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Google Ad Grants 101 for Nonprofits

What do nonprofit organizations Global Giving, Donors Choose, and Do Something all have in common?

Aside from doing amazing work and making a positive impact on the world, they’ve all been the fortunate recipients of a Google Ad Grant.

This means each organization has received free advertising using Google Ads–elevating and assisting their promotional, community-building, and fundraising efforts.

Whether small and local, or large and international, if you work for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we want to make sure you’re getting all the free ads your organization is entitled to.

This post is a primer for anyone working for a nonprofit organization to understand what the program is, who’s eligible, what the requirements are, how to apply, and other essentials.

Ready to dive in? Read on!

What Are Google Ad Grants?

Google Ad Grants is a program created by Google that provides $10,000 of in-kind Google advertising in the form of PPC grants every month for select nonprofit organizations.

Whether you’re new to search advertising or are a seasoned pro, Google Ad Grants makes it easy to launch effective campaigns, with advertising solutions designed for nonprofits both large and small.

But let’s back up a second and review what Google Ads are in general.

Google Ads falls into the category of  Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which gives brands the ability to create ads that appear on relevant Google search results pages and Google’s network of partner sites. It’s a way for businesses and organizations alike to share their message in a targeted way with the people that are most likely to engage with it.

With Google Ads, your message appears on Google in the top of the results when someone is searching for the keywords you choose. So, with a well-targeted campaign, you can reach people looking for nonprofits working on your specific cause(s), at precisely the right time. This is a great way to reach people who may have been previously unaware of your organization.

It is, hands down, the most popular PPC advertising system in the world and an essential element for any digital marketing strategy.

In fact, according to Internet Live Stats, Google processes over 40,000 searches every second. This translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.

If your organization doesn’t have much budget to allot to Google Ads, you’re missing out on an effective method to build your donor programs, source volunteers, and raise awareness for your organization.

That’s where Google Ads Grants comes in. This grant program ensures that worthy organizations and causes receive the exposure they deserve, lowering the barrier of financial cost.

As Ping Lo from the Fred Hollows Foundation shares, “Google Ad Grants has helped us reach thousands of supporters around the country, helping us effect change through awareness.”

What Does the Grant Include?

If your organization receives a Google grant, you will receive $10,000 per month in in-kind advertising and a daily budget set to $329.

Previously, all grantees were forced to use a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) of $2, but due to major changes to the Google Ad Grants in March 2018, nonprofits now have a choice to use Maximize Conversions, which automatically adjust your bids to ensure competitiveness.

Learn more about the difference between the manual and Maximize Conversions options here.

These text-based search ads will only appear on Google search results pages, in positions below the ads of paying advertisers, but you will be able to use Google Ads in the same way any other company or organization would.

For example, you’ll have access to tools and programs such as…

Google Analytics: You’ll be able to use Google Analytics to consistently monitor, learn from, and adapt metrics and campaigns for greater effect.

Adwords Express or Google Ads: You’ll have an option to choose between using Adwords Express or Google Ads, depending on how involved you want to be in managing your ads.

Adwords Express is an automated option, in which Google’s AI helps decide where and when your ads appear. On the other hand, Google Ads allows you to be in control of these aspects of your ads.

Although Adwords Express makes things easier, it also restricts you from controlling what keywords you’re bidding on and how your grant is allocated.

Instead, it’s recommended to take the time to learn how to structure and control your account and campaigns yourself, or hire someone who can help your organization do so. At d3 we work with numerous nonprofits in this capacity.

Who Is Eligible and What Are the Requirements?

Just being a registered 501(c)(3) doesn’t automatically mean that your organization is eligible to receive a grant.  If you want to qualify for a Google Ad Grant and maintain it, your organization needs to be part of the Google for Nonprofits program.

You can apply for acceptance into the program, which requires that you…

  • Are registered as a charitable organization and are validated as a nonprofit organization by TechSoup or the local TechSoup partner. Techsoup is an international affiliation of organizations that provide verification of nonprofit status. It’s free to join, but there is a waiting period of up to 10 business days.
  • Are NOT a school, academic institution, university, hospital, healthcare organization, or government entity/organization. However, philanthropic arms of educational institutions are eligible.
  • Meet the requirements within your country. In the United States, this means:
    • Organizations must be recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations formed for charitable, educational, religious, literary, scientific, or other tax-exempt purposes.
    • Fiscally sponsored organizations are not eligible for Google for Nonprofits.
    • Organizations, such as churches, that are automatically considered tax-exempt under group exemption must still obtain recognition of 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS to qualify for the Google for Nonprofits program.

In addition to being a part of the Google for Nonprofits program, the Google Ad Grants program requires that your organization…

  • Is based in one of the selected 50 countries that Google outlines here.
  • Acknowledges and agrees to Google’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use.
  • Has a live website with substantial content.

Keep these requirements and restrictions in mind if you plan to apply on behalf of your organization.

Applying for and receiving the grant is one thing, but keeping it is another. Which brings us to our next point…

How to Maintain Your Grant

After receiving a grant, your organization will remain in the program as long as it abides by the policies for Google Ad Grants.

Google last launched updated Ads Grants policies in January 2018, and they include:

  • Restriction in using single keywords, branded keywords that aren’t affiliated with your own brand, overly generic keywords, or keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2.
  • Campaigns must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month.
  • Must have valid conversion tracking, if applicable.
  • Must have at least 2 ads per ad group.
  • Must have at least 2 ad groups per campaign.
  • Must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions.
  • Must respond to the program survey.

Additionally, compliance with general Google Ads policies is also required.

How to Apply

As detailed previously, if your organization meets the eligibility requirements, the first step is to apply to the Google for Nonprofits program.

Once accepted, you’ll need to enroll in the Google Ads Grant program and create an account in either Google Ads or Adwords Express, depending upon your preference (remember that Adwords Express is the more simplified/automated option).

Once all this is done, you’ll be ready to submit your account for review, and from, there it’s a waiting game until you hear from Google as to whether or not you will receive a grant.

That said, the paperwork with grants is notoriously complex, and managing the account can over overwhelming, so having an agency like d3 that knows their way around the process can make a huge difference.

Contact one of our d3 specialists today to learn more about how we can assist your Google Ad Grant and ultimately increase your visibility, donations, and volunteers for your organization!

Anna Feely
Anna Feely
Digital Product Guru

Anna Feely has 18 years of experience in the marketing field and her expertise is in data and multi-channel solutions. She has worked with top name catalogers/retailers and her out-of-the-box thinking brings a unique approach and consistently successful results. Anna spends her free time adventuring in the outdoors with her husband and 4 kids – 2 of which are the furry, tail wagging types.

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