One of the challenges faced by parishes and Catholic ministries in new media is setting up a good communications infrastructure. Email continues to be the primary means for most organizations to communicate, yet many parishes find themselves stuck using a hodgepodge of addresses from their Internet provider (e.g. Comcast or Verizon), free Internet services (e.g. Gmail or Hotmail) or the personal email addresses of staff members.
Of course, this situation isn’t ideal because it lacks consistency and professionalism. Consistent email addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) make it easy for someone to recall your email addresses or even to intuit them ifthey know one already. And having a common domain name that is all your own imparts a confidence that your parish or ministry is well-managed and has it all together. As a bonus, if your email address’s domain is the same as your website domain, then you’re providing free advertising for your website with every email you send.
While some website hosting providers include email addresses with your hosting plan, there is another option and for non-profits like parishes and ministries, it’s free. That option is Google Apps for Nonprofits. Now, some of you may recall some time ago that Google announced that religious groups were ineligible for it’s nonprofits program, but they have since changed their mind.
The heart of the program is email services. If you’re familiar with Gmail, which is considered the gold standard of free email services, then you’ll be familiar with the email component of GAN. In fact, they’re exactly the same except that your email address in GAN uses your own domain name. But you also get access to Google Calendar, Google Docs, and a few other minor services, all with small workgroup interactivity included.
When you apply for the program, you will need your tax exempt letter proving your 501(c)3 status and your tax-exempt ID number. After that, the process is straightforward, although it’s not trivial. If you have someone with some computer saavy on your staff or as a volunteer, you might want to ask for their help to ensure you understand all the steps you need to take.
From there, you just follow the steps laid out for you by Google and very soon, you’ll have your new email addresses and calendars and the like. With a little more work you can also be accessing your email through your smartphone and on your computer using software such as Outlook or the Mac’s Mail app.
We have a few hints, tips, and lessons we’ve learned from setting a number of our own domains on Google Apps for Nonprofits and we hope to share them here in the future, but for now this is enough to get you started.
Best-in-class Internet services at no-cost to you or your parish or ministry. What’s left to think about?