As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of nonprofit organizations have suddenly shifted to Working From Home and are dealing with the challenges of managing a remote workforce. Even if your nonprofit was already using remote collaboration tools or including WFH as part of your operations before the crisis, the current moment is a great opportunity for your organization to evolve your systems and processes.
When deciding which cloud collaboration platform to use as the home base for your organization’s everyday work, many nonprofits end up considering two cloud giants: Microsoft (Microsoft 365, formerly “Office 365″) and Google (G Suite).
Before making a final decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Both platforms have advantages and drawbacks depending on your organization’s needs and culture.
How to Decide: G Suite or Microsoft 365?
When deciding between G Suite and Microsoft 365 for your nonprofit, there are several big-picture questions to consider. Use these questions to frame your decision:
- Which is better for your specific organizational needs?
- Which platform is more productive and efficient for the end-user working with stakeholders and/or donors?
- What are the limitations or value-add features of each platform?
- Which video platform tool (Teams vs Google Meet) best fits your organization?
- What is the best application for security and privacy?
- How does each platform integrate with other applications your organization currently uses? For example, if your organization is already using Microsoft Office products, you might want to switch to Microsoft 365 to have continuity and ease of use.
- What is the biggest priority for your choice of platform? Cost? Efficiency? Security? All the above?
Here is a breakdown of how Microsoft 365 compares to G Suite across a few key categories that are top of mind for nonprofit leaders:
Comprehensive Solution vs. Platform Agnostic Apps
G Suite for Nonprofits can feel more like a collection of applications rather than a comprehensive solution. Nonprofits might need to add 3rd party tools to their Google collaboration solutions to get the right mix of features and protections; this can involve additional complexity and cost.
By comparison, Microsoft 365 is a more comprehensive platform that provides a full stack of technology solutions for every aspect of a nonprofit’s operations and technology needs, including collaboration, device management, encryption, monitoring, and more.
If you want to be able to customize your collaboration solutions by adding some extra 3rd party tools, G Suite might be a good choice. If you want to save time and energy by getting a comprehensive all-in-one platform, Microsoft 365 is likely the better decision.
Cost is often a top concern for nonprofits. Both Microsoft 365 and G Suite offer price-competitive options, depending on how many people will be using the platform from your organization.
Microsoft 365 offers a few different free or discounted plans for nonprofits. In addition to the deeply discounted pricing models for nonprofits, Microsoft Azure offers a $3,500 credit to eligible organizations. For small to mid-sized nonprofits, pricing for basic applications like Exchange and Teams is free for up to 300 users. To access the entire suite of applications, the pricing starts at $3 per user per month. For large nonprofits, the pricing range is $4.50-14 per user per month, depending on selected features.
G Suite is offering discounted rates for nonprofits of $0 per user per month, $4 per user per month, or $8 per user per month, depending on which features you want. For example, the highest price point includes email encryption, device management, and video conferencing for up to 250 people.
Price is always a concern, but depending on the size of your organization and which tech capabilities you need, it might be worth paying a bit more for additional features.
Finding the Right Fit for Your Culture
Deciding between G Suite and Microsoft 365 is not just about technology, it’s about deciding which platform is the best fit for your organization’s culture and collaboration style. How do you like to work? How do your people prefer to use technology? How comfortable are you and team members delegating technology decisions?
These questions need to be answered to evaluate the platforms.
G Suite might be the best choice if the nonprofit:
- Has a high level of trust in your users’ technology choices. If your users have a high comfort level with technology and are eager to make their own choices about technology, G Suite could help to delegate and empower your users to manage more of these decisions.
- Has a decentralized approach to technology policies. Do you need everything to be centrally decided and controlled, or can you have a more remote/localized approach? Decentralized technology is often a better fit for G Suite.
- Has users who are eager adopters of technology, who are willing to try new things on their own, who want more customization.
Microsoft 365 can also help you achieve the same goals, but it might take more time to configure, and your users might get confused along the way.
Microsoft 365 might be the best choice if the nonprofit:
- Wants to simplify your decisions about where and how to store data/documents/files.
- Has complex needs for managing and storing highly sensitive data, and you don’t want to delegate too much of this responsibility to your staff.
- Is already highly comfortable with the Microsoft Office productivity tools (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)
G Suite can also deliver what you need for these same concerns, but your organization might have to spend more time, energy, or money on licensing and configuring the right tools to supplement the platform’s baseline features.
Making the Final Decision
Our Aldrich Technology Advisors most often recommend Microsoft 365 for nonprofits. The comprehensive, inclusive platform has a full range of solutions for the nonprofits’ unique needs. It is a one-stop-shop solution that can easily manage sensitive data and provide a familiar user experience for employees.
Determining the needs and priorities for your organization is no small task. Our technology team is offering free consultations and assessments for nonprofits looking to implement a collaborative cloud platform. We’ll help you identify specific challenges and evaluate options to make sure you are set up for success. For additional information, please contact your Aldrich Technology Advisor.
Meet the Author
Director of Client Services
Aldrich Technology LP
George Saheb manages the client services division in the San Francisco Bay Area for Aldrich Technology. At Aldrich Technology, George helps establish trusted client business relationships and guides clients to be at forefront of technology while reducing their costs and improving efficiency. He also helps with the client on-boarding process to ensure a smooth transition…