Nonprofit Technology

Email Hosting Providers: A primer for nonprofits

April 19, 2021 Nonprofits Decoded Team
Email hosting for nonprofits example

Email is a requirement for doing business in 2021. If your nonprofit organization is in the process of changing service providers or moving web hosting, we’ve put together this article to explain the ins and outs of email hosting for nonprofits.

We’ll let you know how it works, why you need it, and what your options are.

What is email hosting?

Email hosting as a concept is fairly straightforward. A company specializing in hosting email servers rents out space on their servers to a company that needs a fast, reliable email. The company that rents the server typically pays a monthly fee, and the email hosting company guarantees safe, fast, and reliable emails for their client.

Email hosting companies also allow you to host an email address at your website domain, which instills trust in your nonprofit. Conducting business with someone over email and learning that they’re still using a Gmail such as “mynonprofit@gmail.com” can raise eyebrows. If the email comes from “Jake@mynonprofit.com,” there’s an added layer of professionalism to the transaction.

It’s important not to confuse email hosting with an email service provider, companies like MailChimp or Constant Contact, who manage your larger email lists for email marketing to your donors, your newsletter, etc.

Why do I need email hosting?

Well, to be able to send and receive emails, of course! While this is the main goal, an email hosting provider does quite a few things behind the scenes to ensure your emails are delivered safely and soundly. An email hosting provider gives you access to a server that sends and receives your emails. A quality service provider will give you access to a service that will ensure your email does not experience downtime, has maximum security through encryption, and protects against data loss via backup servers.

Professional email hosting is a requirement for any nonprofit or charity looking to securely and reliably send and receive emails.

While you can build your own tech stack and install similar security measures, it requires a technological skill set that not many possess. Using a trusted email hosting company gives you peace of mind in your email service. There are also free options available to nonprofits, making the task of setting up your own email server not worth the trouble.

Who provides email hosting for nonprofits?

There are quite a few providers to choose from when looking for a new email hosting provider for your nonprofit.

Your web hosting company (possibly)

Some web hosting companies will provide email services that are built right into their web hosting platform. If you’re using a hosting company like Bluehost, SiteGround, Knownhost, or Dreamhost, you may already have access to a basic email service that can get you up and running.

The downside to most of the included email hosting services is that they are not as secure and don’t have as many features as a true enterprise-level email hosting company. For example, many web hosts offer email through software like Roundcube, which isn’t bad, but it’s not the same as Outlook or Gmail in terms of quality. Of course, you can also sync your email to your favorite app or third-party service via POP or IMAP.

Generally speaking, due to lesser security protocols and missing features like intuitive user management, a web hosting provider should not be your final solution for email hosting.

Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite)

If you’ve been using Gmail for some time and enjoy its features and layout, you’ll be happy to learn that Google has a professional business email program designed for businesses. Working off the backbone of regular Gmail, the G Suite provides you with Custom domain emails (aka Jake@mynonprofit.com), phishing and spam protection, and an ad-free email experience. Their business email systems are just as secure as their regular services.

Nonprofit discounts with Google
As a bonus for nonprofits, Google offers their business Gmail services for free to nonprofit organizations!

Check out their Workspace for nonprofits section of their website to learn more. A free nonprofit Workspace account should be more than enough to get your organization up and running and offers 30GB of storage per user on their Drive system. If you end up needing more space down the line, you can upgrade to one of several options for just a few dollars per user per month.

This includes other Google products beyond email, including Google Drive for cloud storage and Google Docs for document creation.

Microsoft 365 (Outlook)

Another trusted name in the email hosting space, Microsoft 365 offers a robust email hosting solution with industry-leading security and a feature-packed email client. Outlook has a 99.9% uptime guarantee, which means you’ll essentially never have downtime that affects your email communication. Microsoft 365 also gives you the ability to access your email and files from anywhere with purpose-built apps available on all major platforms and devices.

Nonprofit discounts with Microsoft
The Microsoft 365 Basic Grant gives qualifying nonprofit organizations the ability to register for a free business account that will support up to 300 users.

In addition to world-class email hosting service, your nonprofit will also have access to their OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams applications. To qualify for the Microsoft 365 Basic Grant, you will need to provide Microsoft with proof of your organization’s 501(c)(3) status. After you’ve sent your proof in, it typically takes the 365 teams 1 week to verify your nonprofit status before you can start using their free services.

Rackspace

Although not as well known as Google Workspace and Outlook, Rackspace has been providing industry-leading web hosting services for over 20 years. While they do not offer free or reduced nonprofits, they are one of the cheaper, reliable options in web hosting. Their basic plans start at $1.99 per user per month, and they offer a 2-week free trial to help users test out their services before committing.

You get 24/7 support, free email server migrations, spam and virus protection, and unlimited email usernames for the price. They offer a robust email hosting service and are a trusted name in the industry.

While Rackspace does not offer discounts to nonprofits, they do understand the good work nonprofits do. Rackspace contributes to local and international nonprofits as part of their corporate giving program.

Hushmail

Hushmail is another lesser-known email hosting provider that offers a reduced rate for their nonprofit business customers. The typical $5.99 per user per month for small business accounts is reduced to $3.99 per user per month for nonprofit organizations.

Their offerings for nonprofits include 10GB of storage per person, industry-leading encryption to avoid breaches, support for mobile devices, custom domain name email addresses, and dedicated customer support.

Hushmail is often praised for its security practices and allows users to send fully encrypted emails and web forms for those times when security is of the utmost importance.

Choosing an email hosting provider for your nonprofit organization

We’ve reviewed 4 of the more popular options for nonprofit email hosting here. If you don’t have much of a budget for your email hosting but want to work with a trusted product, we recommend trying out Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 as both will provide you with industry-leading email hosting (free for nonprofits) along with several other very nice-to-have services. For free!

If you learn that your web host offers a free email service and prefer to keep your services with a single company, take some time to read reviews online and see if the service will be adequate for your needs.