Sandi D <sandi.asgtechie@...>
Mark, thank you for finding a way at this time to grant legacy groups a free service. I volunteer for a few GIO groups covered personally with the current grandfathered option and I know first hand what a valuable resource you are providing for 501c3's with memberships in the 100-300 person range. I remain hopeful that someday a Premium discounted level might one day be offered to accommodate their minimal needs.
Since 2018 I have encouraged "child NPs" to use GIO. It's been a slow process for the 3 "Parent-Child" 501(c)(3) organizations that I volunteer for. Likely because their "child chapters" located throughout the US consist of the elderly, those with special needs and those with accessibility needs.
I have brought perhaps 10-15 small NPs over to GIO. Their forum feature expectations are modest. Posts range about 10-80 times a month. They don't use storage for attachments and photos.
The Premium model holds an attraction because of the ability to have a main group for their members and a subgroup for their governance board and committee chairs. Without a NP discount for the Premium group some are creating 2 or 3 free groups: one group for their Board and/one for their Chairs and/or Volunteers.
These NPs do not have the revenue to pay the $20 a month needed to bring their 100+ members into one GIO group. I will continue to recommend the free GIO tier for their board members, chairs and volunteers if they are not in need of a general membership forum.
I am involved with three different US based 501(c)(3)s who operate under an Umbrella framework. In other words the "Parent" is the fiscal sponsor in regards to the IRS "paperwork" and the local "Child Chapters" of the "Parent" operate under their own EIN and within their own budget.
The "Child-Chapters" I am familiar with vary in size from 20 members to 200+ members with the average being around 125 members. They fall into the educational category and their members offer services free of charge in their local communities. Revenue for operations is most often met soley by a handful of membership making donations to meet their expenses as 80% of their members are on a fixed income.
TechSoup does the verification legwork and maintains a file copy of the IRS determination letter. Tech Soup is a company that handles the verification process for small US based business as well as the larger, global businesses such as Microsoft, Adobe, Zoom and Google. Where verification costs are concerned, those are typically built into the pricing model and admin fees of the company offering a discount.
I welcome suggestions from others who may know about simplistic, private, free or budget friendly forum services that are available to non-profits having 100-300 members operating on a shoe string budget. I've also posted this need to the forum on Tech Soup in the hopes that other suggestions will turn up.
Workgroup Google Groups seems to be the only affordable option I can find for the NPs with 100+ members at this time. I will return to what I did prior to 2018: Help them get their domain set up on Workgroups (formerly G-Suite for non profits) and then use a Google Groups domain set up. (Workgroups offers the privacy and security not available to those using a Google Group tied to a free Google account.)
It's a more complicated process than creating a GIO group and requires ongoing Administrative tasks. I don't mind the extra work on my part for the set up but the ongoing Admin role is something I can't do for them. Finding an easy to use, forum service that respects privacy is getting more difficult. People today are asking for more forum "bells and whistles" than I ever could have imagined. And that rasies the learning curve of how to use it.
I know of one other free forum service called Group Works. While private and secure, it does not offer topic discussion over email. They are strictly web based.
I appreciate the discussions of GIO operational costs. Until recently I did not know that the email communication component was one of the most significant costs. It makes sense that to be sustainable, GIO pricing structure has to change. I don't envy any business (or non profit) having to make these difficult revenue-expediture choices.