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What You Need to Know About Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofits

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This blog post is orginally written by Ginny Mies, Senior Content Developer at TechSoup. This post has been adapted and expanded for a Canadian audience by TechSoup Canada.

Is your staff spread across several locations? Do you have a limited budget for IT support like installations and upgrades? Do your staff and volunteers want to do their work on personal devices like smartphones or tablets? Are you tired of maintaining an in-house Exchange server? Then Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofit may be right for you!

Microsoft Office 365 Nonprofit allows you to have the full capabilities and secure environment of installed software along with the collaborative, anywhere, anytime availability of the cloud. If you have some questions about going completely online, especially if you're working with sensitive information, read on.

Eligible nonprofits and charities can receive donated and discounted Enterprise and Small Business versions of Office 365. All versions include powerful features that can help you run your nonprofit more efficiently, securely, and less expensively. And because nonprofits come in different sizes and have diverse technology needs, there are four plans to choose from.

Benefits of Office 365

Office 365 frees up IT staff time by making email maintenance, software upgrades, and insecure information storage a thing of the past. It also deepens the word processing, data analysis, communication, and productivity features of the traditional Office suite that your staff is already familiar with.

Here are some of its key benefits.

  • Hosted email.
    With Microsoft Exchange Online, you no longer need to manage an in-house Exchange server or set up a VPN or remote access to your office. You can access your email, shared calendars, and contacts from your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet. Office 365 provides each user with 25 GB of mailbox storage with attachments up to 25 MB each.
  • Security and privacy.
    Along with built-in spam and malware protection for your email, your data will be protected in the cloud. If your organization deals with sensitive information, be assured that Office 365 is compliant with industry standards such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FISMA (The Federal Information Security Management Act). Your IT staff can manage and customize your organization's security options in a single console (a web-based admin center).
  • Office Web Apps.
    You're on your way home from the office and realize that you forgot to update an important document. What do you do? With Office Web Apps, you can open, view, and edit documents right from your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) on your home computer or mobile device. Your staff can use Office 365 on up to five of their own devices, giving them the flexibility to work wherever and whenever they need to.
  • Document sharing.
    Easily share documents with your colleagues with SharePoint Online, Microsoft's cloud-based file-sharing tool. You can even edit documents simultaneously with others, saving you the time and confusion of emailing documents back and forth.
  • Web and Voice Conferencing. Skype for Business is an all-in-one tool for video calls, web conferencing, instant messaging, and voice calls. With high-definition (HD) video conferencing, you can meet and collaborate with out-of-office staff and volunteers. Skype for Business includes a real-time note-taking feature so you can keep track of ideas and notes from your meetings.
  • Social Networking. All versions of Office 365 Nonprofit come with Yammer, Microsoft's internal social network for organizations. Yammer can help you connect, collaborate, and share with volunteers, staff, and stakeholders. For more information, watch this archive of our webinar Engage Volunteers with Yammer.
  • Support 24/7. Don't have on-call IT staff? Office 365 provides 24/7 professional-level support for issues ranging from critical to mild (depending on the plan your organization has)

Choosing the Right Office 365 Nonprofit Plan

Nonprofits and charities vary in staffing and technical needs, so there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" Office 365 plan. Microsoft offers two fully donated plans and two deeply discounted plans.

The two free donated plans are:

  • Office 365 Nonprofit Business Essentials
  • Office 365 Nonprofit E1

These free plans do not include the full installed version of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). To supplement these free Office 365 plans, you can request the latest version of Office through TechSoup. Office Standard 2016 is available to eligible nonprofits for an admin fee of $41, and Office Professional Plus 2016 is available for an admin fee of $57. Both will work seamlessly with Office 365.

Microsoft also offers two discounted paid plans to eligible organizations. These plans offer the desktop Office applications and other additional features. Your staff can use the installed versions of the Office applications on up to five devices per user. The discounted plans are:

  • Office 365 Nonprofit Business Premium ($2.40 CAD per user per month)
  • Office 365 Nonprofit E3 ($5.70 CAD per user per month)

A Feature Comparison of the Office 365 Nonprofit Plans

For more details, please see Microsoft's Office 365 Nonprofit plans and pricing.

Features Office 365 Business Plans Office 365 Enterprise Plans
Office 365 Nonprofit Business Essentials    Office 365 Nonprofit Business Premium   
E1 Plan for Non profits E3 Plan for Nonprofits
Price Free $2.40 CAD per user per month Free $5.70 CAD per user per month
Number of users (licences) Up to 300 users Up to 300 users Unlimited users Unlimited users
Subscription to desktop applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) for up to five PCs/Macs per user Not included
(plus Microsoft Access)
Not included
(plus Microsoft Access)
Hosted Email
File storage and sharing (1 TB storage per user)
Online meetings, HD video conferencing, and instant messaging
Online versions of Office (for editing and viewing Office files in web browsers)
Office for Tablets and Smartphones (view and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents with iPad, iPhone, Android phones, Windows Phone, and Windows tablets) Not included Not included
Intranet site for your teams   
Active Directory integration: manage user credentials and permissions    Not included Not included
24/7 technical phone support

Migration and Maintenance

Office 365 is designed to make IT tasks as simple as possible so you can focus on your organization's mission. For nonprofits without IT staff, the Office 365 admin portal lets accidental techies configure settings and customize user licenses, permissions, and services according to their staff's needs. Visit for detailed Office 365 migration support.

How to Get Office 365

To find out if your organization is eligible to receive donated and discounted versions of Office 365, visit the Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits site.

Nonprofit and non-governmental organizations must be recognized as charitable organizations in their respective countries in order to be eligible for Microsoft Nonprofit Programs. Eligible organizations will operate on a not-for-profit basis and have a mission to benefit the local community that could include, but is not limited to:

  • Providing relief to the poor
  • Advancing education
  • Improving social welfare
  • Preserving culture
  • Preserving or restoring the environment
  • Promoting human rights
  • Establishment of civil society

To see the full list of organizations that are eligible to receive one of the Office 365 Nonprofit offers, see Microsoft's Who's Eligible.

More Resources


trying to purchase Office 365 Premium non profit & free essentia

I have downloaded the trial version and it is now expired but there is no place to purchase the licenses. I have a validation token from TechSoup. I would just like to purchase 5 paid licenses at $2.40 per user and access 7 free essentials as an approved non profit business.

Hi there, Apologies for the

Hi there,

Apologies for the late reply. Our customer service department can guide you through the licensing process if you're still having issues.

t: 1-855-281-5499 (toll free)

Ben Losman
TechSoup Canada, communications coordinator

Sharing Access Database

Our organization has purchased one discounted Office Professional Plus and we want to be able to share the various programs with our other computers / volunteers. If we purchase the discounted copy for all of our computers should we also get the donated Office 365 so that we can share or is there another way of sharing. The main program we need to share is Access.
Any help is greatly appreciated.

Hi there, Please contact our

Hi there,

Please contact our customer service department -- they'll help you figure out the best solution for your specific situation.

t: 1-855-281-5499 (toll free)

Thanks (and sorry for the late reply),
Ben Losman
TechSoup Canada, communications coordinator

Office 365 as intranet/file storage


We are currently using Dropbox for file sharing, but without significant fees, we are having trouble organizing the files and managing permissions. Is this something that Office 365 would be good at? How much file storage is available?


RE: Office 365 as intranet/file storage

Hi Anouk!

Sorry for the late reply!

Office 365 would indeed be good at that! There's also our offering of Box as a DropBox alternative, which provides a perpetual license.

Office 365 provides 1 TB of storage per user.

Hope this helps! If you have additional questions, reach out to our customer service team:

- Matt, Communications Coordinator

Office desktop application

If i want to get the office desktop application (word, excel, powerpoint), should i get the Office standard 2016 or Office 365 Nonprofit business preminum?

RE: Office desktop application

Hi there,

If all you're looking for are Office applications, I'd definitely go with Office Standard 2016.

Office 365 paid plans are only good if you want user management, not just office products.

So, if all you're looking for are PowerPoint and Excel etc., it's better to go with the desktop version.

Hope this helps!

Matt, Communications Coordinator