Google Apps Overview

In a nutshell, 
  • Google Apps is the business version of Google Account.  
  • There are versions for Businesses, Education and Nonprofit organizations.  
  • Accounts use an organization's domain name and function similar to consumer accounts (with some differences).

This is a brief overview of Google Apps and focuses on describing how Google Apps and some of its services may be beneficial for a volunteer-run nonprofit organization.  If you are a business or school you may find that other capabilities not described here are also beneficial.

Google provides cloud-based communication and productivity tools.  Google provides individuals with free consumer accounts, typically JohnDoe@gmail.comIf you already have a Google account (gmail) and are familiar the services, you're well along the way to understanding Google Apps!

Google Apps is for organizations to deploy accounts using their domain name, e.g.,,, and has business-oriented features for team collaboration and controls along with security capabilities businesses require with system administration features to manage the environment.

Google charges a fee for Google Apps for Business, however provides virtually the same features to educational and nonprofit organizations at no charge. 

Google Apps benefits long-term team productivity, since it provides a framework for capturing and growing searchable, organizational records and builds institutional knowledge for both the parent club and the school.

The following summarizes the major elements in the Google Apps suite. Note most every service/product name includes a 'Google' prefix (omitted here for simplicity).


Each account has a primary name:, and can also have multiple alias nicknames:  Accounts are typically person-specific, but can also be role-based such as that can be passed along each year to the person handling that role.  Accounts serve as ‘anchor points’ for data creation in other services such as Calendars, Sites and Groups, although owner/manager permissions can be transferred to other accounts.


Email widely used, and has features and options for flexible usage.

  • Add this separate account to your mail client and smartphone to maintain some segregation of email streams.   IMAP (preferred) and POP support
  • Account can forward to a separate personal account if desired
  • Role-based accounts can allow institutional knowledge to be passed along year-to-year like a baton.


Feature-rich calendar tools for creating and managing multiple calendars.

  • A Google Account can view multiple calendars and edit them (per permission settings)
  • Website embedding of individual or multiple overlaid calendars
  • Subscribe to Google calendars from computer calendar apps (iCal, Outlook…) and smartphones
  • Sharing Permissions.

Define a collection of purpose-specific calendars.

  • Organization master calendar
  • Activity-specific calendars – for specific activities (musical…) or team functions
    • Managers-focused calendar – for the leadership team
    • Participant-focused calendar – for general membership


Web sites easily created and maintained.

  • Cloud-based editing and hosting
  • Easy to embed folders and files from Google Drive (documents, spreadsheets…)
  • Multiple parties may have editing rights
  • Sharing Permissions (private, public, anything in-between)
  • Multiple sites can be deployed by teams as needed
  • Sites have this default address: and web address mapping can be setup to use this shorter name: such as this site:


Cloud-based file storage.

  • Each account has Drive file storage
  • Uses Docs (below) to view files (and also to edit or create if desired)
  • Upload/Download via browser
  • A computer app (Windows & Mac) can be installed to synchronize with a local folder on your computer
  • Sharing Permissions (to share files among groups or individuals as flexibly as desired)
  • Comparable to services such as: Box, DropBox, SkyDrive.


Suite of applications for viewing and online creation and editing of documents.

  • Microsoft Office-like application suite:
    • Docs - word processor
    • Sheets - spreadsheet
    • Slides - presentation
    • Drawings
    • Forms - survey forms
  • Multiple people can collaborate and simultaneously edit the same document.


Groups in professional Google Apps have enhanced features for team collaboration.

Groups can be utilized for:

  • Email Distribution Lists
    • Newsletters for general membership
    • Activity specific
  • Administration
    • Board/officer lists
  • Activities
    • A – Membership in the activity
    • B – Leadership team managing an activity


  • Groups can be moderated or open forums
  • Groups can be nested (i.e., org-all = org-2013 + … + org-2018) (Google Apps required)
  • Group managers may ‘Direct Add’ members to the group (call it ‘force join’) as an additional option to the standard A: manager invitation (member accepts) and B: member ‘join’ request (which manager accepts) methods
  • Members may view the message streams and replies via the group website
  • Members select how to receive posts: immediate email, daily digest email, no email–view at group site
  • Groups can have related resources shared to all members – a user can share Drive files/folders by adding a group address to the permissions. A user can share a Site by adding a group address to the permissions.

Sharing Permissions

Sharing Permissions is a functional capability that spans services (such as Drive folders/files, Calendars, Groups, Sites, etc.).  Permission settings can be simple or complex when necessary:

  • Individual (just self, or add a list of individuals)
  • Groups
  • Domain (allow all accounts)
  • Public (the world).


Google Apps is managed by accounts designated as system administrators.
  • Several administrative roles exist such as 'super administrator', 'groups administrator', 'account administrator'

Other Services

Additional Google Apps services can also deliver significant value to the organization or individual activities.

  • Google+ – social network, organization and activity presence
  • Picasa Web Albums – photo albums (rather than using Flickr or Shutterfly)
  • YouTube – video (note movies can also be shared using Drive)
  • Hangouts (IM) – real-time conversations - video, voice, chat, text, and screen sharing with individuals or multiple people
  • Contacts – may be a role for making contact lists accessible to individuals using Google Apps Accounts
  • Voice – a phone number that can forward calls to other devices, has Voice Mail and SMS.

Learn More

Visit the help page.