Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits: A Marketer’s Complete Guide
Among a sea of nonprofits, today’s organizations need to do everything they can to squeeze more out of their marketing budgets. Google recognizes the power of search engine marketing and shares free access to its paid marketing platform with eligible nonprofits.
Through the Google Ad Grants program, Google empowers charitable organizations to tap into pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, connecting them with likely prospects online. By simply applying for the program, nonprofits can transform their digital presence.
Since 2003, the Google Ad Grants program has provided $10 billion in free advertising to more than 115,000 nonprofits across 51 countries.
While the program is an incredible marketing opportunity, nonprofits need to know how it works and how to write enticing ads if they want to see results. To help, we’ve compiled everything your nonprofit needs to know about Google Ad Grants. Here’s what we’ll cover over the course of this guide:
- What Are Google Ad Grants?
- The Basics of Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits
- How to Apply for Google Ad Grants
- How to Use The Google Ad Grant
- 8 Tips for Better Google Grant Management
- How A Google Ad Grant Manager Can Help
A solid digital marketing strategy can make a huge difference for nonprofits. While we focus on designing SEO-friendly nonprofit websites, our friends at Getting Attention work one-on-one with all sorts of nonprofits to help them to harness the power of the grant.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be a whiz on the fundamentals of Google Ad Grants. However, we highly recommend you work with an expert who knows the ins and outs of the program to maximize your results.
What Are Google Ad Grants?
The Google Ad Grants program provides each eligible nonprofit $10,000 in paid advertising credits per month. The grant automatically renews each month, totaling $120,000 per year. Participating organizations can spend these ad credits to promote their landing pages within Google search results for mission-related keywords.
You choose the terms you’d like to rank for and write ads that target those terms. Then, Google places these ads in strategic locations, such as at the very top of a search results page above the organic search results. Google essentially pays for the clicks you receive.
For example, let’s say you work for a youth development organization that offers peer mentoring services to nearby kids. With Google Ad Grants, you can advertise to people who are searching for programs like yours in your geographic area. Or, you can promote educational content related to the positive impact of participating in these programs.
The Basics of Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits
From spreading awareness for your mission to rekindling relationships with lapsed supporters, the Google Ad Grant is a reliable way to accomplish your digital marketing goals. Before building out your Google Grant ads, take some time to learn the basics of the program, starting with whether you’re eligible.
As with any grant, there are requirements that applicants must meet to be considered. The goal is to make sure participants will benefit from the program and won’t harm Google’s reputation.
Think of it this way: if someone notices an untrustworthy organization promoting unsavory content through the program, it could reflect poorly on Google.
To qualify for Google Ad Grants, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be registered as a charitable organization in your country.
- Your nonprofit should be verified by Percent if located in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or New Zealand. All other organizations should be verified by TechSoup or a local TechSoup partner.
- Your organization must not be a governmental entity, hospital, healthcare organization, school, or other academic institution. However, Google does offer a separate program for educational institutions called Google for Education.
- Participants must agree to the Google for Nonprofits Additional Terms of Service.
- Your website must follow Google’s website policy. For instance, it should have substantial content regarding your mission, be secured with HTTPS, and be hosted on your own domain (e.g., “yournonprofit.org” not “yournonprofit.wix.com”).
Know that each country’s requirements vary slightly, so review the official Google Ad Grants requirements for your country before applying.
Benefits of Google Ad Grants
If your nonprofit has a website and is active online, you’re a great candidate for Google Ad Grants! Search engine marketing is the natural next step for building your digital presence. If you’re still not convinced it’s the right move, there are several reasons why you should take the plunge.
Using the Google Ad Grant will allow you to:
- Grow website traffic and generate more site engagement. The Google Ad Grant pushes your nonprofit’s valuable announcements and pages to the top of the search engine results, putting your content in front of more people.
- Connect with new prospects and keep current ones engaged. Your ad campaigns will target specific keywords related to your mission. This will help you deliver content directly to motivated supporters who are searching for causes like yours online.
- Track marketing performance. Google provides Ad Grant participants with free access to Google Analytics. This allows marketers to better understand how their ads are performing and how people interact with their websites.
Bringing attention to the right content on your site will drive more value for your cause. With a carefully-crafted Google Ad Grants management strategy, you can launch your digital marketing efforts forward, achieving new heights for your mission.
Who Should Apply for the Google Ad Grant?
Anyone who wants to amplify their digital marketing efforts can apply! The program was designed to help organizations of all sizes promote their missions.
However, just because your organization is eligible doesn’t necessarily mean the Google Ad Grant will benefit your nonprofit. The grant is particularly helpful for organizations that:
- Have relevant, click-worthy missions and topics. In other words, people are searching for their cause online.
- Have established websites. Their site should feature content centered around those click-worthy topics.
- Can devote time to managing your Google Ad Grants account each month. Otherwise, your ads might underperform and not produce any real value for your work. A lot of nonprofits turn to professional Google Ad Grants management for help.
So long as your site features valuable content and you have free time, applying is a smart move. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small organization — the grant was designed for any organization that wants to amplify its mission through paid advertising.
How to Apply for Google Ad Grants
So long as you meet the requirements, you should be all set to apply. Just make sure you have the time to allocate to proper Google Ad Grants management.
To get started, Getting Attention’s guide to applying for Google Ad Grants breaks the process down into a few key steps:
- Register with TechSoup or Percent. These organizations work with Google to verify organizations’ legitimacy. Organizations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or New Zealand must register with Percent, while all others must register with TechSoup or TechSoup partner. Then, they’ll provide you with a token that you’ll share with Google when signing up for Google for Nonprofits.
- Create a Google for Nonprofits account. The Google Ad Grant is available through the Google for Nonprofits program. Fill out the registration form, where you’ll agree to Google’s non-discrimination statements and provide some information about your organization.
- Submit the Google Ad Grants application. When accepted into Google for Nonprofits, you’ll receive an email from Google. Log into your Google for Nonprofits account, where you can access the Google Ad Grants application. Return to Google for Nonprofits, click the checkbox verifying that you filled out the form, and click ‘Activate.’
- Accept the invitation. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive an invitation to the program. Accept the invitation, and accept the billing profile, which will be sent to you in a separate email. From here, you can set up your first Google Ad Grant campaign and spend up to $329 per day.
Unlike traditional grants, the grant will automatically renew each month. Once you’re approved, all you have to do is meet the ongoing compliance requirements to remain eligible. Best of all, a Google Ad Grants manager can handle applying and ongoing compliance for you!
The timeline can vary for each stage of the process. For instance, if TechSoup needs additional documentation from you, that can impact your timeline. In any case, here are the typical time ranges you can expect:
- TechSoup verification: 2-14 business days
- Google for Nonprofits account setup: 0-14 business days
- Google Ad Grants Pre-Qualification: 2-9 business days
- Google Ad Grants Account Setup: 6-29 business days
- Application review: Around 10 business days
Remember, applying is a one-and-done deal. So, once you’re approved, you won’t have to go through this process again.
How to Use The Google Ad Grant
Once your Google Ad Grant account is up and running, it’s time to determine how you’ll use the grant to push your mission forward. What goals do you hope to achieve through the program? Will you focus on increasing donations, amplifying specific programs, or something else?
If you’re not sure how to leverage the Google Ad Grant, here are some potential use cases for it:
- Increase donations by promoting your donation form and sponsorship pages
- Recruit volunteers by advertising volunteer opportunities
- Sell more event tickets by sharing event pages and registration forms
- Increase advocacy participation by encouraging people to sign petitions or call elected officials
- Drive in-person actions, like adopting animals
- Spread awareness for your cause by sharing educational content
The program can help you achieve a wide range of objectives. Set goals like these, then structure your campaigns around them.
For instance, let’s say you work for an environmental nonprofit striving to reduce carbon emissions. You might use the Google Ad Grant to promote educational content about steps people can take to reduce greenhouse emissions at home. You could also boost program-specific pages about your work.
Plan your keyword campaigns.
Once you know what pages you want to drive traffic to, it’s time to start thinking about keywords. Your Google Ad keywords impact what types of searches your ads will appear for, how likely users are to click on your ads, and your compliance with the program’s requirements.
Different types of keywords
There are several ways to categorize keywords, and your Google Ad Grant account allows you to set certain parameters for what a search query must include to cause your ad to appear. These types of keywords are:
- Exact keywords are searches that are exact matches for your target keyword. For example, if your keyword is “local tree planting,” a search for “nearby tree planting” will not show your ad. While this may seem restrictive, for certain keywords, it can be useful for targeting a highly specific audience. For instance, if one of your campaigns is highly focused on attracting volunteers, you might restrict a keyword to “animal shelter volunteers” to avoid appearing in search results about adopting a pet.
- Phrase keywords contain your specified keyword somewhere in the query. For the keyword “food bank,” your ad might appear for searches like “local food bank,” “what should I donate to a food bank,” and “do food banks accept cash donations.”
- Broad keywords are queries that are related to your keywords. For example, a keyword like “children’s art program,” might show up for the following searches: “kids art class,” “painting program for children,” and “afterschool art lessons.” These parameters are useful for attracting a wide initial audience and if you’re unsure exactly how your target audience will phrase their queries.
- Negative keywords are helpful for preventing your ads from appearing for irrelevant queries that happen to share a similar word or phrase. For example, the nonprofit offering a children’s art program might make “dance” negative keywords since they provide lessons on painting and drawing, not music.
Each of these keyword types also has a specific way it’s represented by Google:
- [Exact keywords]
- “Phrase keywords”
- Broad keywords
- -Negative keywords
Leveraging these different types of keywords helps your campaigns more closely target your exact audience and prevent Google Ad Grant funds from being wasted on irrelevant searches.
Theoretically, you could attract a large audience by choosing keywords related to trending topics people are likely searching for. However, chances are that few of these keywords are relevant to your audience, and creating campaigns for tangential keywords can create a poor user experience.
Instead, you can increase the chances that your ads get clicked on and visitors engage with your content by:
- Considering the searcher’s perspective. When choosing your keywords and search parameters, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What types of queries are they likely to search that are related to your nonprofit? Think specifically about the goals of visitors’ searches. For example, a nonprofit that provides adult literacy classes might choose keywords related to improving job skills or continuing education rather than keywords more specifically related to literacy like “reading” and “books.”
- Picking specific keywords. The more specific your keyword is, the fewer queries it will be shown for, resulting in fewer clicks. However, the visitors you do get will be interested in your page’s specific content and more likely to take the desired action. For example, “running shoes recycling” gets far fewer searches than “running shoes,” but the former keyword is much more closely related to a specific purpose.
- Creating valuable content for each keyword. A Google Ad Grants campaign is only successful if your website visitors stay on the page they were linked to. When choosing your keywords, ensure you have valuable content related to the search intent behind those keywords. This is especially important for awareness campaigns where high-value educational articles are essential for encouraging supporters to read through your content and explore the rest of your website.
To track how your keywords are performing, use tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics. These can provide insight into what queries visitors are using that lead them to your website. Use this data to adjust your keywords and ensure they’re aligned with your audience’s interests.
Google Ads keyword requirements
While you can type any word or phrase you would like into Google, the Google Ad Grant program has a few requirements for the types of keywords you can create campaigns for. Your nonprofit’s keywords must be:
- Specific. Keywords must indicate the intent of the search. For example, while the keyword “blog,” may indicate that a page is a blog, it does not explain the type of content on that blog.
- More than one word. All keywords must be at least two words long. However, there are some exceptions. For example, your nonprofit’s brand name or a highly specific one-word term, like a medical condition, are exempt. For nonprofits, Google also has a list of other one-word keywords that are allowed.
- High-quality. For each campaign, Google will assign it a quality score. A quality score generally represents the success of the campaign, taking the quality of the linked content, relevance to the keyword, and expected clickthrough rate into account. Nonprofits must host campaigns that have a quality score of at least 3 and pause or remove campaigns with scores of 1 and 2.
8 Tips for Better Google Grant Management
Whether you just applied or you’ve been a part of the program since its inception, it’s always smart to stay on top of your campaign strategy. After all, the program is always evolving. We’ve brainstormed a few tactics you can easily incorporate into your Google Grant management strategy.
1) Optimize your website.
Your nonprofit’s website is the core of your Google Ad Grants strategy. You’ll drive users here across your campaigns, so ensure your nonprofit comes across as trustworthy and knowledgeable.
Build your site out with substantial content and optimize the user experience by following these web design best practices:
- Make your site mobile-responsive. Google Ad Grants will drive traffic to your site from different devices, including tablets and smartphones. Because of that, you should make sure your content will reformat for any screen size. After all, nonprofits can increase donations by an average of 126% by featuring a mobile-responsive design, according to online giving research.
- Ensure it’s secure. Google requires you to have an SSL certificate, which enables encrypted communication between a browser and a server. You’ll also want to ensure any software you use is secure, such as PCI-compliant donation processing tools. Not only will this help you meet Google Grant requirements, but it’ll also show supporters that you’re trustworthy.
- Strategically place calls to action. Calls to action (CTAs) tell users exactly how to support your cause after being inspired by content. For instance, nonprofits often place ‘Donate’ and ‘Volunteer’ buttons in their navigation menu, so those CTAs appear across every page on their site. Include CTAs in contextually-relevant spots across your site, such as on your homepage, in blog posts, and on your service pages.
Your nonprofit’s web design plays a vital role in your Google Ad Grants management strategy. An effective design will encourage users to explore your site, resulting in more conversions (e.g., donations, volunteer registrations, etc.).
If you’re struggling to design an effective website, our design team is here to help through professional web design services. After all, a strong website is what will ultimately drive users to convert.
2) Understand the compliance requirements.
Once you have the Google Ad Grant, you have to put in some work to stay eligible. When the program was first established, there weren’t really any rules nonprofits had to follow. This led to nonprofits doing two things:
- Advertising any content on their website, regardless of if people would find it useful
- Targeting keywords that didn’t align with the searcher’s intent, leading to unqualified prospects
To combat this, Google created compliance requirements in 2018. The goal was to help nonprofits create more meaningful ads that would drive value through the program.
Breaking Down Google Grant Rules
Today, participating organizations must meet these requirements to remain eligible:
- Maintain an active account. Log in at least once a month and update your account every 90 days.
- Choose valuable keywords. Google prohibits nonprofits from using single-word or otherwise overly generic keywords. Google also uses a metric called ‘Quality Score’ to measure the effectiveness of different keywords, and each of your keywords must have a minimum Quality Score of 3. This ensures you’re connecting with qualified prospects through your ads.
- Maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR). Failure to maintain a 5% CTR for two consecutive months will result in account deactivation. A poor CTR communicates that your ads are ineffective, whether they’re poorly written or targeting the wrong keywords.
- Set up valid conversion tracking. Any Google Ad Grant accounts using Smart Bidding or created after 2018 must have valid conversion tracking set up. You can use a Google Ads conversion tracking tag or import goals from Google Analytics. Your ads must have at least 1 conversion per month. That could mean donations, volunteer sign-ups, or something else.
- Follow the appropriate account structure. You should have at least one responsive search ad (RSA) in every ad group, and include at least two active ads in every campaign. Google also requires you to use at least 2 sitelink assets that link to other content on your site.
- Respond to the program survey. All participants are required to complete the annual program survey. This allows participants to provide feedback on the program and communicate how well they understand the Google Ads platform.
Failing to meet these compliance requirements will cause the Google Ad Grants team to deactivate your account. While you’ll be able to correct any issues and get it reactivated, it’s best to stick to the requirements from the get-go.
The guidelines evolve every so often, so make sure to regularly reference the official compliance page.
3) Build out your ads with ad assets.
Ad assets, also called ad extensions, are a feature that marketers use to build out ads. By using them strategically, your ads can claim more real estate on search engine results pages and provide more opportunities for users to engage with your content.
While there are several assets to choose from, here are some of the most commonly-used ones:
- Call assets: Include a button that allows mobile users to call your organization.
- Callout assets: Add short bullet point phrases that emphasize key information beneath your ads.
- Sitelink assets: Append links to additional webpages, giving users other ways to engage with your organization.
- Lead form extensions: Add a lead form directly to your ads.
Robust ads will naturally draw users’ eyes, setting your ads up for more clicks and conversions. Test out different ad extensions to determine what drives results for your ads.
4) Track meaningful conversions for your ads.
Google requires most Google Ad Grants accounts to set up accurate conversion tracking. Make sure the actions you’re driving people to take are meaningful to your work.
Google allows you to track two types of conversions:
- Monetary, such as donations, purchases, ticket sales, and membership fees.
- Non-monetary, such as email newsletter sign-ups, volunteer registrations, new membership form completions, calls to your organization, or time spent reading content on your website.
Conversions indicate the performance of your ads and reflect whether the program is positively impacting your cause. We recommend you use Google Analytics to track your conversion goals and make adjustments to improve performance. If you need help, your Google Grants agency can help you set up conversion tracking through Google Analytics!
5) Test different headlines and descriptions with RSAs.
If you’ve spent any time in the realm of nonprofit marketing, you’ve likely heard of A/B testing, also known as split testing. This strategy requires you to change one aspect of a piece of marketing material. Then, you show version A to one group and version B to another group. The goal is to determine which version performs better by focusing on the specific element you changed.
When it comes to Google Ad Grants, there are two main elements you’ll want to consider:
- Headlines: These are the titles of your ads and include the hyperlink to your landing page. Think of headlines as a way to grab readers’ attention.
- Descriptions: These give more detail and explain why readers should click through to your site.
Test out different headlines and descriptions to create more effective ads. Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) automate this process for you. You enter a variety of headlines and descriptions. Then, Google will algorithmically mix and match them to find the combinations that drive the most clicks.
6) Use paid ads in conjunction with the Google Ad Grant.
A common misconception is that ads made using Google Ad Grant accounts compete with paid accounts. That’s actually not the case! In fact, using both a paid account and an Ad Grant account at once can be a great way to expand your reach.
So, if you keep hitting your daily budget limit on your Ad Grant account, use your paid account to pick up the rest of the traffic. It works the other way, too! Just know that paid ads will always show before Grant ads. Not to mention, paid accounts actually unlock additional features like video and image ads.
You’re also not limited to paid ads from Google either. You can tap into other paid advertising like the Microsoft Ad Grant program and paid social media marketing at the same time, too.
7) Leverage the entire suite of Google for Nonprofits tools.
To gain access to the Google Ad Grant application, you’ll need to create a Google for Nonprofits account. When you activate your account, you’ll unlock free access to other premium products like Google Workspace and the YouTube Nonprofit Program.
Leveraging these tools can support your Google Grant management and other areas of your operations, such as internal productivity. Here’s a quick overview of the Google for Nonprofits program:
- Google Workspace: Also known as G Suite, Google Workspace is a collection of online collaboration tools. Through Google for Nonprofits, you’ll have free access to everyday productivity tools like Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Docs, and Meet. You’ll also receive special perks like unlimited email addresses that end in your nonprofit’s domain and 100-participant video meetings.
- The YouTube Nonprofit Program: Amplify your video content through the YouTube Nonprofit Program. Leverage donation buttons on your videos, gain access to the Creator Academy for free video-creation lessons, and include annotations on your videos that direct users to your website.
- Google Earth and Maps: Promote programs and resources to your community through Google Earth and Maps. With a Google for Nonprofits account, you’ll receive a $250 monthly credit to apply toward the platform. You’ll also gain access to dynamic mapping tools, like the ability to create virtual tours for supporters. In turn, your nonprofit can help people find the services closest to them.
Google for Nonprofits is an incredible resource. And the best part is, you’ll already have access to these great tools if you set up an account to apply for the Google Ad Grant.
How A Google Ad Grant Manager Can Help
While the Google Ad Grant can be a major asset for your digital marketing, participating takes a lot of work. It’s not a one-and-done deal. Even after applying and creating your ads, you need to log in regularly to adjust your ads and keep your account in compliance with Google’s rules.
Google recommends that you log in to review the Search Terms Report, view ad performance, optimize keywords, and track conversions once or twice a month at the very least. In other words, you need to be able to devote time to managing your ad campaigns.
- Applications: They’ll check your organization’s eligibility, submit your application, and get your organization approved in no time.
- Keyword research: Getting Attention’s team will find the keywords your prospects are searching online.
- Ad creation: Their team will create well-worded ads that point to the most relevant landing pages on your site.
- Landing page redesign: If your landing pages aren’t up to par, they’ll redesign them, helping you drive more donations, volunteer sign-ups, and any other conversions.
- Account maintenance: Getting Attention will consistently monitor ad performance and make adjustments. With a thorough understanding of the compliance requirements, they’ll make sure your account always follows the program’s rules.
- Account reactivation: If your Google Ad Grants account lapses or gets suspended, their team can get everything back in order in no time.
We’ve seen the power the grant holds and fully trust Getting Attention to help you fulfill that potential. The money you spend on professional Google Ad Grants management will pale in comparison to the $10,000 in free Google Ad credits and the additional money you’ll raise through your ads.
Final Thoughts on Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits
The Google Ad Grants program is an incredible digital marketing resource for nonprofits. Whether you’re striving to connect with supporters or beneficiaries, the program is a proven way to increase visibility for your cause.
But success with the program does take work. You’ll need to pinpoint the keywords your audience is searching, write compelling ads that target those terms, and keep your account in compliance with Google’s rules.
By reading this guide, you’re off to a great start with your Google Ad Grants management strategy! Although, if you really want to maximize your success, turn to a professional Google Grant manager. Agencies like Getting Attention know the ins and outs of the program, so you can sit back and relax knowing your account is in capable hands.
In the meantime, check out a few of these resources:
- Google Grants Eligibility: Is Your Nonprofit Eligible? Still not sure if your nonprofit is eligible for the Google Ad Grant? Check out this complete guide to learn more.
- Microsoft Ad Grants: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofit Marketers. Similar to Google Ad Grants, the Microsoft Ad Grant program can help you amplify your work within its search network. Learn how to tap into Microsoft’s audience with this guide.
- Google Grant Application: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Applying. If you’re ready to get started with the program, follow the steps we cover in this complete guide!