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Churches are now able to get Microsoft Donated Software

A recent policy change in Microsoft's charitable donation program has opened up access to Microsoft's software and services to a greater number of charities.

In October of last year, Microsoft changed its policy regarding which organizations qualified to participate in this charitable giving program. This program is administered through TechSoup Canada. The specific change was to allow faith-based organizations, such as churches or church-run charities, as well as hospices, to receive software and online services for just a small processing fee.

According to TechSoup, the newly eligible charities include "religious groups and places of worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, as well as religious orders, missionaries, faith-based children’s camps, faith-informed women’s health care centres and other religious charities and nonprofits." Before this change, these groups had been ineligible for this program and could only qualify to get software through commercial open licensing, though at a charity discount.

Through TechSoup, the prices are much lower than any other way of purchasing software. For example, a full license of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 is $35.00 on TechSoup. The software license is a actually considered a full donation on Microsoft's part. The $35 is a one-time handling and processing fee.

The other significant change that happened last fall is that Microsoft opened up its cloud-based online service, Office 365, for free to these same groups. A special pricing plan, called Office 365 Enterprise E1 for Nonprofits, is available to all eligible charities. This provides e-mail, online file storage and Skype-like chat and calls between staff. The service is completely free once an organization has qualified and there is no limit on the number of users that can be signed up. This option doesn't include the Windows version of the Microsoft Office software but the software can be purchased in the normal way through TechSoup.

Both the changes above open up new options for faith-based charities that can potentially lower their operational IT costs and improve IT services provided to staff.

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