It’s hard to picture work without some of the more popular Microsoft products. For many of us, the Office suite of products will have provided a constant as we have moved throughout our careers. No matter where you work, or what you’re doing, at some point you’re probably going to have to open up Powerpoint, Excel or Word.
‘Don’t thank me. Thank the Microsoft Office family. Powerpoint, Excel and Word – the three amigos!
– Alan Johnson – Peep Show
With the move to working from home, Microsoft Teams has now reached this level of ubiquity. Even before the pandemic, we highlighted how cloud-based solutions allowed for increased communication and collaboration. Now, Teams has become a fixture of many charities’ daily operations – allowing staff to keep in touch and work together via instant messaging chat, video conferencing capabilities and quick-and-easy file sharing.
These products have allowed many charities to make a smooth transition to a remote working model, and continue to offer their vital services amidst a climate of challenges and disruptions.
Most of us probably take access to these solutions as a given. But charity digital leaders will need to make decisions when it comes to sourcing software and licenses for employees. There are a number of Microsoft products available at a discounted rate through the Charity Digital Product Platform and Exchange Programme. These can allow organisations (particularly smaller charities with limited budgets) to gain access to important software at affordable rates.
But Microsoft Products do have eligibility criteria in place. Before you can apply for discounted charity access to these solutions, you must find out whether or not your organisation meets these criteria.
These criteria may not be easy to understand. They are written for a US audience, and use the term ‘nonprofit’ as a catch-all term, slightly differently to how organisations in the UK would be considered for eligibility. In this article, we break down these criteria and examine what they mean for UK organisations.
Whilst we cannot determine for certain which organisations would and would not be eligible, this breakdown of Microsoft’s nonprofit eligibility criteria should help you to get started. For more information, contact our customer service team.
Microsoft nonprofit eligibility comprises several different criteria. The first (and most important of these is organisation eligibility.
Information on Microsoft’s site stipulates the following requirement:
‘Organizations must be a nonprofit or non-governmental organization with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code)’
So what does that mean for UK charities?
In short, organisations must hold charitable status in the UK to be considered eligible. The simplest way to establish this is to register with the charity commission. Organisations based in Scotland can register with OSCR. Charities from Northern Ireland can register with the Northern Ireland Charity Commission. Charities registered in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man must register with their local equivalent.
This definition of charitable status excludes several types of community organisation, such as Social Enterprises, Community Interest Companies, sports clubs and other non-charity, not-for-profit organisations.
If your organisation’s annual income is too small to register with the Charity Commission, you can qualify for Microsoft nonprofit eligibility by registering for charitable tax-exempt status with the HMRC. You can apply using your Unique HMRC reference number that confirms your organisation holds charitable tax-exempt status.
Employees vs. Volunteers: What’s the Difference?
Cloud-based software can be a major boon for charities with a large number of volunteers.
Buying a license, rather than installing desktop-based software on the organisation’s own PCs can provide a greater degree of flexibility. This flexibility is important when recruiting volunteers for their digital skills, as it allows them to work from home. By removing barriers to volunteering, charities can make it a more appealing proposition, and benefit from professional skills and expertise that may not otherwise be present in their organisation.
Microsoft does have nonprofit software eligibility for volunteers, but it is different to that in place for full-time paid staff.
Essentially the distinction is simple:
- Paid charity staff may be eligible for donated software. This is free for the charity (within other eligibility requirements)
- Volunteers may be eligible for discounted software. This is software made available at a discounted charity rate.
There are a few other types of eligibility to consider. Unpaid executive staff (people that act as senior leadership for a charity) may be eligible for access to donated software. Eligible unpaid executive roles include Board of Directors, President, Officers, Executive Director, and Executive Program Directors only.
Charity beneficiaries, donors, and members (such as members of a church, club, or sports team) are not eligible for Microsoft nonprofit offers.
Microsoft nonprofit eligibility does not apply to the following categories of organisation:
- Charity organisations that have not obtained recognised legal status in their respective country;
- Governmental organisations or agencies, including governmental museums, international governmental organisations, and United Nations Entities;
- Schools, colleges and universities including formal educational institutions, nonprofit schools, and academic museums;
- Healthcare organisations including, but not limited to, hospitals, healthcare networks, health plans, ambulatory/outpatient healthcare organisations, nursing homes, retirement centres, assisted living, and home healthcare;
- Professional, commerce and trade associations;
- Professional and semi-professional sports organisations;
- Political, labour, and fraternal organisations;
- Refurbishers that will be installing the donated software on refurbished computers to be distributed or donated to charities, nonprofits or schools
There are several other eligibility criteria to consider. Microsoft reserves the right to grant or deny eligibility to organisations at their sole discretion. Therefore, selections will be made in accordance with Microsoft’s organisational values.
This might sound like a lot of corporate jargon. But it’s not too difficult to understand and can have a real impact on an organisation’s application.
Essentially, Microsoft want to make sure they are not granting access to discounted or donated licenses to organisations whose work goes against Microsoft’s values. Therefore, organisations are not eligible to participate in the Microsoft nonprofit programme if they have a policy or mission of discrimination in hiring, compensation, promotion, termination, retirement, training, programs, and/or services based on race, ethnicity, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, gender identity or expression, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, political affiliation, union membership, or veteran status.
The only exception to this policy is for religious organisations such as they may be exempt from laws that prohibit such discrimination.