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Recently, it was posted to the Network that Google Apps for Non Profits was now available for churches in Canada. Great news and a fantastic option for many churches. But what if you don't want to jump in on the Google party? What other options are there? What if you've tried your hand at Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides and find that they don't quite stack up to what you've come to expect with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint?

Fear not, because as it turns out, Microsoft offers the exact same feature set as Google Apps at the exact same price for churches in Canada and the USA: free. So if you're looking to move forward as a church with your software services, both are excellent options and you'd be well served to consider both to find which will fit best in your situation.

You can look up more detailed comparisons in other places online (and you should before you sign up for one or the other…or even consider signing up for free personally before signing your whole church up), but here's what they both basically offer for Non-Profits:

What Google and Microsoft both offer:

  • Email
    • Hosting with your own "" domain.
    • Ability to use email on pretty much any device (phone/tablet/desktop/etc)
  • Document creation & editing
    • Google: web based with Docs/Sheets/Slides
    • Microsoft: web based with Word/Excel/PowerPoint (Microsoft also integrates with Word/Excel/PowerPoint desktop applications)
    • Live document collaboration (in Office 2016, this is true within the desktop applications as well via OneDrive integration)
  • Calendar that also syncs with multiple calendar services
  • Online Storage
    • Both provide unlimited storage with the ability to share files/folders (with “view only” or “edit” options).
    • Recently OneDrive also included the option to be notified when someone makes edits to your shared document, much like DropBox.
  • Sync documents to your desktop
    • Google: download Drive app and everything in your drive will be on your computer. However, all documents in the Google format (such as .gdoc) are actually only links to online versions.
    • Microsoft: OneDrive is baked into Windows 8.1 & Windows 10. If you create a Word document online, it is a "real" .docx Word document that is synced to your computer (it is not just a link).

Some Things only Google Offers

  • Google Ad Grants (free advertising)
  • Enhanced Youtube services

Some Things only Microsoft Offers

  • While the online-only version of Office 365 is free (like Google), Microsoft gives the option to add desktop applications to your subscription for the reasonable fee of $2.00-$2.40/user/mth (if you buy Office 365 personally, it's $10/mth). If you already have Office, you can sign up for free and Office 365 integrates pretty seamlessly with your desktop software.
  • True native support of Office file formats. Google will let you open docx and edit them online, but it's not by default and it seems they do begrudgingly. Google usually prompts you to change your docx to their file format, gdoc, but be careful if you do because it doesn't always come out looking like it did in Word.
  • Full Outlook support: If you love using the Outlook desktop applicatoin, Google Apps does not fully sync with it (you can set up your email via IMAP, but your contacts/calendars/etc will not be supported for two-way sync).


The purpose of this post is not to lay out every single one of the differences for you, but to ensure you know that you have options to choose from. Make sure that you check out the differences yourself, especially if I've misstated anything.

Even though this isn't an opinion piece, I'll also offer mine anyway: I started using Google Apps back in the day since it was the best at the time, but it has always been a hybrid solution to me. I can't shake Microsoft Office; I’m still using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on a daily basis. OneDrive is also now a solid and mature cloud storage option that has become my default for personal file storage, and the Microsoft web apps for online document editing themselves surpass what Google offers let alone the ability to add-on the desktop versions. Therefore, for any church looking to jump into one system, I'd recommend strongly considering Microsoft Office 365 as a viable option. You're probably using Office already anyway, so, if you like it, I can see no reason to switch over to Google Apps. Just dig deeper into the software services what you're already working with. After all, everything Google offers is already offered by Microsoft for the same price, probably with better integration into your current workflow. 

However, at the end of the day, both Google and Microsoft offer solid options depending on what you're looking for and depending on what you're currently using. So check them both out with the links below.

Note: While Google Apps leans on TechSoup's services to validate a non-profit's qualifications. Microsoft Office 365 does not run through TechSoup. You go to the link below and sign up for a free trial and then, after that, you can subcribe. However, if you would like to purchase a standalone version of Office 2016, Microsoft does distribute this through TechSoup. At a cost of about $40, it’s worth checking out.





Thank you very much for this information! I have signed up and started the process for our congregation.

And Google docs are from the devil! :)

(At least when you try to use them with MS Word).

Great info, Al. I didn't realize Microsoft's solution had email accounts, etc. just like Google Apps. It's good to have options. Thanks for taking the time to write this up for everyone's benefit. I hope you keep posting!

@Randy - Google Docs is great...if you fully switch to it. You're absolutely right that if you try to keep a foot in both worlds, you'll have no end of hassle with messy conversions, etc. That where Microsoft's solution would be a way better fit.

Has anyone else used Microsoft's Office 365 in this way for a church or company? Cloud solutions like these just seem like such a great fit for churches since churches have way more offsite volunteers than onsite staff.

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