Microsoft Office 365 for nonprofits review (and how to get it for free)

Office 365 app review

Microsoft made their Office 365 system available at a highly reduced rate for charities last September, following hot on the heels of Google Apps.

Microsoft came pretty late to the game of subscription based web-apps only fully releasing Office 365 in 2011, while Google has been incrementally developming its web-based email and document creation services since 2005.

However it’s still a very powerful suite which is available at a reduced rate for registered charities. In this post I'll look at what it offers charities, how much it costs, who is eligible, and how it compares to other options.

What can Office 365 offer to charities?

Office 360

The Office 365 suite is largely modelled on the desktop software you will be familiar with, but is now available through a browser. While the individual apps are anything but innovative, the move to a unified web-based system unlocks powerful functionality for clients.

As the name suggests, Microsoft is pitching Office 365 as a single unified system for organisational productivity covering email, document storage and document creation/collaboration. Their subscription model strongarms subscribers into this approach by offering only a small range of packages that each bundle a wide range of applications.

If you're a charity already using Office 365 then the nonprofit package offers a way to save money, and doesn't require learning a whole new system like Google Apps. 

How much does Office 365 cost for charities?

Office 365 has a basic offering that is totally free and a more advanced option that costs £1.50 per user pre month. The main difference is that the free package only includes the web-based version of the main applications. Many charities may find this too much of a transition and will, therefore, have to go for the paid version which includes support for desktop versions. Nonetheless, the savings are significant. More details of packages can be found here

Who is eligible?

Eligibility covers the whole of the United Kingdom but is restricted to registered charities and a limited range of other organisations such as trade associations. Informal non profits and social enterprises are not eligible. Full details are available here.

How do charities apply for free access to Office 365?

Charities can gain free access to Office 365 by following these steps:

Sign up for a trial here.

Verify eligibility at some point during the trial.

Following verification you can start to use the service on the free or reduced price basis described above.


Alternatives to Office 365

There are two key alternatives that are worth exploring: 

  1. Google Apps. The competitor suite of applications from Google is now available entirely free for charities
  2. Zoho offers a range of online tools and were real leaders in the early days of online collaboration apps. They lack the clout of Microsoft or Google but are a credible contender and definitely worth a look.

6 August 2016
Andy Pearson