Setup Problem at Google Workspace for Nonprofits

Recently I worked to help a local nonprofit org sign up and start using Google Workspace for Nonprofits. It’s basically private-labeled gmail and Google Drive. An org can use their own domain to get email. For example, if you use Google Workspace you can get your email at address instead of, or whatever.

And, you get the gmail service, with its good spam filters, calendars, address books, docs, and all the good stuff. And, it’s free for qualified nonprofits (registered 501(c)(3) organizations). It’s real live familiar, reliable, flagship gmail, maintained by a company with infinite resources and a huge incentive to get it right, but it comes to your own org’s email addresses.

As I help various nonprofits make their IT stuff work, this is great for me. There’s no bill to pay, no budget hosting service to deal with (other than Google) and the email keeps on working.

So what went wrong?

Google cut off my people’s access to their emails after two weeks. “Trial Expired”. This really stunk, because they were right in the middle of a ticket-sales campaign when the email shut down.

The problem is a clumsy misconfiguration of their signup and onboarding process. I’m writing it up in hopes that somebody else doesn’t get caught. I’ll cut ’em some slack here, though. This is a charity program and Google has electric bills to pay for all that AI stuff they’re chasing and so need revenue. It is a nice charity program that makes commuity nonprofit work easier for many people, so thanks Google. It’s worth the trouble to get signed up.

The signup process I followed goes like this:

1. The Google for Nonprofits signup page takes your organization’s data.

2. It sends you to the Percent company. They are the service provider Google uses, here in the USA anyway, to make sure your org is eligible.

3. It sets up a 2-week trial of Google for Nonprofits.

It4. Then, you configure your domain’s DNS so your email goes to Google Workspace.

5. Time goes by. 11 days, to be specific.

6. You get an email saying your Google for Nonprofits trial will expire in three days.

7. Puzzled, you don’t do anything about that.

8. Time goes by again. Three days.

9. Your email gets blocked because your trial expired. You can’t read your email, and you get annoyed.

10. The warnings and error messages don’t make much sense.

What’s the problem?

It takes more than two weeks for Percent to approve your org. So your trial expires before they send you the magic code you need to convert your trial account into a permanent account.

What do you do about this?

You sign up for an ordinary business account, put in a payment card, and pay for one month’s service. To do this you click the Add Subscription button when you see it. Adding the subscription unlocks the email and lets you proceed

Then, when Percent finishes their process, you convert your business account to a nonprofit account.

What if I’m just starting on this process?

If you can wait the three or four weeks it takes to get your org approved do these things.

  1. Sign up for the trial account. When you sign up, do not give an email account within your domain as the contact person. Give some other domain. A gmail, outlook, or some other public-service email company’s address will work fine. So will an already-working address anywhere else.
  2. Don’t use the trial account for anything important, yet.
  3. Google will prompt you to authenticate your domain by adding a DNS record. Follow those instructions, but DO NOT add the MX records (the ones that specify how to deliver email to your domain) yet.
  4. Wait for Percent to finish reviewing your application.
  5. Convert your trial account to a permanent account.
  6. Add the MX records to your DNS.

Now you can use your account.

What could Google to to help fix this problem?

Extend the trial period to four weeks, or at any rate long enough for Percent to finish their work. Or get a better SLA from Percent.

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