Before joining the Church IT ranks 10 years ago, I was the IT Director for a large school system for four years. In that time, I became very familiar with TechSoup.org from chatting with my EDU IT peers. TechSoup offered crazy software discounts to non-profits even if quantities were limited.
When I came to GCC I was surprised and bummed to learn that although our church was a 501c3, TechSoup had some fine print that excluded 501c3 Faith-based organizations. So while we were still able to purchase Microsoft licenses at their nice non-profit discount through places like Dell, CDW, CCB, etc, it wasn't the crazy discounts available through TechSoup. Very recent example: A few weeks ago we purchased 2 SQL Server Standard CORE licenses for $2723 at charity pricing. On TechSoup that would have been $430!!! Yeah, BIG difference!
Then last week TechSoup made the HUGE announcement that Faith-Based orgs would be eligible for both the crazy Microsoft discounts available on TechSoup as well as the free Office365 E1 plan for Nonprofits! Announcement
So here are the steps and process we went through at GCC ...
I immediately created an account on TechSoup and started their qualification process as organization type: Religious Activities - Church, synagogue, etc
You'll have to fax or email some paperwork to TechSoup, namely your IRS Determination letter to prove you're a 501c3.
Now, some people have gotten tripped up during the TechSoup application process because it has an anti-descrimination policy ... and yes, Churches do discriminate to a degree. Per the TechSoup website:
TechSoup Global is an equal opportunity agency. It will not allow discrimination based upon age, ethnicity, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, other than as allowed by law. link
However, if you read the statement carefully it clearly states "other than as allowed by law." Federal and State regulations allow churches to legally "discriminate", therefore a faith-based organization would be qualified under TechSoup's policy. If this were not so, why would TechSoup make such a big announcement to the faith-based community? Logic would dictate TechSoup had already made internal provisions for faith-based orgs to qualify, but if you really need to see it spelled out the above should set your mind at ease. Knowing I was going to blog about this, I did run the above by our Finance Director as another point of reference. He agreed with my asessment :-)
Of course, I'm not a legal expert nor do I play one on TV ... so seek your own legal counsel ... I'm not liable ... blah blah blah ...
After you go through the qualification process with TechSoup that'll start the qualification process with Microsoft. Microsoft also has an anti-discrimination policy, but it also states "other than allowed by law".
It took 3 business days to get the following "approved" email from Microsoft saying we were eligible for Microsoft non-profit pricing through TechSoup:
Next step was signing up for the Office365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits. TechSoup doesn't handle O365 for Microsoft, but instead routes you to this page to signup: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/non-profit/compare-office-365-for-nonprofits-plans-FX104081605.aspx
Yes, you're signing up for the E3 trial listed at $4.50/user ... but you'll let this E3 license expire at the end of 30 days. Once you have a trial E3 license you can then add as many free E1 licenses as you want. This is explained in that above link, but it seems most people aren't reading the page and just click on the "start trial" :-)
While you're signing up for the O365 trial you'll encounter another anti-discrimination policy as part of their qualification as a nonprofit process. Again, "as allowed by law" is used.
It took 5 business days for our O365 portal to stop showing an open support request for "verify eligibility"
Oddly enough the support request just changed to closed..no status update saying we were now eligible as a nonprofit ... just closed. Wanting to be sure I wasn't missing something, I found the Office365 subscription support hotline and gave them a call. 800-865-9408 Option 1 (Billing)
Sure enough, I was informed we had been approved for the free E1 plan. w00t! And it was followed up with an email confirmation.
Again, after you signup for your E3 trial you can immediately go signup for the free E1 subscription and add a bunch of licenses. You only get 1 E3 trial license, so you'll need the E1 licenses if you want to start playing right away :-)
I hope this is helpful for other churches and nonprofits wanting to save on Microsoft licensing and experiment/migrate to the free Office365 offering.
What does all this mean for Granger Community Church? Well, for starters we can get some killer Microsoft discounts even if the quantities are limited and FREE Office365 has a lot of features we're looking at closely.
Lync was a no-brainer to play with 1st. There's practically no setup and the video/audio quality is very impressive even with multiple people in a chat. While the mac Lync client is missing some options, it's still very usable.
We're big fans of on-premise Exchange (in fact we just upgraded to 2013 on 9/16) and it's pretty cheap even w/o TechSoup discounts ($600ish for us). Some will say on-prem Exchange is a nightmare. I will say based on 10 years of experience that if it is set it up correctly it will hum along without issue. Having said that, we might do a hybrid cloud+on-prem setup down the road for giggles.
We also have on-prem Sharepoint, but do little with it so moving it to O365 sounds like a win for the HR docs and whatnot it houses.
25GB Skydrive accounts sound pretty sweet! I've not played with it enough to say if it's on par with dropbox, but for sure that's a lot more space.
The web version of Excel is pretty impressive, especially if you've tried to do anything sorta complicated in google sheets (ugh, shoot me now!).
So, plenty of stuff to experiement with over the coming months. And yes, we do also have a google apps account that a few staff use for shared docs so it will be interesting to compare gapps vs O365.
I'm expecting quite a bit of discussion about this announcment at the National Church IT Roundtable next month in KS :-)
>>> ADDITIONAL INFO:
Office 365 Enterprise ProPlus for Nonprofits: This can be added on to the Office 365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits for $2/user/month. This provides the latest, current Office applications (PC or Mac) to be installed on up 5 of each user’s computers (desktop, laptop, home computer, etc.). This subscription automatically includes newest Office versions as they are released (currently 2013 for PC and 2011 for Mac). This subscription also includes Office Mobile applications for install on up to 5 mobile devices (iOS, Android & Mobile) for each user.
Exchange Online Archive: This can be added on to the Office 365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits for $1/user/month. It adds unlimited storage for archived email with access from multiple devices, including through the Outlook Web App. It also includes retention policies, eDiscovery and legal hold capabilities.
Followup post about TechSoup's Microsoft Limitations