Group Tax Exemption Ruling are authorized to use GCFA's Employer Identification Number (EIN) to enroll in the Google for Nonprofits Program as a 'branch organization.'”

In early 2013, GCFA authorized UMC's to use their EIN to enroll for Google Apps. Get the premium suite free! TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

It's important to note that you cannot use your local church's EIN to enroll in the Google for Nonprofits program. You must follow the process below.

To use GCFA's EIN, the following requirements must be met:

  1. The organization must have a letter from GCFA certifying its inclusion in the group ruling.
  2. GCFA's EIN may not be used for any purpose other than enrolling in the Google for Nonprofits Program.
  3. Participating members must refrain from publicizing GCFA's EIN to the public.

How to qualify your church or organization for Google Nonprofit status

For a local church to be included in the group ruling, it should go to and apply through the website following the step-by-step process given there. After submitting the application, your group ruling certification letter will appear on the screen. You can save the letter to your computer or email it to yourself. Next, you must request to use GCFA’s EIN for the Google for Nonprofits program. Email your request to with your group ruling letter attached and they will send you GCFA's EIN.

How to apply for Google for Nonprofits

  1. If you don't have one already, register for a Google account.
  2. Go to Google for Nonprofits and click the button that says "Join the Program."
  3. Click the button that says "Apply to Google for Nonprofits."
  4. Sign into your Google account.
  5. Complete the form and use the GCFA EIN that you received from GCFA’s Legal Services Department after following the steps above. Click "Continue."
  6. The next page shows you all affiliated organizations that have applied using the GCFA EIN number. Navigate to the bottom of the page and click "Create New Application."
  7. You will then be prompted either to request administrative privileges for an existing account, or apply for membership as a related organization of an existing account with the same Employer ID (EIN). Choose the latter option and complete the application.

Gaining nonprofit status for Google Apps is a great way for churches and small church-related organizations to provide enterprise-level email and document management without having a large software expense. Stay connected and securely access data from anywhere, reduce your IT costs and help staff and volunteers work together more effectively, all while using effective channels to promote the work about which your group is most passionate.