By Emily Friedrichs of Elevation – a digital ad agency that specializes in Google Ad Grant management and exclusively serves nonprofit’s digital marketing and design needs. Elevation has been a nonprofit partner since 2007 and currently supports more than 200 different organizations in Europe and the Americas.

Nonprofits need to be visible on the internet, but getting to a place where your organization shows up in search results or becomes featured content takes time, money, and expertise. This is where Google Ad Grantsif used correctlycan be an invaluable boost for your online presence.

Hiring and Program Outreach Through the Google Grant

Many nonprofits make the mistake of focusing solely on supporters with their online campaigns. While soliciting sign-ups, donations, and volunteers online is fundamental for any nonprofit, organizations also need to think about how to recruit future employees and whether their message is reaching everyone who needs their services. Considering that the Google Ad Grant provides free advertising to nonprofits, this is an ideal way to recruit future employees online. For example, OSBI recently extended their use of the Google Ad Grant to recruit Direct Support Professionals in their geographic area, and received more than 21 applications:

Each month Venture House runs campaigns utilizing the Google Ad Grant to reach people in NYC with mental illnesses who might benefit from their services, which include help finding employment.

Venture House also employed the Google Ad Grant for an emergency response during the weeks that New York City was struck hardest by COVID-19. They used the grant to help more than 1,000 people searching for food find resources: an admirable contribution to the community-wide effort.  

Is the Google Ad Grant Right for My Organization?

If you’re a nonprofit, the Google Ad grant offers up to $10,000 of funding every month for Google advertising. The main determinants of whether the effort will pay off for your organization are:

  • How many people search for topics that your nonprofit addresses
  • Whether the content on your website offers useful information about those topics

Most registered nonprofits, including churches, are eligible for the grant. Organizations need to be 501(c), but not necessary 501(c)3; we’ve created a free resource to help organizations determine their eligibility for Google Ad Grants by taking a 6-minute survey. What is unique about Google Ad Grants is that it is one of the very few grants in the world that places large and small organizations on a level playing field by awarding them the same amount of funding. 

While the Google Ad Grant application process takes several hours of dedicated time, unlike most grants, all eligible organizations that apply are awarded the grant and it is something that can be easily delegated or outsourced to a partner that specializes in Google Ad Grant management. The grant is also evergreen, meaning that your nonprofit continues to receive this in-kind advertising for as long as you continue to follow the rules.

How Do Google Ad Grants Work?

In practice, Google Ad Grants act like regular pay-per-click ads except that they are limited to text-only and they are free. The program also has a number of requirements for maintaining the grant, which is where many nonprofits stumble: they don’t have the existing expertise or the time to dedicate to managing Google Ad Grants. 

For example, Google Ad Grants don’t allow:

  • Single keywords, although there are a few exceptions
  • Keywords with a 1-2 quality score
  • Overly generic keywords
  • A budget of more than $329/day – which can affect your strategy if you are advertising an event, awareness day, or a time-sensitive fundraiser 
  • Campaigns that direct people to your social media pages, a third-party event (ie Eventbrite), or pages outside your charity’s registered domain 
  • Click-through rates (CTRs) below 5% for the month. Accounts with CTRs below this will eventually be deactivated.
  • Smart bidding (less effective, but more hands-off) unless you have set up valid conversion tracking.
  • “Set and forget” – You must log in each month and make changes at least every few months for your account to remain active.

What Makes a Google Ad Grant Campaign Successful?

Meeting these strict requirements is the biggest hurdle faced by most nonprofits, but it is not the only factor necessary for a successful campaign. We now return to the criteria about needing website content that offers useful information about topics for which people search. 

The Google Ad Grant algorithm favors searchable, well-formatted, and well-developed content, aka:

  • Mobile-friendly webpage 
  • At least 300 words on the page, but the more in-depth and well-researched, the better.
  • PDFs, video, and infographics are not crawlable by Google’s search engines beyond the alt-text, and as a result, don’t add much towards the information Google sees on the page (although of course, they can add a lot for the human user!).
  • Keywords must align with the content within the page.
  • A single topic. Nonprofits might list all of their current initiatives on a single page, for example, which makes it difficult to target the campaign appropriately enough to have a successful number of conversions.
  • A call to action, whether it’s signing up for something or filling out a form, in order to track conversions.

And finally, as a parting gift, here are a few additional lessons we can share from years of experience:

  1. Use all of the space (i.e. character limit) available to you. This adds information, but it also makes your ad physically larger, and thus easier to click on from a cell phone and harder to miss on a desktop. 
  2. Leverage ad extensions beyond the minimal requirements. They give you more space where you can highlight additional information, from “callout” slogans, to a mini menu of “sitelinks”, to “call” actions which enable people on their smartphones to dial your phone number with just a click.
  3. Choose keywords that are not in competition with paid search. While this is technically allowed, Google Ad Grants are placed after all paid ads, meaning your campaign won’t stand a chance competing against them. Combine this fact with the grant’s compliance rules, and you get the recipe for why many experienced Google Ad users fail miserably at the grant. 

We hope this information gives you good motivation, but also all the information you need, to get started with Google’s grant. Of course if you decide you need help managing Google Ad Grants, please reach outit’s what we do!

Elevation is a full-service digital agency created for nonprofit organizations and the social sector. Founded back in 2007, we’ve built a team of industry specialists with a passion to make the world a better place.

How to Improve Your Nonprofit’s Visibility Online (Hint: Use the Google Ad Grant)