Changing email provider for non-profit
November 13, 2021 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm assisting in evaluating and recommending a new email provider for a non-profit. My knee jerk recommendation is "Gmail".... What am I not thinking of?

A non-profit wants to retire their ancient email-provider. It's a legacy solution, and well past it's use-by-date.

Among the criteria for a new solution is: Easy to access email and calendar on different devices, and operating systems (iPhone, Windows 10 etc). (We are currently collecting requirements.)

My instant thought was to recommend Gmail. What am I not thinking of?

What questions should I ask the board and the committee, to make good recommendations?

One difficulty could be that members, for reasons, might not want to go with a big name brand solution. What smaller, but user friendly and reliable email providers are out there?
posted by Rabarberofficer to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My work (also a nonprofit) uses FastMail, which I'm perfectly happy with. It includes a calendar, and address book, and has both iPhone and Android mobile apps. They have a discount for nonprofits (check the Pricing page). Since I don't pay for it I'm not sure how it compares to using Gmail.

One reason you might want to go with Gmail over something like FastMail is if you want all the other things integrated, like Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Drive, etc. If you need all that stuff, then Gmail is probably a solid option.
posted by number9dream at 10:47 AM on November 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

What kind of information is the nonprofit storing in the new solution? Any personally identifiable information? Gmail is nice in that it is free, but the expectation of privacy is lower than with a paid service.

I also use FastMail, and I can recommend it with one caveat: it doesn't store anything locally, so if your nonprofit involves, for example, trips to areas with no/poor reception where you need to reference info stored in FastMail, you might want to look elsewhere / check if you can tweak that with a nonprofit license.
posted by snerson at 11:29 AM on November 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You may want to look at ZoHo. It does a lot of the useful things that Google does. But it's not Google.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:41 AM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're right to immediately jump to Google, although not just for Gmail. Given that Google offers virtually all of Google Workspace for free for nonprofits, including the use of custom domain names and support, along with a $10k/month AdWords grant, it's really very hard for a nonprofit to turn down Google's nonprofit services unless they have a real conflict of interest using Google for their work. It's also notable that Google's privacy policy for organizations using Google Workspace is enhanced over their consumer services.

I've moved several nonprofits from legacy solutions to Google Workspace over the years, never with any substantial issue. In fact, there's generally been a fair amount of relief from the staff, as most have already been familiar with the Google workflow (so there was little relearning involved), and Google's support for various software and hardware platforms is very strong.
posted by eschatfische at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2021 [12 favorites]

I also use FastMail, and I can recommend it with one caveat: it doesn't store anything locally

Its otherwise completely adequate webmail interface doesn't, but you can easily hook it up to any IMAP client that does. And Fastmail's IMAP implementation, unlike Google's, is fully standards-compliant.
posted by flabdablet at 12:12 PM on November 13, 2021

Google Workspace is indeed pretty hard to beat if you're not paying for it as a non-profit. We've been using it at ours for a decade and it has been pretty good. Having Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar and so on there is quite helpful. There are some admin-side things that you can't do that can be a little frustrating, but these are minor. Overall, it is reasonably easy to administer, very reliable and most people are already familiar with how it works. I spend very little time dealing with user support or technical issues with Google Workspace, which is great considering how much everyone is using it every day. Their chat support is quick and actually reasonably helpful, though I rarely have to use it.

Microsoft offers their suite of tools for free as well, which is pretty much the same thing (email, Office online, storage). I much prefer Google's offering, though obviously opinions differ. Microsoft does have the advantage of having Teams integrated, which is not great, but certainly better than Google's Meet. Zoom is better than both though, and not that expensive with a non-profit discount. Slack is also free for non-profits, if you need something for chat and don't want to use Google Chat.

I can understand the desire to not use one of the mega-corp solutions, but when it works well and you're not even paying for it, it's hard to justify anything else for a non-profit when your time and money could instead be put to work on your mission.
posted by ssg at 3:03 PM on November 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I work for a non-profit organization that's been using Google Workspace (formerly known by different names, such as G-Suite) for over ten years. We generally like it. We do get some pushback from new staff who are used to using Microsoft Outlook / Exchange, but they adapt pretty quickly. And you can't beat the price.
posted by alex1965 at 3:35 PM on November 13, 2021

Best answer: In the exact same boat, but we think that Hey Mail may be worth the price.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 4:46 PM on November 13, 2021

Best answer: I've been in the nonprofit sector for over two decades, and for the last decade, every single nonprofit I've worked with uses Google Workspace. It's just so completely the best option, because it offers so many tools (docs/sheets, calendars, meetings, etc.). BUT it's especially useful if staff ever work with people from other orgs, because those other orgs almost certainly use google workspace, too, so it's easy to invite people to meetings, collaborate on docs, etc. However, most nonprofits also use something like Slack as well (which does integrate with Google).

As for privacy concerns, one very security-minded org I worked for - that has literally been spied on by the NSA AND been the target of corporate espionage - uses Google Workspace. Everyone is required to use two-factor authorization, and we used to use for collaborating on sensitive documents. But for our day-to-day operations, we used Google Workspace.

One other thing to consider is that Google is constantly upgrading its products and rarely experiences outages. IME, smaller or newer vendors are a bit riskier when it comes to things like this. Email is the kind of service you want to work well and without headache.
posted by lunasol at 5:07 PM on November 13, 2021

Best answer: I'm about to have a meeting about exactly this question with a nonprofit prospective client tomorrow.

Nthing that you probably want Google Workspace.

You might want to pay for the non-profit tier of Microsoft 365/Office 365 if this team already really likes and might be paying for some Office products. The other reason to consider Microsoft is if you handle a lot of data with specific regulatory/compliance needs, like you MUST keep archives of X for 36 months and then they MUST be destroyed - that kind of thing is doable in Google Workspace but it's higher-friction than the Microsoft approach to it.

Listen, I have gotten up-close-and-personal experiences with the number of work-hours that go into maintaining small, independent email solutions, and I am urging you not to inflict that on yourselves. Offerings from the big companies will be much, much more cost-effective, reliable, and easier to maintain.

If you know someone who already is a maintainer on a small independent email server and you have the budget for it, consider sending them a fruit basket or something in condolences for their situation.
posted by All Might Be Well at 7:35 AM on November 15, 2021

« Older Silken tofu + soy sauce + time = ?   |   Murder of Chicago area Poetry Slam Woman c.... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments