The Nonprofit Guide to Google Ad Grants

Free money!

To be more precise: free $120,000 per year.

Say what?

You heard it right.

Imagine someone just handed you money to advertise your nonprofit organization at no cost to you on the world’s most popular search engine.

This is exactly what Google Ad Grants program is.

What is a Google Ad Grant?

The Google Ad Grants Program gives nonprofits the chance to advertise on Google at no cost to the participating nonprofit.  

Google Ad Grants program gives qualified organizations $10,000 per month in Google Ads.

Qualifying organizations can use this ad spend on Google Ads to create text-based PPC (pay-per-click) ads. 

Your nonprofit adverts would look a bit like the ones below. In this example, a person has searched for "donate to save the bees" and there are 7,500,000 results. Using Google Ads, the Bee Mission nonprofit has managed to get to #1 in the results.

Ads created through the Google Ad Grants program show at the top and sides of search results on Google (see the image above).

Note: To qualify, organizations must go through an application process. To keep the grant, they must keep meeting the program requirements.

Why Google Ad Grants Program?

It’s often difficult for many nonprofit organizations to reach their fundraising goals while keeping their costs low. 

A $10,000 monthly advertising grant from Google is, therefore, a potential game-changer.

Google Ads can help your nonprofit significantly increase your brand awareness, increase donations, and promote your programs and activities on Google search result pages.

Here is some of what you stand to gain:

  • Attract more website visitors
  • Reaching the right people at the right time
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Grow your donations
  • Get discovered by people when searching for opportunities related to your mission
  • Determine what attracts the most traffice to your website
  • Gain access to insightful data through Google Analytics
  • Controll your Key Messaging

Google has shared several success stories on their website.

For example, since Charity: water’s team started using Google for Nonprofits, their online activities have scaled rapidly.

“Over the course of a year, Google for Nonprofits helped deliver a 350% increase in site traffic, a 300% increase in total visitors, and a 333% increase in video views,” says Tyler Riewer, brand content lead, charity: water.

Charity: water mostly used Google tools to recruit fundraisers for their peer-to-peer fundraising program. They inspired almost 1,900 individual fundraisers and raised $1.8 million, which brought clean water to more than 60,000 people in developing countries.

In the first three years of becoming a Google grantee in 2003, Direct Relief garnered an impressive 6,000% increase in website visitors. 

They said: “The revised marketing plan consisted of eight campaign categories in paid search and remarketing, and approximately 150 newly created text ads that were launched the first week of December. By January 1— the close of the peak year-end giving season — results showed a 44% year-over-year increase in the number of online donations and a 40% increase in total dollars donated online.”

Who’s Eligible?

To be eligible for Google Ad Grants an organization must:

  • Hold current and valid charity/registered nonprofit status. For example, in the US you must have a current 501(c)(3) status. 
  • Have operations in one of the 50-plus countries eligible for Google Ad Grants.
  • Have acknowledged and agreed to Google’s non-discrimination and donation receipt and use certifications.
  • Have completed the Google Ad Grant pre-qualification process following Google for Nonprofits enrollment.
  • Have a website that is your own, live, functioning, optimized, clear, HTTPS-secured, and provides adequate detail on your nonprofit. There should also be limited commercial activity and limited ads on the website.
  • Have an active Google for Nonprofits account.
  • Be registered with TechSoup or a regional TechSoup arm.
  • Not be a governmental entity, hospital or medical group, school, childcare center, academic institution, or university.

Note: Organizations that function as educational institutions should look into Google for Education.

Read the full eligibility information on Google’s website.

Maintaining Google Grant Eligibility

Congratulations! Your application has been approved. Now what?

In 2018, Google released a new set of rules for the Google Ad Grants program to improve the performance of nonprofits ads. If any nonprofit account is not compliant with these policy rules they risk account suspension.

Here’s how to maintain your Google Grant Eligibility:

Account structure

  • Accounts must include at least two active ad groups per campaign, two text ads, and two sitelink ad extensions.
  • Nonprofits must use specific geo-targeting to areas where their and services are useful.

Performance

  • Accounts that aren’t using Smart bidding must maintain a click-through-rate of 5% each month.
  • All keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 should be paused or removed.
  • No single-word or overly generic keywords.
  • Vague 1-word keyword phrases and keywords with very low-quality scores (relevance) are not allowed in grant accounts. 
  • Single-word keywords are limited to branded words, recognized medical conditions, and words such as “donate,” “donation,” and “charities.”

Conversions

  • Set up conversion tracking and at least one conversion goal, like a volunteer sign-up, and generate at least one conversion per month.
  • Campaigns must use a conversion-based bidding strategy which includes Maximize Conversions, Target CPA, or Target ROAS.

Other

  • As much as $329 a day can be used to promote your nonprofit on Google. This amount needs to be used in a single day and cannot be transferred to the next day.
  • Google Ad Grantees are allowed to bid up to $2.00 per Ad Click.
  • You can only run text ads in Google search results. These text ads are triggered by keywords of your choice.
  • Ad Grantees are required to log in at least once every 30 days and make at least one change to the account every 90 days. Otherwise, Google has the right to pause the account with zero notification.
  • All the ads must link to your non-profit URL. This is the URL that was approved in the earlier application process.
  • Ad grantees must respond to the program survey.

How to Use Google Ad Grants – As Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

1. Set-Up + Prequalification

This first part involves proving eligibility for a Google for Nonprofits account. Once your organization has been approved you will then need to watch a short video on Google Ads and take an online quiz to show your understanding of the platform. 

So:

  • Obtain your TechSoup validation token. In the United States, Google sends the details you provided in the Google for Nonprofits account request directly to TechSoup so they can verify your organization and that you're affiliated with it. Outside of the US, you will need to directly register with your local TechSoup partner.
  • Go to www.google.com/nonprofits and click Get Started. If your organization already has an account registered, you will be alerted during the signup process. 
  • Visit ads.google.com and login with your existing Google Account or create a new account your organization will use solely with Google Ads.  Remember to use the same username and password as the one associated with your Google for Nonprofits.
  • File your pre-qualification survey form.
  • Take the Ad Grants training course and quiz.
  • Submit your account for review.
  • Log into your Google for Nonprofits account and click Activate products.
  • When you receive an email confirming your submission, log back into your Google Ads account. Create campaigns, ad groups, and ads, add keywords and extensions, track your conversions, and make sure you comply with Google Ad Grant Policies.
  • Have a last look at your Google Ads account before submitting it for the final review.

2. Preparation is Key(words)

Think about your goals

Take some time to get clear on your goals. What are you hoping to accomplish? Increased donations? Sign-ups for your membership program? Event sign-ups for your annual gala? Then, think about which pages could best reflect those goals. This clarity will help you build great landing pages and choose the right keywords.

Research keywords

The right keywords can get your ad in front of the right audience. So, it’s vital to do the research and choose the right keywords. There are a few free tools to help you find the right keywords for you and your cause:

Those tools are:

Start by brainstorming keywords that are not so common.  Your keywords should match your ad and be closely connected to the copy on the landing page in order to improve your Quality Score.

Use long-tail keywords. Related to each short-tail keyword are dozens of longer keywords. These have fewer individual average searches but collectively allow you to reach a larger audience.

Furthermore, you’ll want separate ad groups for different segments of your audience/different programs. For example, if you’re an animal charity that looks after monkeys, elephants, and lions,  you’ll create an ad group for each. This will let you show relevant adverts to your searchers.

Google also suggests working on broad match and negative keywords.

Broad match

Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned to. With broad matches, ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. So if your keyword is 'donate to help animals', someone searching for 'give to animal nonprofits' as well as ‘donate animal charities’ might see your ad.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords exclude your ads from showing on searches with that term. So if you’re an animal sanctuary that doesn’t help farm animals, you could add a negative keyword, designated with a minus sign (-farm animals).

Learn more about keyword matching here.

Pro tip: Use the ‘Search terms report’ to find search terms that have triggered your ad. There might be some search terms that don’t relate to your cause or organization in any way but that still might be driving traffic.

3. Website Quality Matters

The goal of ads is to send users to your website. Therefore, it only makes sense that the quality and usability of your site is taken into consideration when your application is being reviewed by Google. Furthermore, the quality of your website also affects if and when your ads show and whether the users are prompted to act.

Essentially, Google’s algorithm looks at your pages to determine how easy it will be for a user to find the information they’re looking for and whether the information is relevant to their search. So, if your landing pages aren’t properly set up and optimized, your ads will be less likely to show.

Not only that, but website quality can be the deciding factor in whether a visitor will convert, or take meaningful action on your site (such as signing up for a newsletter, registering for an event, or making a donation).

Once users end up on your website and are prompted to donate, it’s key to ensure a seamless donation experience for them. GiveForms does exactly that! We make sure the experience of donating on your website is smooth. You can embed a donation form on your website, allowing visitors to donate using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or bank transfers -- making it all that easier for them. With a focus on intuitive, human-centered design, our goal is to help you increase your online donations. Create an account for free today!

Here are some tips to improve your website quality:

  • Own the website domain that your visitors will end up on when they click your ad.
  • Avoid redirecting visitors to donation or ticketing pages owned by a third party.
  • Organize your website.
  • The better the user experience, the more likely your ads are to show.
  • Make your site easy to navigate with an organized menu.
  • Provide a clear and honest description of your organization, mission, projects, and activities.
  • Post relevant and detailed content.
  • Keep the website up to date.
  • Avoid the use of excessive pop-ups or anything else that could make the navigation on your website more difficult.
  • Consider using bullet points to make your content more digestible.
  • Have a strong call to action.
  • Use testimonials and quotes.
  • Make use of visual content - include at least one image.
  • Clearly showcase your logo and brand name on all pages.
  • Your contact information should be easy to locate.
  • Ensure you use HTTPS. HTTPS is the encrypted version of HTTP that ensures your data is secure and protected.
  • Make sure your website loads quickly and that you fix any broken links.
  • Use “responsive design,” (the design that automatically adjusts to a user’s device). This will make your pages mobile-friendly. 
  • Create clean pages with minimal blocks of text, bold calls-to-action, and a consistent menu on every page.
  • Add original photos or videos to foster empathy and encourage users to take action.
  • Test your page speed and find recommendations for improving with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

3. Create a Concrete Call-to-Action

You’ve done all this work to get people to visit your website.

Now what?

Even if they visit your website and it isn’t clear what you’re asking them to do – your efforts will be wasted.

Create a powerful call to action. 

A call to action can be defined as messaging that tells your website visitor exactly what you want them to do on your website. 

When it’s clear what you’re asking of them, they’re more likely to take that action.

Calls-to-action should stand out and be easy to locate. To do this, consider adding prominent buttons or colors that contrast with the rest of the page. 

Furthermore, you can repeat the call to action multiple times and increase conversion rates by giving users more than one opportunity to take that action.

Pro tip: Start by taking the time to get into the mindset of your visitors and what they are searching for. A lot of site visitors will be “cold traffic” - consisting of visitors who are brand new to your mission. These visitors might not be ready to give just yet. By tracking your keywords you’ll be able to see what drove them to your site and then provide real value to them. This will inspire your visitors to convert.

4. Create your ads

Divide your ads into separate campaigns to help you target specific audiences. In the Campaigns tab of your AdWords account, click “Create a Campaign.” 

This is where you’ll also choose a location you would like to advertise to. For example, you may only want to engage people in Australia and New Zealand, or maybe you are promoting an event and want to reach only people in Boston.

Create separate ad groups.

For example, if your nonprofit is hosting a beach clean up, you may wish to attract both environmental activists and students to join and participate. To target each group you could create two different landing pages and ad groups that emphasize those points that will appeal to these audiences.

If you’re short on time, you could also create separate ad groups for each group but send them to a single landing page for registration.

From your ad group, click Continue to Ads and you will see a form to fill in your landing page URL and copy. AdWords will automatically preview the ad for you, so you will be able to see how your audience will see it.

5. Keep Measuring and Learning

Measuring, tracking, and readjusting based on data is key to any successful marketing effort.

Use Google Analytics to track how each keyword, ad, and landing page performs. Then, based on what you learn, make the necessary changes to increase visitors and conversions on your site.

It’s vital to track ad copy to see what resonates more with your audience, and what increases click-through rates on your site.

You can start by, for every ad group, writing at least two ads. This is not only necessary to test messaging, but it’s actually required by Google. 

Then, compare their performance. Which ad has a higher click-through-rate? Which one leads to more conversions and engagement?

Regularly clean those keywords that have a quality score of under 3 and learn which ad extensions increase engagement.

By spending just a little extra time tracking and adjusting your campaigns every week, you can reap many benefits.

Other Tips and Tricks

All of this might seem overwhelming, especially to nonprofits who don’t spend a lot of time on advertising and marketing. 

However, this isn’t as difficult as it may seem. With some time, research, and practice, you too can be successful

Below are a few additional tips and tricks that may be helpful.

Send visitors to the best pages on your site.

And these pages should correspond to what your ads promised - whatever your call to action was (e.g. inviting people to donate; to volunteer to sign up for a newsletter). When users click specific ads and go to a landing page that isn’t in any way related to those ads, they will feel misled and won’t be likely to follow through.

Therefore, think of how you’re priming the users coming to your site based on the keywords, ad copy, and targeting and then make sure the pages they land on are great (and related)!

Get creative when crafting keywords.

Select relevant terms, but also take time to brainstorm and get more creative than usual. Dive deep - there are probably a lot more keywords associated with your nonprofit than you realize!

Filter through keywords and ad copy regularly.

Keep removing those that are not as successful, adding more targeted copy, and adjusting the bids on each keyword.

Take advantage of ad extensions.

Use structured snippets, callout extensions, and sitelinks to give more information to searchers. These ads have a higher click-through rate than normal ads.

Determine your message.

Write your own copy for your text ads to ensure that your message matches with the keywords you’ve chosen and the action you want users to take.

Miscellaneous

  • Google uses a “pay-per-click” model, which means you only pay when a user clicks an ad.
  • A large number of nonprofits never use the full $10,000, and that’s completely normal.
  • Google Ads budgets are set daily rather than monthly, so the $10,000 is actually distributed in $330 allotments for each day of the month. If you don’t spend the full $330, it doesn’t roll over to the next day.
  • Google reserves the right to suspend your account and pause your ads if you fall out of compliance with Google Ads and Google Ad Grant Policies.

Ready to Start?

Google Ad Grants will not magically solve all your marketing and fundraising problems, but it is an incredibly valuable tool to grow your online presence, brand awareness, and increase donations —all at no monetary cost to your organization.

All it takes is investing some time into crafting effective ads, identifying the right keywords, and maintaining your account.

This is just an overview of the initiative, so if you want to get more into the nitty-gritty, feel free to explore Google’s resources. 

For more details and specifics on the Ad Grants program, please visit the Ad Grants Help page.

GiveForms lets you create a seamless donation experience for your donors, making sure their experience when donating on your website is smooth. Use GiveForms to embed a donation form on your website, allowing visitors to donate using a credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or bank transfers. With a focus on intuitive, human-centered design, our goal is to help you increase your online donations. Create an account for free today!