I've been asked to help manage my church's information systems. We're small (~3 staff, ~150 parishioners), which puts us below the needs of a lot of the "Church Management" software I've seen.

The biggest problems right now seem to be:

  1. No centralized management of email lists. Committee composition and leadership changes pretty often, and usually what happens is the new person just copies the To: line on a previous message and emails from their own account. (Along with the obvious problems, this has lead to a couple of embarrassing Reply-Alls.) My optimal solution would include hiding personal emails (maybe behind @foochurch.org aliases), and on some lists, only allowing certain users to send.
  2. A couple services (e.g. the website, some social media) are hosted with free/cheap hosting companies that don't appear to have any kind of AD/LDAP interoperability, meaning we're going to need shared passwords for some things. With the understanding that this is already not optimal, I think what I'd like is some kind of secure password management system that would be able to check authorization against a directory.
  3. File storage is a pretty big problem. We're only talking about 5 or so users that would need access to this, and given the technical level of the users, I think a network drive or something like Dropbox for business is about the most complicated it can be. Ideally this would include backups.

Since that this is a volunteer effort with no permanent IT staff and little budget, I'm trying to find the right balance of hosted, simple, and cheap.

Given the problems above, I think the place to start is a directory server (hosted if possible), but I've never set-up ActiveDirectory or LDAP (I'm more of a programmer than a sysadmin), so I'm not entirely sure if that's right and how I should actually organize the directory. Most of the articles I've read about either are aimed squarely at the enterprise.

Also, I don't know if there's a mailing list manager that's hosted and hooks in with those.

So, how would you solve those problems with those constraints?


Office 365 for non-profits: MS Corporate Citizenship page.

There's a free tier if you qualify, which might just meet your needs entirely. Otherwise the paid options should be significantly discounted. At only a handful of users, the subscription model should be easy to swallow.

I like where you're going with managing mail contacts (Exchange term) for external, personal email addresses.

SharePoint and OneDrive could probably replace #2 and #3 in your list.

The link above lists a few options and how those services stack up. There are plenty of O365 pros here, so you could probably find some good targeted answers to questions here on Server Fault.

Make sure to note where Desktop Office comes into play. You might lean toward the low-cost, but paid options to get that feature.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.