Since beginning in 2003, Google Ad Grants have been helping nonprofits to communicate, recruit, fundraise, and more. They are a powerhouse that can supercharge a nonprofit’s progress toward its goals.
But in order to utilize this fantastic opportunity, nonprofits also have to know how to obtain the Google Ad Grant, how to manage it, and how to get the most out of it. We have compiled everything you need to know in this Ultimate Guide to Google Ad Grants to show you how this key resource could work for your organization. .
Google Ad Grants provide up to $10,000 worth of ads per month to qualifying nonprofits. While many organizations won’t need anywhere near that amount to reach their goals, these grants provide both the drive to help increase your organization’s reach and the scope to grow with your nonprofit.
At Nonprofit Megaphone, we love to help people like you learn how Google Ad Grants could benefit your organization. As an industry leader in the implementation and optimization of the grant trusted by over 500 nonprofits , we are passionate about spreading the word about this grant’s effectiveness. If you are interested in the advantages of the Google Ad Grant with industry-leading expertise behind it, connect with us for a free consultation.
What is the Google Ad Grant?
Think of the Google Ad Grant as your nonprofit’s secret weapon. You can use it to get essential updates to your supporters, spread your message, rank highly on Google, and more. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Google Ad Grant , or maybe this is the first time you’ve seen the name. Either way, don’t worry — you aren’t missing out any longer.
Put simply, the Google Ad Grant provides approved nonprofits with $10,000 in ad credits per month to spend on ads that appear in Google searches. Sheryl Sandberg, now the CEO of Facebook, created the program to give nonprofits the opportunity to reach new audiences online and expand the impact they are making in the world.
Have you ever typed something into Google and noticed the ads that appear towards the top of the screen? For example, let’s say you want to purchase a pair of soccer cleats, so you conduct a search on Google. At the top of the page, you will probably find ads from retailers like Nike, Adidas, and so forth. These retailers purchase this ad space because they know you are specifically searching for soccer cleats, so if they can appear highly in your search, you’re more likely to purchase a pair from them. Then, if a pair of Adidas cleats strike your fancy and you click on their link, the advertising retailer pays Google for that click. For Adidas, the ad price is worth it because they just might score a sale. .
The Google Ad Grant does the exact same thing. It allows you to place your own ads in highly ranked spots . For example, imagine you are an animal rescue organization and you have dogs available for adoption. You could advertise to people who are in your geographic area who are searching for dog adoptions, or perhaps other questions about dogs like, “Are puppy mills bad?” Your ads will then appear when people search for those terms, and then when they click on them, they will be directed to your site.
With funding from the Google Ad Grant, your nonprofit’s site can appear highly on Google without costing you a penny. Basically, Google pays for the clicks you receive from your ad spots. You can “spend” up to $10,000 per month for these clicks. Depending on how many people are searching for what you provide, you can reach a lot of people for free using the Google Ad Grant. It’s a wonderful program, and we think probably one of the most underutilized resources that nonprofits have available today.
The Google Ad Grant not only brings people to your website but also encourages them to take meaningful action once they get there.
How can you tell if your nonprofit organization is eligible for the Google Ad Grant? Here’s a concise list to help you determine if your nonprofit qualifies:
- You must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the United States or hold a similar status in one of the 50 countries that have been added so far. See which countries are currently eligible here.
- Your organization must not be a hospital, a school or college, or a governmental institution. However, philanthropic arms of educational institutions may still be eligible.
- You must have a high-quality website, fitting the standards listed here. The site must also be hosted on your own domain ( e.g. “ournonprofit.org,” not “ournonprofit.weebly.com”).
- If you are applying for the Google Grant for the first time, your website must have an SSL certificate installed (which means that a lock icon appears in the navigation bar in Google Chrome). If you see “not secure” next to your website’s URL in Chrome, it means SSL is not installed or there is a configuration issue.
- You must agree to the terms of service for Google for Nonprofits and Google Ads.
Note that faith-based organizations, including houses of worship, are eligible for the Google Grant. However, your organization must have formally applied for and received 501(c)(3) status. Houses of worship are often tax-exempt by default, and so many have never officially applied for this status. If that is the case, you will need to apply and have 501(c)(3) status granted before you begin applying for the Google Grant.
If you meet these criteria,you are eligible for the program. For more information about program eligibility, check out our article “Google Ad Grant Eligibility Explained.”
Why pursue the Google Ad Grant?
While getting the Ad Grant isn’t necessarily difficult, many nonprofit professionals already have enough on their plates. You might be wondering why you should spend time applying for a Google Ad Grant, but we believe that it’s well worth your time. Here’s why.
Acquire more site engagements
Your website can direct interested readers to anything you want to promote, including volunteer opportunities, ways to donate, pet adoptions, classes, webinars, events, or key information about community development. The Google Ad Grant pushes your valuable news and information to the top of the search engine, which allows your content to be seen , particularly by those who are most likely to engage with it.
Reach your current donors in a streamlined way
When it comes to donor communication, most nonprofit professionals are well acquainted with the challenging task of increasing email open rates, getting shares on social media, or generally ensuring that your existing supporters see your calls to action. In many cases, reaching fundraising goals depends on your supporters seeing your content. .
The Google Ad Grant gives you a way to communicate with your existing donors in a streamlined way. While these ads do not replace directly emailing your donors, they do increase your overall visibility online.
Market multiple campaigns at the same time
With the Google Ad Grant, you aren’t limited to just one ad campaign. You have the flexibility to try multiple keyword campaigns simultaneously. This way, you can have variety in your messaging and the ability to compare the successes and shortcomings of different campaigns. Using these metrics, you can determine which marketing strategies are working and which ones are not.
Track campaign progress through data
Google’s powerful Analytics tool pairs with the Ad Grant, which can provide you with in-depth data about the performance of your campaigns, engagement, and website. With these tools, you can optimize your website to fit your goals like never before.
Who is a good fit for Google Ad Grants?
Many organizations, especially smaller nonprofits, question whether they are the right size to take full advantage of the Google Ad Grant. Although applying to a grant with a company as big as Google might seem intimidating, the grant is designed with all nonprofits in mind. Just because you have a smaller team doesn’t mean that you couldn’t benefit from the Google grant.
The main factors that determine the potential value of a Google Grant for your organization include:
- How many people are searching for the topics that your organization deals with?
- Do you have content on your website that speaks to those topics?
The answers to these questions are not dependent on how large or small your organization may be! Several small nonprofits serve large audiences and have the website content their target population is looking for. These nonprofits do very well with the Google Ad Grant.
In fact, smaller nonprofits could even gain more benefits through the Google Ad Grant — the way that the grant provides ad credit levels the playing field across nonprofits of all sizes.
Potential use cases
We’ve explored what the Google Ad Grant is and what it has to offer, but what can that mean in practical terms? It is so much more than just driving traffic to your website! Let’s explore a few ways that nonprofit organizations can put Google Ad Grants to work for themselves in more creative and effective capacities.
- Informing and educating the public by attracting new visitors
- Selling tickets for performances, events, and webinars
- Driving in-person actions, such as adopting animals
- Recruiting volunteers to advance the organization’s mission or work on a cause
- Advocating by galvanizing grassroots activism, signing petitions, and contacting elected officials
- Promoting donation and sponsorship opportunities to generate funds
- Building an audience by attracting new subscribers to newsletters
As you can see, fully utilizing the Google Ad Grant does not end with simply increasing web traffic. Instead, using carefully-targeted ads can promote your events, inform the public , recruit passionate supporters, and contribute to the causes you care about.. The work you do matters – the Grant ensures that your efforts are seen by as many people as possible.
You can view more case studies like these that highlight the effectiveness of skilled Google Ad Grant management here.
How do you use the Google Ad Grant?
Many people focus on the fact that they have $10,000 per month to spend, so they want to use the entire amount. However, less might be more. Rather than using the full amount, you want to pay more attention to your output and conversion rates. Are people landing on the website and filling out sign-up forms? Are they donating? Are they signing up to volunteer? Are they watching videos that you’ve created to educate them about different topics?
These are the outcomes that really matter. Google has structured the entire program so that you actually don’t focus on how much you spend . Instead, it’s best to focus on valuable conversions.
Acquiring the grant
Once you have verified your organization’s eligibility for the Google Ad Grant, there are a few tasks you need to complete before you are ready to complete your application . Let’s take a look.
If you are already a member of Google for Nonprofits, then you can skip to point 3.
- If you have not previously registered your organization with Techsoup.org, then sign up for an account here. Techsoup provides discounts and other services that you may find worthwhile in their own right, but also provides a Validation Token that Google uses to verify your eligibility.
- Use your Techsoup Validation Token to enroll with Google for Nonprofits.
- Make sure that you have Google Analytics installed on your website. Google Analytics must be integrated into your website prior to applying.
Now you are ready to begin the application process! This happens in two steps.
- During the application process, you will submit your nonprofit’s website to Google for review.
- Once you’ve submitted your website, you will need to build out a basic Google Ads account and submit that for approval as well.
- You will also need to set up conversion tracking on your website. First, install Google Tag Manager on your website so you can set up some goals for your site. Goals are trackable, valuable actions that you aim for your users to complete. By setting these goals, you guide your analytics tools to determine which pages or ads would create the most effective path for users to complete your desired task.
In the course of the application process, you will be asked whether you wish to sign up for a “Smart Campaigns” or a “Classic” Google Ads account. To access the full suite of tools and options available to you, apply for the Classic version.
Getting Started with the Grant
Now that you have the Grant, how can you get the most out of it? Most organizations will not use the full $10,000 in monthly ad credits that the Grant gives. In fact, many nonprofits complete their goals without the full amount and still see unprecedented gains..
However, ad credits do not roll over from month to month, so you will want to employ every strategy you can to ensure that your efforts produce the best possible resultsHere are a few simple actions you can take to substantially improve your ads:
- Run 3-5 Campaigns: An optimal Google Ad account will have approximately 3 to 5 or more campaigns. With too many campaigns, you might find that they become too difficult to manage. Choose your campaigns based on what you want to advertise. For example, maybe you have one campaign for your blog and another for volunteering opportunities.
- Keep your ad groups focused: The ad groups that are featured within each campaign should be specific and intentional. For instance, if your organization is an animal shelter, you might have an “Adoption” campaign. Within that campaign, you will want to have a bundle of closely-related keywords and ads that target a wide variety of related phrases. For example, a campaign meant to promote adoptions for shelter animals could have this as its bundle of keywords: Adopt a dog, Adopt a cat, Adoptable dogs, Adoptable cats, Adopt don’t shop, Why animal adoption matters, Adopting a pet, Adopting an animal, Adopt animals near me
- Use at least 1 Responsive Search Ad per group: Each ad group should have at least 3 ads, with one Responsive Search Ad. RSA’s allow you to use a variety of different headlines or descriptions, which Google will algorithmically mix and match in order to create the best possible click-through rate for you. Setting up an RSA can take a little more time than an ordinary ad, but it can be well worth it in terms of results.
- Experiment with a variety of headlines and descriptions: Each ad should use the full allotment of headlines and descriptions. You will want to use as much of the character limit as possible in order to maximize your ad space.
- Use ad extensions as often as possible: There are many ad extensions that may be useful, but there are a few that we think are necessary. They include: callout extensions, which allow you to add short, attention-grabbing bullet point style phrases beneath your ad; sitelink extensions, which append links to other pages on your website; and call extensions, which help you to drive phone calls and allow mobile users to call with the press of a button.
Now that you have an idea of what it takes to obtain, retain, and utilize the Google Ad Grant, and how to build effective campaigns and ads within Google Ads, let’s explore what it means to truly get the most out of the Grant.
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Google Ad Grant
Getting the Google Ad Grant is one thing, but utilizing it to the fullest is another. Whether you are skilled in reading the trends and formulating optimized content or have never promoted your cause online, we can all find ways to improve and grow.
Here are our top 5 tips that can help you get the most out of your Google Ad Grant, all without having to be an expert! Be sure to sign up for updates from Nonprofit Megaphone via email for more free nonprofit tips, discounts, and strategies delivered right to your inbox!
1. Start with a solid website
We have said before that having a strong website is key to your success with the Google Ad Grant, but what does that mean in concrete terms? Here is a short list of characteristics that we use in our website assessment rubric to determine if a site is strong or requires some work:
- Promotable pages: Your website should have 10 or more “promotable pages.” Keep these pages focused on a single topic that has a lot of web traffic. Be sure to include a relevant call to action or next step for visitors to take. You should aim for at least 300 words.
- Updated: Listed information for events should be up to date and featured on separate pages. Your website should also feature current, industry-related blog posts with searchable, broad topics that are between 700 and 1,500 words in length.
- Google Tag Manager: Google Tag Manager should be installed in order to count important button clicks.
- Security: The website should be secure (it should show “https:” instead of “http:” in the URL).
- Appreciation: Include success or “thank you” forms for all online forms or CTA’s. These should be unique landing pages that exist on your own URL.
- Keeping Calls to Action on your site: Calls to Action that you wish to track should not leave your website to go to a third-party page, like EventBrite or Paypal.Also be sure that PDF content appears on its own landing page. Google policy does not allow Google Grant ads to direct to content on a PDF, whether it is downloaded or embedded.
- Mobile use: Ensure that your website is mobile friendly, since most people engage with the internet online.Highlight important information: List your 501(c)3 number and EIN in your website’s footer.
Ultimately, you want your website to fit with your nonprofit’s brand and to create an enjoyable and easy user experience.
2. Track meaningful conversions
In order to determine your progress, you need to track and measure data. Most often, you will focus on your conversion rates, or the frequency in which users perform the actions that you request of them.
Meaningful conversions include both monetary and non-monetary objectives. Monetary actions include contributing a donation, buying a ticket, or becoming a member, while non-monetary actions include signing up for an email newsletter, watching a video, or obtaining volunteering information.
These conversions mean that more people are getting involved with your nonprofit, so you definitely want to keep an eye on them. Using Google Analytics, you can keep track of your goals so you can see which pages or entry points have the highest success rates.
3. Understand your audience
Having excellent targeted ads, a strong website, and effective calls to action are all great, but they can still fall flat if your intended audience never sees them. For this reason, understanding your audience is crucial so that you can shape your content around their needs and how they’re searching for information.
Keyword research allows you to investigate the type of information that different demographics are trying to find online. By learning what your audience is searching for, you can tailor your ads so that it will be more likely to appear in front of them the next time that they make a Google search.
Anyone can conduct keyword research, but a little time and skill will help you to get the most of it. This HubSpot guide can help you learn more about the ins and outs of keyword research.
4. Monitor performance
When it comes to the Google Ad Grant, upkeep is king. Like many tools, the Grant depends on your continued ability to monitor its performance and make adjustments as needed. Google provides a helpful suite of data that allows you to see which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t. Using these tools, you can continuously improve and reshape your ads to better suit what you’ve learned.
Because the Google Ad Grant renews monthly, you should continue to check on it to ensure that your nonprofit continues to comply with Google’s standards.
5. Maintain compliance
Once you have the Google Ad Grant, you want to hold onto it. In order to keep your grant, you must remain compliant with Google’s rules. The Google Ad Grant renews monthly, and so it is important that you intentionally maintain your suitability for the Grant.
There are several reasons that a Google Ad Grant account could be suspended. Here are the most common:
- Abusing the ad network or misrepresenting your organization
- Losing your nonprofit status
- Failing to meet Google for Nonprofits eligibility criteria
- Needing re-verification (this is primarily for organizations who signed up for Google for Nonprofits prior to 2016)
- Repeatedly violating Google’s Terms & Policies
Because of the Grant’s value and the potential to lose access, many organizations find it helpful to seek professional advice to maintain the Grant. In the event that your Google Ad Grant is suspended, Nonprofit Megaphone may be able to help you seek reactivation.
6. Consider professional Google Ad Grant management
Now that you have seen all that the Google Ad Grant can accomplish, maybe you are interested in partnering with a professional management firm to maximize your success.
Nonprofit Megaphone has a 100% success rate in acquiring the Grant and currently manages more than 48 million in ad dollars. We can create ad campaigns for each of your services, programs, or areas of focus. As a part of our services, we select keywords for each campaign, write ads to appear in search results, and continually test different versions to improve performance. You tell us your objectives, and we take it from there. It’s Google Grant Management made easy.
We wholeheartedly believe in the causes of the nonprofits we help. If we are able to help you to obtain the Grant today and nothing more, that’s fantastic. However, if you think that professional optimization, advice, and fine-tuning could be of assistance, connect with us here for a free consultation.
As you can see, the Google Ad Grant is a potential powerhouse for nonprofits of all sizes if properly utilized. Even so, a large percentage of nonprofits in the U.S. and beyond miss out on this opportunity because they do not know what the Grant does, how to apply, or how to use it to the fullest.
We hope that this guide will help countless organizations like yours to thrive, whether you implement the Grant on your own or partner with firms like us.
Looking for more helpful ways to keep your nonprofit thriving? Here are a few of our other resources:
- 100+ Nonprofit Templates to Save You Time & Money: Do you find yourself staring at a blank screen? These templates can help!
- 100+ Nonprofit Discounts (Collectively worth $200,000+ Annually): Who doesn’t want to save some money? These discounts could help your nonprofit save big time.
- 77+ Donation Opportunities for Nonprofits (And How to Apply): Are you looking to grow your donation revenue? These opportunities might be just for you!
By Jason Warne & Grant Hensel