Verifying Your Church with Percent (If Your Church is under an Umbrella Exemption)

There are several online productivity tools—including Google Workspace, Google Ads, and Canva—that offer discounts and free services to nonprofit organizations. These tools can be very useful to churches, but it can also be hard for churches to sign up for nonprofit accounts with these services. That’s because these companies use Percent to verify the nonprofit status of organizations; Percent, in turn, uses official databases like Internal Revenue nonprofit databases to verify nonprofit status. And churches tend not to be listed in those databases because churches and other religious congregations—at least in the United States—do not have to officially register for nonprofit status.

So let’s talk about how a church can be verified by Percent and gain access to these useful tools. At least, let’s talk about how your church can do that if it is under an umbrella exemption.

I’m going to use Google for Nonprofits as my example. Google for Nonprofits is a suite that includes Google Workspace (Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, and so on), Google Ads, Google’s YouTube Nonprofit Program, and access to Google Earth and Google Maps. It’s also the first service that my congregation signed up for and how I learned about the verification process for nonprofit organizations.

Step 1: Getting a Letter from the Organization That Holds Your Umbrella Status

When you try to go through the online verification process, you’re going to run into a problem proving your nonprofit status. Unless your congregation has gone through the process of registering as a 501(c)3, your congregation does not have a determination letter from the IRS. What you hopefully do have is an umbrella exemption through a larger body like your denomination. And what Percent will ultimately want is a letter from that larger organization attesting that you are covered by their exemption.

So, step one is to get that letter.

Step 2: Getting Started with Online Verification (Which Probably Won’t Work)

Step one is going to Google for Nonprofits and clicking ‘Get Started’. This will take you to a page that asks you to confirm your Google account, so make sure that you have a personal account that you want associated with your organization. That will take you to a page that gives you a little bit of information about organizations that cannot use Google for Nonprofits. Click ‘Next’ and we’re on our way to verifying your church as a nonprofit.

Step 3: The Online Verification Process

Step three starts with the screen that asks where your organization is registered. Again, as a church, your organization is probably not registered. But we need to go through this process, so say that you are registered in the United States. This will take you to a screen that asks you to answer a few questions to determine your eligibility. Click ‘Begin’ and then ‘Next’.

The next page asks you for your organization’s name or registration number. Go ahead and enter your church’s name, but remember that, unless you have your own 501(c)3 determination, you will not be on the list that it generates. Importantly, do not select another congregation that has a similar name and has already gone through this process! Instead, look under the list for a bit of text that says I can’t find my organization and click on that.

On the next page, enter your church’s legal name, select the Internal Revenue Service as the database that your church is registered with (because your church does pay employment taxes for its non-pastoral staff), and enter your church’s Taxpayer Identification Number. Finally, upload the letter that you have from the organization that hold’s your umbrella exemption.

I’m not going to enter fake information and trouble Percent with a fake application. So click ‘Next’ and go through whatever steps are left online.

Step 4: Working with Percent’s Help Desk

The online system might verify your church. More likely, within a couple of days, you’re going to receive an email telling you that your application was rejected. This is where Percent’s help desk comes in.

Once you receive your rejection, head here to submit a ticket. Use I’d like my application reviewed as your issue and fill out the form. In the Description box, explain that your organization is a church that is covered under an umbrella exemption. Use the Add File button to upload the letter from the organization that holds your umbrella exemption again. Then click Submit.

This might be enough to verify you. If it is not, then it will at least start an email thread that you can use to talk to Percent, explain your situation, and become verified. Frustratingly, it took me about a month of back-and-forth with Percent to get my church added to their database, but the key was that letter from my denomination. Hopefully, by starting with that crucial piece of documentation, you can save time and effort.

After you’ve talked to Percent and been added to the database, you will probably have to go through the online verification process again, but this time your organization will be on that list when you search for it!

With any luck, you are now verified with Percent and you can use the nonprofit versions of the services that use Percent for nonprofit verification. Enjoy and good luck!