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googleNPThe need for free or inexpensive software is huge in the nonprofit community, as we have to be good stewards of our supporters’ contributions. There are alternatives to some of the most common (and expensive) programs that are typically used.

For example, did you know that you don’t have to install Microsoft Office on your computer to create Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents? In addition to a strong e-mail interface, Google’s web-based applications allow you to type and share spreadsheets, reports, letters and other documents without ever leaving your Internet browser. The Google for Nonprofit program makes these services available to eligible non-profit organizations for free or at discounted price.

If you already have a Gmail account, you can see what tools are at your disposal by clicking “Documents” at the top of your inbox page, or take a tour on Google’s website. It allows you to create new documents that can then be saved as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint compatible file formats. If your organization still prefers to use computer software for document creation you can upload files and convert them to an editable Google Docs format.

Microsoft Outlook also offers free software grants for non-profits as well as browser-based document creation called Microsoft Office Web Apps.

One of the best features of Google Docs is the ability to share and receive documents without attaching them to an e-mail. Each document has a “share” button, so you can invite your co-worker to view and even edit your document. Taking collaboration a step further, multiple staff members can edit and write a document at the same time and leave notes for each other in the margins. This is especially useful when staff members can’t be in the same room at the same time.

If you qualify for the Google for Nonprofits program, all of your organization’s staff members get a free e-mail account with your organization’s name, and you will also gain access to some other worthwhile programs:

  • Free or discounted version of Google Apps for your organization
  • Free Adwords advertising
  • YouTube branding tools and increased uploads
  • Free licensing for Google Earth, SketchUp, and Maps API
Google Apps and e-mail is free for registered non-profits with fewer than 3,000 users. Previously, non-profits had to apply for each service separately, but Google recently streamlined the process by making it all available with one application. Certain restrictions apply, so find out if your organization is eligible for free Google Apps by going to the Google for Nonprofits webpage. If your organization is new and is not yet listed on Guidestar.org, then you will not be able to apply yet. Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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