Google Apps Open Up to Religious Nonprofits

When can Google do something that goes unnoticed for a few months? When they slightly modify their eligibility guidelines for Google for Nonprofits. In February, with a low-key forum announcement, Google included places of worship and other nonprofits in a religious orientation in their Google for Nonprofits program.

That doesn’t mean there are zero hoops to jump through. Non-profits do have to agree to the following statement as part of the application process:

My organization does not discriminate on any unlawful basis with regards to hiring or employment practices, including discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, veteran status, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy status, sex, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, mental or physical disability, medical condition, sexual orientation or any other characteristics protected by law, in the administration or provision of all programs and services.


Additionally, organizations have to be recognized as 501(c)(3) by the federal government. Some of the ministries we serve are organized differently and do not have this status, and would remain ineligible.

But now that the majority of ministries we work with are eligible, what does that mean? There are three important benefits of being part of the Google for Nonprofits program.

  1. Free or Discounted Google Apps for Your Domain
  2. Google Apps for Your Domain provides Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, but at your URL. In other words you keep your email address, but your email is hosted by Google. This could replace your current IT infrastructure at a significantly lower cost. There are privacy concerns about giving Google access to that much data, but do keep in mind that any email service provider has access to this information.

    Many organizations are happy with their IT setup and would see no reason to switch. It’s nice to have options, and Google Apps for Your Domain has been embraced by large organizations, including nonprofits, as an alternative to hosted IT solutions.

  3. Free Adwords Advertising
  4. Now we are getting somewhere. Through Google Grants, your ministry can advertise for free on both Google’s content network and on search engine results pages. Masterworks has seen that well-timed and placed search engine marketing campaigns along with other integrated, multi-channel tactics can increase response to the campaign overall.

    This also allows your ministry to test new concepts and offers with little risk. Since you aren’t paying for placement, ROI becomes less of a factor. Once an offer is established and viable, it can be tested in other channels.

  5. Enhanced YouTube Branding
  6. “Enhanced” branding is a bit nebulous, but two pieces of this benefit are interesting.

    First, you can create a branded YouTube channel. This additional attention to the look and feel of your presence on YouTube sets your page apart from the thousands of others on the site, adding authority and lowering anxiety about your content.

    The action overlay is the moneymaker, literally. We are all familiar with the partially transparent gray background and white text promotions that come up in YouTube while a video is playing. In the biz these are called “lower-third” promos. In all cases but nonprofit videos, these are reserved for paid advertisements.

    If you participate in the nonprofit program you can specify the text in this area and provide a link to your website to donate or complete some other action. Not being able to embed a link right in the video has always been a knock against YouTube and, in some cases, has caused us to recommend other video-hosting solutions.

    With the overlay, the increased audience YouTube provides makes it a clear choice for hosting video.

How to Apply

The application process is available online at:

The application process doesn’t take a ton of time, but you should have a number of documents at the ready. If your ministry files an IRS 990 form, having the latest version of that will work just fine. You will also need a Google account for your ministry. You should set up a new account, not use your personal account. Once you apply, Google can take their good old time approving or rejecting your application. As you can imagine demand for the program is high. Your patience will be rewarded.

We recommend that you should at least look into this program for your nonprofit. It’s worth the time and effort for the action overlay alone, but the other benefits now, and likely in the future, make being part of this program a strategic asset for your ministry.