O365 Tenants for User Groups

Occasional Contributor

Until recently, there was an offer from the Microsoft Technical Communities Program (MSTC) for free O365 subscriptions to help collaboration within user groups (see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/dn550853.aspx). My user group made use of this offer, and has renewed the subscription each year (for free) by using a Yammer group which was linked from the original pages on technicalcommunity.com (which are no longer available). 


I've been in contact with both O365 support and the new Microsoft Tech Community about the status of this offer and the user groups which are reliant upon the O365 tenants. Thus far:

  • O365 Support has no offer or transition plan to assist. Instead, they have referred me to the Microsoft Tech Community folks.
  • Microsoft Tech Community replied with:

...we are looking to see if there is anything we can do to support this going forward but I am afraid at this time there is nothing further I can communicate.


I am sorry I do not have better news to share on this currently however we will publish any update to this position in the Community Events Speakers and Leader discussion board.

Each week, O365 contacts me to see if the Microsoft Tech Community has provided any updates, as my tenant (and others) will expire if nothing is done about this. It's likely that not many user groups are fully fledged non-profits that would qualify for other O365 offers, so without the assistance of Microsoft on this we will all be forced to either begin paying for our subscriptions or switch to alternative, more cost effective, solutions. User groups are often run by community members on a shoestring budget, so paying per month for these subscriptions is likely not a viable option for most.


As this is the forum mentioned by MS Tech Community... any updates?

45 Replies
I would hope that Microsoft respond to Jon and (re) enable support for this valuable offer. In our community, we've discussed shifting over to O365 a few times (we're on one of those very old free GSuite accounts so can provide up to 50 committee members with free email). However, we've changed our domain name since so would love to shift across to O365.

It would be really helpful for this offer to continue or even for a discount to be provided, I use the Office 365 space for all the group communication.  It's invaluable to use as a group. 

Hi all,


Thank you for posting, the Offer provided for by the Microsoft Technical Community came to an end when that program ceased to exist. We have been working hard to see if we could provide a similar level of benefits however at this time I regret to inform you that we can not offer the Office 365 E3 Trial licenses. 


We are going to revisit what benefits we can offer grassroots user groups in 2019 and we will communicate more about that as soon as possible.


I appreciate this is not the best news for some of our larger groups however we hope to have some amazing promotions for Community Leader and speakers in the year ahead.  


I ask this each year because this is a perk to user groups and Microsoft has the right to discontinue at their discretion. I do not know how many user groups take advantage of having an Office 365 tenant. We have for a number of years (over 11 years) starting with online meetings with Live Meeting and continuing online meetings with Office 365's Skype for Business. We also use the environment to demo during meetings different aspects of Office 365 administration, site development and user access in Office 365.  I am hoping that someone from Microsoft monitoring this site can answer the following as we are preparing our meeting schedule for 2019.


1 - Will user groups be able to renew their Office 365 E3 25-user subscriptions for 2019? (NOTE: Ours is up for renewal in January, 2019 so we would like a response as soon as possible.)

2 - If yes, how can we renew?

3 - We record our online meetings for posting on the user group website (www.ditug.org). When will recordings be available in Teams meetings as they are in S4B meetings, that is, saved locally for posting elsewhere? We would like to use Teams for meetings in the future but have encountered issues in the past.

4 - What are Microsoft's plans for supporting user group communities going forward?

As long-standing members of the Microsoft User Group community, I suggest that Microsoft might want to issue a newsletter, video or some form of communication to let us know what is next in their support of the community. Also community webinars focused on user groups would be helpful.


I love the idea of the 2-day Ignite Tour so that those of us who cannot afford to take a week in a an expensive resort location can still plug-in. I wish there were more options. I am in Detroit, the closest to my location is in Toronto or Washington D.C.  


Hermine Turner, DITUG President

BSCS, MCT, MCSA/MCITP-SA, MCTS-Windows/Project/Office 365

MOS Master Office, Office 365 and SharePoint

CompTIA A+, IT Fundamentals+, Network+, and Linux+ Certified

Hi @DITUG President thanks for your question. We're trying to find a way to renew these subscriptions, we hope to have an answer for you soon.

Hi all,


Just as an FYI - as per Anna's reply above we are taking another look to see if there is anything we can do to continue to provide this perk, as soon as we have something to share we will do so. 

To follow up on my original posting, O365 support reached out to see if they could internally extend our trial so that we would have more time to transition or determine what the plans were from MS Tech Community. This request was denied, with the reason being that we had already utilized several years of the trial license. 


At this point, our user group is evaluating alternatives. Slack is looking more appealing every day.

That's great news - thanks @Anna Chu & @Allen

I'd really love to move TechUG Committee members (all end user ITPro's, the majority customers with O365 enterprise agreements) from our 8 community cities across to O365. However, if Microsoft did decide to re-enable the service, I'd prefer some kind of reassurance this wasn't a short term offer.

Thank you all for your responses. Since the majority of our meetings are virtual, we cannot schedule anything beyond this month until we hear from you.

I hope you have an answer soon.

Our groups, subscription trial runs out on the 1st January 2019 so it would be good to have an update on this otherwise I'll need to purchase licenses. Thank you!

A bunch of systems management/system center user groups  just got blindsided by emails saying our subscriptions were expiring on the 1st (didn't see this thread until just now when I was researching what we need to do to get it extended). This is crazy and needs to be resolved, as this is our primary method of communication with our user group.

Thanks! Hopefully you can find a way to make this work. Our user group has been using ours and I just got the notification yesterday that it is expiring. Very much appreciated Microsoft's support of the user group in this way.

For folks interested in Office 365 renewals, please fill out this form so that we have your information on hand. Please note: it’s not a guarantee that we are able to renew your trial.

From the Form:

Maximum trial extension is 90 days (one-time only).

This being a one-time, 90 day only, extension is at least a help to those of use trying to sort out what to switch to during the busy holiday month. Question though: will there be another form to fill out if something more lasting comes around? My group doesn't need a 90 day extension just to deal with this again in a few months...


For those groups looking to maintain a bare minimum O365 presence, say for a catch-all email address for your group, here's what we ended up doing:

  • Created a generic user account that our officers can share to administer the tenant.
  • Purchased a single Exchange Kiosk license ($24 for the year) and assigned it to the generic user account. This gives it web and pop access to it's email address and any shared mailboxes it has access to.
  • We already had a shared mailbox for general inquiries to our user group, so we granted rights to the generic user account above to use it.
  • Assigned all existing email addresses from our tenant as SMTP aliases for that catch-all mailbox.
  • Created a forwarding rule inside the inbox to send received email to the officers' personal email addresses.

From what I've found, this seems to be a pretty cheap solution that allows us to keep our tenant, albeit with a single license and loss of the other functionality we were using (Teams, OneDrive, and Forms). Going forward, we're looking at Slack and other low/no-cost solutions for the actual collaboration of members.


How long will this renewal be if it goes through? I submitted the form, although I could not find the subscription ID only a tenant ID.  I saw the forms post just today. Our tenant trial is showing as expired with reduced functionality. 

I need to take action in time to prepare for our next online meeting.

We have pushed our January online meeting back to Jan. 26, while waiting to hear back. How long before we hear back about the renewal (short term or long term)?

Please advise.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to offer you an exact timeline, but these will be processed as quickly as possible. 

Has this had any further discussion internally? The form is no longer accepting responses. I’d like to see this program brought back so that we can migrate our UG off of Zoho and into O365, but we frankly just don’t have a budget to do that.

@Nathan Ziehnert Unfortunately, we don't have any updates for you at present, but will definitely let you know when we do!