How the Google Ad Grants program can benefit your nonprofit

DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to create projects that fulfill resources their students need. Through Ad Grants ads, the organization drove 7,000 teacher registrations and raised an additional $497,000 from about 5,000 donations in a year.  Read more . (Photo credit:  Google.com )

DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to create projects that fulfill resources their students need. Through Ad Grants ads, the organization drove 7,000 teacher registrations and raised an additional $497,000 from about 5,000 donations in a year. Read more. (Photo credit: Google.com)

Google Ad Grants is an in-kind program that gives qualified nonprofits free access to Google business tools, as well as $10,000 per month in free advertising on the Google Ads platform.

“Google Ads search ads appear next to Google search results when people search for nonprofits like yours,” explains Google’s “overview” page. Ads must be text-based, with no videos or images, and keyword-targeted.

How to apply for Google Ad Grants

To qualify for Google Ad Grants, an organization needs to apply to Google for Nonprofits. An organization must hold valid charity status. Governmental entities and organizations, hospitals and medical groups, schools, academic institutions and universities are not eligible for Google for Nonprofits; however, philanthropic arms of educational institutions are eligible.

The application process for Google's nonprofit grants is relatively straightforward compared to most. Applicants must acknowledge and agree to Google’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use; maintain a high-quality website that meets the Ad Grants website policy; and go through the Ad Grants pre-qualification process following enrollment in Google for Nonprofits.

Google Ad Grants: ‘Accessible’ and ‘Effective’

“I don’t think there’s any other grant in the tech sector that is as generous, as easy to acquire, and as useful for getting your cause’s message out,” writes Jean O’Brien, founder of the nonprofit-focused Digital Charity Lab.

“Google Ads have consistently driven the most engaged and valuable traffic of all acquisition channels,” O’Brien writes at Nonprofit Tech for Good, a resource for nonprofit professionals.

O’Brien further touts the program’s low-key approach to qualifying for Google's nonprofit grants: a nonprofit registers with a local TechSoup partner, fills out a quick form, and uploads proof of charity certification. She also states that there are few reporting requirements.

Tips for Using Google Ad Grants

O’Brien offers several tips to help nonprofits get the best results from their Google Ads campaigns.

  • Focused marketing

“There’s a keyword format called ‘broad match modified’ that’s really effective,” O’Brien writes. “Google doesn’t mention this as an option when you set up your Google Ad Grants account, but it works and it’s powerful. The syntax is a plus sign in front of each word (+animal +charity) and it means that variations of each word will also trigger your ad. For example, a search for ‘charities that work with animals’ will match the keyword +animal +charity.”

  • Targeted keywords

“Setting up ads for everything that your charity is doing is a very common misstep, but it leads to a lot of problems,” O’Brien cautions. Instead, she suggests conducting keyword research to find out which issues, services, and campaigns people are actively searching for online and focusing on those to drive the campaigns.

  • Account maintenance

O’Brien advises making Google Ads a habit for the best results. Nonprofits should set a reminder to log in once every two to three weeks and spend 30-45 minutes checking and tweaking their Ad accounts.

At NTEN, a membership organization of nonprofit technology professionals, marketing consultant Michael Rasko offers additional tips. He suggests using Google Ad Grants to promote auction items and increase potential bidders. He also recommends that Google Ads be used to build prospect lists and bring new potential supporters to an organization’s website rather than asking first-time visitors to make a donation.

“A common misconception is that Google Ads are great for getting donations,” Rasko writes. “Those who access your site through Google Ad Grants are likely visiting for the first time. Expecting them to donate as a first-time visitor is the digital version of bumping into a stranger on the street, making small talk, and then asking them to support your nonprofit.”

Getting Professional Google Ads Advice

Google's nonprofit grant program is 15 years old, but nonprofits can tap into a recently established mentorship service to help them acquire and manage their Google Ad Grants.

“The Google Ad Grants Certified Professionals Community was designed to enhance the Ad Grants experience for professionals and Grantees alike,” explains Google. “This community recognizes the network of agencies, consultants and trainers who look after nonprofits globally, and connects Grantees to recommended professionals through our Community Directory.”

Google, like many other big tech companies, is providing resources and tools to support nonprofits that has a fairly simple grant application. It may be worth it to take a few minutes to see if your nonprofit qualifies. Whether it is fundraising or friendraising, $10,000 in Google Ad Grants can go a long way in elevating awareness of your cause and supporting your nonprofit’s mission.