April 4, 2012; Source: Shelbyville Times-Gazette

Back in 2011, we noted that there was quite a stir over Google leaving religious organizations out of eligibility for its Google for Nonprofits grant program. The program provides perks to nonprofits on Google products, such as free AdWords advertising, Google Apps, benefits on YouTube channels, and free licensing for Google Earth Pro, Google SketchUp Pro and Maps API Premier.

But recently, Google announced it was revising the program guidelines to include religious organizations, as well as other categories previously not included. Religious groups are now being included, but the company states in their eligibility requirements that an organization’s 501(c)(3) status must first be publicly updated in Guidestar’s online database. This could serve as an obstacle to some religious organizations, since the IRS states that such groups are automatically considered tax-exempt and don’t need to apply for recognition of their tax-exempt status.

Professor Lloyd Mayer at Notre Dame Law School told Christianity Today that Google’s decision could have been motivated by business concerns, since the exclusion may have alienated faith-affiliated nonprofits that the company may have business relations with.

“We’re constantly evaluating our services,” said Google spokesman Parag Chokshi. “Since launching Google for Nonprofits as a consolidated offering last year, we’ve received feedback from many organizations and believe this change will allow us to help more organizations take advantage of Google services.” –Aine Creedon