Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite are two excellent cloud tools, and your eligible nonprofit can get donated versions of both through TechSoup.
There are, however, significant differences between them, so it’s important that you consider which is best for your organisation before making any changes.
Did you know? We have just launched a dedicated department to help your Nonprofit transition to the Cloud, contact us here for more information.
Features included with both services:
- Hosted email using your domain name, specifically Microsoft’s Exchange Online and Google’s Gmail.
- Applications for creating documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations. Microsoft’s Office suite includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, while Google’s includes Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets.
- Document sharing and collaboration. Microsoft uses Teams or SharePoint for this, while G Suite allows sharing and collaboration through Google Drive.
- Conferencing and internal chat facilities. Microsoft provides Teams; Google provides Hangouts.
Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits
Office 365 takes a “building block” approach. This means that there are baseline services, onto which various other tools can be added. Discounted licenses include desktop versions of the Office productivity apps as well as those accessed through your browser. If your users work remotely with poor Internet or need use of the more advanced features of Excel and PowerPoint, a more fully featured license of Office 365 might be the better option for your nonprofit. See our comparison on the plans available to your NPO here.
Google G Suite for Nonprofits
G Suite is one of several Google for Nonprofits offers, which also includes access to Google Ad Grants and other products. G Suite is entirely cloud-based and is decentralized in that each document is associated with a certain user, who also has agency over sharing access and controls. This lends itself to minimal IT or administration involvement, although you can centrally manage permissions if you choose to do so. As you might expect, G Suite is great for users who are familiar with other Google apps. In order to use G Suite at its best, your users will also need to be confident with storing, sharing, and editing documents in the cloud. As an organisation, you should map out clear policies and procedures for document management, including editing, ownership, and access.
Feature Comparison of Office 365 and G Suite
As stated above, your choice is likely to be influenced by how comfortable your users are with each interface. Both allow for a lot of collaboration, although Google’s collaboration services are more easily integrated with other Google Drive tools, and Microsoft has recently made a significant investment to ensure that Teams can be a centralized platform to access all Microsoft applications within one interface. Both platforms also integrate easily with other project management solutions commonly used by nonprofits such as Wrike, SurveyMonkey, and HubSpot.
However, Office 365 desktop apps can be more sophisticated and feature-rich than their G Suite equivalents. Excel in particular offers an extremely high level of functionality, from creating and color-coding pretty much every kind of chart to managing workflows. For this reason, if your organisation requires advanced functionality in Microsoft apps — such as Word’s SmartArt or the cool animations made possible in PowerPoint — you might be better off with Office 365.
But really, when it comes to the interface itself, it is a matter of your users’ preference. A workforce familiar with the Microsoft interface is likely to find Office 365 more comfortable. On the other hand, someone who has always used Google products will feel more familiar with the user interface within G Suite for Nonprofits.
G Suite is entirely online, and all data is stored in the cloud, while Microsoft has both online and locally stored versions of its apps and email server. If you have reliable connectivity, working in the cloud shouldn’t be a problem. It could, however, be a challenge if you frequently have Internet access issues or staff who work remotely without a consistent Internet connection. The desktop apps currently require a paid version of Office 365 – read more about that here.
The two email servers are very similar, with the exception of their techniques for sorting mail. While Microsoft places emails into folders, Gmail uses “tags,” which you can then use to filter the emails you see. Additionally, Gmail’s platform is entirely web-based as opposed to Microsoft’s Outlook app for your desktop.
Office 365 and G Suite both offer donated versions to nonprofits. Therefore you might be tempted to use elements of both in order to best fulfill your needs, and this is certainly possible. The main issue here is sharing documents between the two platforms. The ability for multiple users to work on a document at the same time is a huge benefit of using either platform, but this is not possible between two users who are using different platforms. In order to collaborate across the services, you will need to download and send documents back and forth. This counteracts the usefulness of the collaboration features and often comes at the cost of losing formatting on the document and time in managing multiple systems.
Licensing and Pricing
There are donated versions of both of these services available to nonprofits, with the opportunity to either upgrade to more robust versions for a discounted rate or pair licenses with donated installed software. Microsoft provides 2 plans as a donation, and nonprofits get a discount to higher grade versions of Office 365. Google provides access to G Suite Basic as a donation, which can be upgraded to the more robust Business and Enterprise plans at the market price.
With both services, you can “mix and match” your licenses. If, for example, a handful of your users need features in the paid version of either platform, you can choose to upgrade just those licenses while using the free version for everyone else. This way, you only pay for what your employees use. You can adjust this on a month-by-month basis.
We do suggest starting to move your NPO to cloud-based solutions if you have not already done so. If you do decide to migrate to either of these services, our dedicated Cloud department can help you navigate the switch to make it a smooth transition for your organisation.
Two Great Solutions for Nonprofits
These are both excellent, powerful tools with the ability to fulfill the needs of many organisations. We hope this comparison has helped you make the best choice for your nonprofit, whether that is to choose one platform, stick with what you’re doing, or combine the two platforms to best fulfill your needs.