Choosing email services for a small charity

For the last year or so I've been on the committee of my daughter's nursery. My role is WebSite Coordinator, though I'm there to take care of anything technical. This includes managing the email.

Email Migration

Over the last month I migrated the nursery's email services. They were using an inexpensive, but simple, hosted email service using Roundcube. After using it for a few months I felt it didn't quite meet the needs. Which was was why I undertook the migration.

What does the nursery need?

The nursery is a non profit charity, there's not a great deal of budget for such things as email. Giving outstanding care and education is where they spend their precious funds. Nowadays though, it's possible to get enterprise level services on a tiny budget. My objectives were as follows:

  • Provide email services to meet current need:
    • Send a few emails a month to parents with nursery updates.
    • Provide an admissions inbox, where parents can enrol children.
  • Provide more in-boxes to allow staff and committee members to have their own email accounts.
  • Additional services:
    • Calendar Management - The committee have regular meetings.
    • Document Management - There is considerable policy documentation that needs to me maintained. Currently they're emailed back and forth, and stored on a memory stick for backup.

Choosing a solution

The periodic emails to parents is best suited to a mass mail solution. I've used MailChimp many times and it's free for the volumes we need. It was an obvious choice.

For the inboxes and the additional services there are a few options available. The two big players are Google Apps, and Office 365. After reading a few reviews the offering from Zoho looked promising. I though, have experience of Google Apps and Office 365, and for that reason it was between these two. There's Google for Nonprofits and Office 365 Nonprofit both of which are free. I decided to go for Google Apps, it's what I use for my own domain (here are the MX Records). I know Google Apps very well.

Failed application for Google Apps

When I applied for Google Apps for Nonprofts it was rejected. The reason was nursery schools are not eligible. At the bottom of the Eligibility guidelines it states:

Not one of the following … School, childcare centre, academic institution or university … visit Google for Education.

I then applied for Google for Education. After an email exchange, this too was rejected. It seems Google Apps for Education is only for formal education from the age of 6 and up. Google use the term K-12 and up, though I couldn't find a direct comparison for the UK.

Successful application for Office 365

While Google Apps was my preferred choice, due to my familiarity. I use Office 365 at work and I know the set-up and capability well. I found the application simple and straightforward, and it was accepted within 24 hours.

Conclusion

You've got mail

The email services are now in place and I'm pretty happy with the outcome. The failed application for Google Apps was disappointing. The reason why nurseries aren't covered seems like a bit of an unintended bureaucratic hole. Office 365 is still great. It's really just my personal bias why I favour Google apps, nobody else cares.

The staff and committee are really just starting to make use of the new email capability. MailChimp is already a hit. Time will tell how much benefit Office 365 proves. I hope the document management to maintain the nursery's policy documentation will help save time.

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James Skimming

James has been developing professional software for nearly 20 years, and unprofessionally before that.

United Kingdom https://skimming.net/