Towards a kinder, gentler, HTML email framework

As many of my coding colleagues know, writing HTML for emails is a frustrating process. Web developers get to play with a myriad of frameworks, snippets and themes, while we in email land are just happy Gmail started supporting <style> blocks! I thought, “there must be a better way”, but couldn’t find a useful HTML email framework to start my emails. Both Foundation and MJML require learning new pseudo-languages, and alienate the developer from the code he should know so well. Meanwhile, vanilla HTML solutions are spread across various Stack Exchange threads and use differing coding philosophies. This all results in bloated, disparate code that the developer doesn’t completely understand.

Enter the Kinder, Gentler HTML framework

…or Kind for short. It’s a boilerplate, framework and theme all in one, using only vanilla HTML and CSS. By leveraging multiple <style> blocks, the framework is able to 1) Address email client quirks and reset styles, 2) Support easy-to-use, open-source modular themes, and 3) Handle per-email particularities without affecting the modularity of the theme! The boilerplate also includes classes that extend the capability of the HTML and make it easy to theme. Here’s how it works:


  <!--The boilerplate css and resets go in the first style block-->
  <!--Also some functional classes like...-->

  .mobile { display: none; }

  @media screen and (max-width: 480px) {
    .desktop { display: none; }
    .mobile { display: block; }

  <!--The css for the theme goes in the second style block-->

  <!--The css for specific quirks in the email goes in the third style block-->


Now that Gmail supports embedded CSS and @media queries, we’re even able to maintain that modularity through launch—no inliner required. Well, sort of. Gmail is still rolling out the support for style blocks, so check this post to make sure your audience will be supported. Until then, make Kind compatible by running it through Litmus’ inliner here. I don’t have any connection with Litmus, but I do use their software every day and recommend them highly.

Kinder, Gentler HTML Email Framework modulesOn the HTML side, the Framework files include pre-built modules you can use to easy create your email, a lot like Mailchimp’s modules. These modules are bulletproof. I’ve refined them to be as lightweight as possible, while also maintaining most semantic usage. You can see a couple examples to the right. By keeping the code to a minimum, these modules are completely changeable and nestable.

Download the Kinder, Gentler HTML Email Framework

Follow Kind on Github at the repository here. One HTML file is all you need!

Kinder, Gentler HTML Email Framework modulesKind is still in its infant stages, as I’m moving it from an internal template used for one client to a product useful to all email devs. It’s still totally usable in its current stage, however–it might just need a little love.

I’ll be updating the repository regularly, so stay tuned for updates to the Kinder, Gentler HTML Email Framework.

Google for Nonprofits: How to get Google Apps for free

You may have heard rumors about a little-known program Google runs for non-profits. As in the program where Google gives away $10,000 in monthly grants for your charity to advertise itself. Or where Google bestows you with unlimited free Google Apps accounts. Officially known as Google for Nonprofits, it’s a boon to cash-strapped organizations, but there’s plenty of confusion on what it includes and how to apply.

This post will tell you exactly what Google for Non-profits is, what the eligibility restrictions are, and help you decide if it’s right for your cause. So without further delay,

What is Google for Nonprofits?

In short, it’s an in-kind donation of some of Google’s best products for fundraising, marketing and internal operations. For organizations that meet the qualifications, Google for Nonprofits gives access to a collection of premium apps that might otherwise be too expensive for NPOs.

Unfortunately, it’s not available in every country nor to every non-profit. US-based orgs need 501c3 status, while international groups need to register with the local TechSoup affiliate. You can read about per-country app availability here, while eligibility restrictions are discussed further down in the post.

What Google for Nonprofits is not is Google for Education or Google Grants. Google for Education is a similar offering, but for education-focused nonprofit institutions. Google Grants is a version of Adwords contained within Google for Nonprofits; many people confuse the two since Google Grants is one of the most notable products in the Google for Nonprofits suite.

Regardless of how much time you have to spend on using the applications, it is well worth applying. Many of the products continue to amplify your non-profit’s work, even if you forget about them after the first set-up. But don’t take my word for it—let’s dig into what Google for Nonprofits can do for you.

What features does it have?

Listed below is a breakdown of each of the products included in the Google for Nonprofits program, listed in order of “most widely useful” to “useful in a few cases”. Each piece is powerful in its own way, so the best way to evaluate them is how relevant it is to your NPO.


G Suite (Google Apps)

G Suite's offerings

First up is G Suite, which until recently was Google Apps. If you have a Gmail account you’re probably familiar with what G Suite offers; it’s essentially the enterprise version of Gmail. Since every non-profit uses email, documents and spreadsheets, I rank this as the most widely useful app in Google for Nonprofits.


What it gets you:
  • A Gmail account that ends in, rather than
  • Google drive, docs, sheets, slides, etc. All those fun little apps
  • 30GB of space (up from 15 in personal accounts) for Drive documents and email hosting
  • 24/7 actual person support via phone, chat and email
  • Admin access over all your organization’s accounts, including Google Vault to archive and manage all correspondence
Biggest potential use:

We all know how useful Google docs are, but I think Google hosting the data while giving you full control is the best feature of this product. This frees up space on your server, and you can auto-archive emails after a certain period to automate ongoing maintenance. But most importantly, this all gives your organization control over its data.

I’ve seen several organizations auto-forward their emails to personal gmail accounts because they’re familiar with the interface. While this works fine initially, it eventually brings up concerns about confidential information. If an employee leaves on bad terms, you can’t get your organization’s emails back from their personal Gmail! Creating emails with Google apps gives users the familiar Gmail UI, while keeping your Nonprofit’s data inside the organization. And now with Google for Nonprofits, cost is no excuse for making sure your NPO is secure.

Other ways to maximize this resource:
  • Use Google Sites to quickly create intranet pages for new hires, organizational knowledge or projects
  • Use Google hangoutsto create an office phone line. Or send messages and videochat with multiple users from within Gmail
Cost savings:

$5 per person per month, versus paid Google Apps accounts.


Google Grants (Google Adwords)

An example of Google Grants in action

Overall I think Google Grants is the most powerful of all the apps in Google for Nonprofits, because Google is literally giving you $10,000 a month to spend on fundraising via pay-per-click (PPC). For those not familiar with PPC, it refers to the text ads you see while searching Google. It falls second in the list because while everyone could use free money, the steep learning curve might scare people away.

What it gets you:
  • $10,000 / month of free money to spend on pay-per-click advertising.
    • Max bid is limited to $2 per keyword, or $329/day
    • Ads are text only run on keyword-targeted campaigns on, not any search partners or ad networks
  • The full Google Adwords platform to manage and measure your campaigns
  • Access to Adwords express, for those who don’t want to actively manage PPC campaigns
Biggest potential use:

Of course marketing to potential donors via Google searches is how one would use this tool. But it’s the way you go about that marketing that makes a difference, since Google makes it hard to really spend that $10,000. The best method by far is taking advantage of your bid limit to target longtail keywords, driving specific, well-qualified traffic to every page in your site.

For instance, rather than targeting something like “water” and bringing all kinds of users to your homepage, target “build a well” for your donation page and “fresh water access Africa” to a page describing the problem. Through a combination of SEO and PPC best practices, you can take advantage of Google’s money and make your nonprofit visible to the right people.

Other ways to maximize this resource:
  • Create content targeted towards topics you want to be an authority about, like “water crises” and use Adwords to get a foot in
  • If you really don’t have time, you can do Adwords Express, which is a hands-off option. However, this option is not recommended by any PPC pros over Adwords classic because Google’s algorithms will not bring you much useful traffic. But it’s probably better than nothing.
  • If you maxed out your $10,000 limit, Google used to offer “Grantspro” to increase the limit to $40,000, but the applications for this program are closed. It seems most likely due to lack of interest, since most nonprofits struggle to get close to $10,000 at all.
Cost savings:

Up to $10,000/month, and it generates donations!


YouTube Nonprofit Program

For NPOs that see the value in video, the YouTube Nonprofit Program elevates your YouTube channel to the next level and amplifies your donations. It even gives you the ability to plug into YouTube’s vast universe of content creators and develop meaningful partnerships. It’s definitely more intensive than some of the other apps in Google for Nonprofits, but it’s well worth the effort.

What it gets you:
  • The ability to have “donation cards” and “link anywhere cards” on your videos. These are beefed-up YouTube annotations that make your videos an interactive experience.
  • ZERO transaction fees on any dontaions processed by YouTube
  • For channels with 1,000+ subscribers: access to YouTube Spaces, Google’s professional production studios located around the globe
Biggest potential use:

We all know telling your non-profit’s story is important to get donors aligned with your cause. So build a process for creating engaging videos for each project your charity oversees! For example, child-sponsor organizations could create a short video per child and include a donation card at the end. This connects the donor with the project, eliminates barriers to giving, and saves your nonprofit the 3% processing fee! Here’s a video that describes how cards work:

Other ways to maximize this resource:
  • Build your subscriber count throughout the year, and connect with Google Spaces to create a grand-slam year end appeal video. There’s not much info on how quickly YouTube Spaces replies to requests, or how selective they are, but the application asks if your channel has over 10k subscribers. It’s probably a good idea to reach that goal before applying.
  • Connect with content creators and authority figures to get them to put donation cards to your non-profit. Any YouTuber with a solid following has access to these donation cards, and they can link to any eligible organization. Try developing a partnership with an influencer to put a donation card on one of their videos. Google even provides an outreach toolkit; it could be a great way to reach a new audience!
Cost savings:

Donations through YouTube will spare you the 2.9% + .30 fee other processors charge, while the value of YouTube spaces is probably in the tens of thousands.


Google One Today

Google One Today in action

What is Google One Today? It’s a daily-donation, pay-it-forward app that google developed to increase visibility to non-profits. For users, the app gives them a non-profit to consider donating to each day. They can also “pay it forward” to friends, which basically funds the donation for the friend and prompts them to download the app.


What it gets you:
  • The ability to list your nonprofit and projects on Google’s One Today app
Biggest potential use:

Since this is such a new and relatively small initiative, the biggest way I can see this app being used is to reach new audiences, especially for tiny nonprofits or community organizations. Because it’s a smaller and less competitive platform, a user that is interested in a broad topic like “Education” might have a better chance at finding your local after-school program. Then you can push those new contacts to your website, or get some small donations via the app.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

Unknown. There’s really no information or precedent for what you can do with this app. In fact, Google doesn’t even have one example of an organization that’s leveraged One Today.

Cost savings:

It’ll save you the cost of processing fees, but it takes time and effort to make your projects look appealing. It’s unclear just how much of a revenue stream this is. In the App Store and Google Play Store, the download count isn’t astounding but the reviews are high. If nothing else, it’s an ability to increase visibility to a new population and maybe get a few bucks.


Google Earth Outreach (Google Maps API)

An example of how to use Google Earth outreach and Google Maps API

Now this product definitely isn’t for everybody, but for the right nonprofit it could really change how you do business. Google Earth Outreach opens up Google’s satellite and map data to nonprofits, enabling them to perform international development work like never before.

What it gets you:
  • The ability to publish Google Maps on your websites
  • Access to the premium Google Maps API, which lets you plot sensitive information on a map and keep the data internal
  • Access Google’s Open Data Kit, which allows you to link deep maps features in to proprietary software and applications.
  • Display customized visualizations and layers over Google Maps
Biggest potential use:

The first thing you see when you go to the Google for Nonprofits website is a case study with Charity: Water. They leveraged the Google Maps API to send donors GPS coordinates of where a new well will be built, connecting donors with a specific project to increase perceived impact. Large, international NGOs could likewise leverage the Maps API to coordinate geographic data.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

Another case study featured on the site describes how an Amazonian tribe learned to use Google for Nonprofits to stop illegal logging in their forest. The tool is so successful they’re able to use it for parceling out pieces to sell on the carbon credit marketplace! Likewise, watchdog groups could use Google Earth and Maps to stop land-grabs around the world.

Cost savings:

While the Maps API is a paid service, the cost is probably negligible since you can access 25,000 maps a day for free. The real value is in Google’s existing data sets and being able to integrate them with your applications.


Who is eligible for Google for Nonprofits?

This seems to be a simple question, but the myriad of tax laws and types of nonprofits makes it complicated. Throw in some vagueness on Google’s behalf, and it can be hard to decipher if your application will be accepted. Starting with the Google for Nonprofits site, eligibility is defined this way:

To be eligible for the Google for Nonprofits program, organizations must be nonprofit charitable organizations in good standing in their country. US: Organizations must be listed in the online database of the IRS for Google to verify their eligibility. Non-US: Organizations must be registered with the local TechSoup partner.

Generally speaking, if you’re a non-profit organiztaion registered with the appropriate body in your country, (i.e. 501c3 status in USA), you’re good to go. There are, however, a few notable exceptions. Problems with eligibility usually fall under two categories: the type of organization that’s filing, or their requisite paperwork.

Ineligible Organizations

The following organizations are NOT eligible for Google for Nonprofits:

  • Governmental entities and organizations
    • This seems to include all government-run organizations and 501c4’s. However, in my experience Google still approves community organizing and grassroots groups with 501c3 status.
  • Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities
    • These organizations will need to apply through Google for Education, which offers G Suite plus Google Classroom, Google Expeditions and discounted Chromebooks.
    • Google notes that “philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible for Google for Nonprofits”.
  • Hospitals and healthcare organizations
    • Google does not offer a healthcare version of Google for Nonprofits, nor does it give any free products to healthcare companies. It does, however, promote a HIPAA-compliant version of G Suite. If I had to guess, Google sees the health and wellness space as a cash-cow more than a cause that needs help, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for any free offerings.
  • Fiscally sponsored organizations and separate departments within the same organization
    • Nonprofits with 501c3 status through the IRS’ group exemptions are still eligible, though. You’ll apply with the group’s EIN, but the rest of the info supplied should reference your particular organization.

Necessary Paperwork

If you don’t fall into one of those categories, then you’re good! Just make sure to have the following done before you apply:

  • Religious organizations and churches still need to get 501c3 status
  • Check and search for your organization. If it doesn’t come up, there’s a good chance you’ll get rejected. Create a profile to add your NPO to the database.
  • Create a website and have a mission statement. You’ll need these for the application.
  • For international nonprofits, check this page to make sure your country-specific requirements are met.

Honestly, even if you’re not sure that you’re eligible, it doesn’t hurt to apply. Other groups have seen 95% acceptance rates, and the application takes less than 10 minutes. If you get rejected for some reason, google “Google Nonprofits NTEE Code” to see if the one your NPO falls under is ineligible. You can easily find your NTEE code on Guidestar.

How do you apply?

The google grants applicationI’ll cover this in the next blog post of the series, but in short there’s only 3 simple steps. You will

  1. Sign up for the program using your EIN, website and physical address.
  2. Receive an approval and activation email.
  3. Log in and register for the specific products you deem useful.

The link to sign up is at:

Endnote: My take on Google for Nonprofits

The products included with Google for Nonprofits range in usefulness, but you can’t argue with free! Two products really stand out to me as god-sends, the first being G Suite for nonprofits. It’s best practice to keep email hosting separate from the website and to keep confidential information within the company’s servers, but this can incur extra costs, especially if you want to use a familiar interface like Gmail or Windows365. G Suite solves these two problems for nonprofits, and also ridiculously simplifies them.

Secondly, Google Grants is literally free money. And $10,000 a month of free money. Even if the stipulations force you to be creative to spend it, targeting low-bid, long-tail keywords is actually best practice in the industry, so it’s really not that bad. Even if you only create one ad targeting searches for your organization’s name, a native search result paired with a paid advertisement can increase clickthrough rates dramatically. It’s serious low hanging fruit.

Some people might be scared to rely on Google’s goodness, waiting for the day these programs get moved behind a paywall. I had my reservations too, but it’s been running since 2009–and even expanded since–so I’m confident in this product for the long-haul. You can’t expect things to last long in the tech space, but relatively speaking this program is eternal. So don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; go forth and do great marketing!