Follow this guide to learn about financial planning and how to build the most effective marketing budget.

Nonprofit Budgets: A Quick Guide & Best Practices

A nonprofit budget is an important financial document that allocates expenses and predicts revenue. Without a budget, nonprofits find themselves with more money going out than coming in.  It’s crucial in helping your nonprofit plan for the future, stay fiscally responsible, and reach campaign goals.

Take this opportunity to build a financial strategy and refresh your existing budget.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the value of a budget and explain how it translates to the actions outlined in your marketing plan. We’ll cover the following points:

Here at Getting Attention, our trusted experts will guide you through the process of incorporating Google Ad Grants into your marketing budget. We’re here to clarify your questions and serve your nonprofit’s mission by bringing new constituents to your organization.

Building a budget can bring value and structure to your nonprofit. Let’s get started with the elements of a good nonprofit budget.

Contact Getting Attention to include Google Ad Grants in your marketing budget

Learn how to build the most effective budget for your nonprofit

What is a good budget for a nonprofit organization?

Financial planning is vital to the success and sustainability of an organization. The Better Business Bureau recommends that nonprofits spend under 35% of their funding on overhead expenses (facility costs, licensing fees, equipment costs, etc.) and spend at least 65% on programs.

To meet these guidelines, your team must devise a budget that outlines projected expenses and revenue. A budget for a nonprofit organization should be:

  • Accurate: Information should be based on logic and strategy. Have your accounting team double-check each line item to ensure your records are accurate and reliable.
  • Transparent: Nonprofits must disclose certain financial information to the public per request. Earn the trust of supporters and prospective donors by building a budget that reveals your financial history, goals, and programs.

Accuracy and transparency are crucial for your nonprofit’s image. After you calculate your financial statements, pull insights and share them with your staff, volunteers, and board. This will increase engagement within your organization and allow people to better understand your nonprofit’s financial health.

Focus on these primary revenue and expense items while building your nonprofit's budget

What should be included in a nonprofit budget?

From daily operational costs to monthly donations, there is a wide range of elements that should be included in your nonprofit’s budget. We’ll focus on the primary revenue and expense items.

Nonprofits rely on a combination of income sources from individuals, foundations, corporations, and grants. Diversify your revenue stream by accounting for the following types of income:

  • Grants: Nonprofits can apply for grants from the government as well as corporations like Google. In the budget, specify which types of programming each grant will cover.
  • General Donations: Monetary donations from major donors and a wider donor base are the lifeblood of nonprofits. In your budget, look at past years to estimate how much you can expect to raise from general donations.
  • Monthly Giving: Recurring gifts are a reliable source of income for your nonprofit. Account for monthly, bi-montly, and yearly donations.
  • In-Kind Donations: These include any volunteered services or supplies.
  • Corporate Giving: Nonprofits depend on corporate gifts to increase their revenue and build relationships. Consider working with a matching gift professional to further boost your donations.

Projections are the best way to assess how your investment in each campaign or project relates to its relative importance in your plan. That’s a crucial ingredient in your decision making, so there’s no avoiding projecting what your expenses will be. Include the following costs in your budget:

  • Administrative: This includes expenses for operations and management, including staff salaries, office space, utilities, insurance, and technology. 
  • Programming: These are the costs needed to carry out your mission-related activities. For example, if a nonprofit is dedicated to feeding the homeless, program expenses would include food and food preparation costs.
  • Fundraising: Activities related to an appeal for financial support, which can include marketing efforts like newsletters, print ads, and blog posts.

Now that you have the basic line items for your nonprofit’s budget, let’s focus on budgeting for communications and marketing in particular.

Allocate between 5-15% of your nonprofit's budget to marketing.

How much do nonprofits spend on marketing?

According to a recent study, nonprofits spent an average of 4 cents on digital advertising for every $1 raised online last year and almost 70% of those advertising budgets were devoted to lead generation and new donor acquisition. Budgeting for these marketing costs is vital. Your marketing budget serves as a map to ensure you reach your goals and determines whether your plans are realistic.

In the for-profit world, it’s fairly standard to determine a marketing budget by allocating 10-20% of projected gross revenues to marketing and communications.  For a general rule of thumb in the nonprofit sector, try to allocate between 5-15% of your budget to marketing.

What’s most important is that you establish a detailed marketing and communications budget prior to the start of each fiscal year. Track costs and results as you go so that you can analyze cost vs. benefit. The budget should be integrated into your annual marketing and communications plan, with a dollar cost allotted to each strategy (direct mail, email, paid advertising, media relations, etc.), each of which should be broken down further (consulting, evaluation, printing, postage, etc.).

Take control of your nonprofit’s budget with these 5 best practices.

5 Nonprofit Budget Best Practices

A strong nonprofit budget serves as a clear framework for your decision-making and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

To make the most of your budget, direct and prioritize your focus. Knowing what you are working towards and making the best decisions on how to get there will lead to leadership buy-in and ongoing support.

Take control of your nonprofit’s finances and start building your budgeting skills with these best practices.

Follow these 5 best practices to build the most successful nonprofit budget

Determine a budgeting approach.

Misunderstanding which type of budget is best for your organization can sabotage far more than your financial plan. It can mean the downfall of your nonprofit. With the right budget approach, you can advocate for what you really need to move your mission forward.

No one-size-fits-all budget exists. Communicate financial information in a way that works for your organization. Consider the following strategies when building your nonprofit budget:

Consider the following strategies when building your nonprofit budget

  • Income-Based Approach: As the name suggests, an income-based approach prioritizes income. Determine how much income you can realistically count on and include only reliable revenue in your budget. Don’t include income projections to simply fill gaps. If your organization doesn’t meet these income targets, it will create a budget deficit.
  • Incremental Approach: The incremental approach builds upon your budget from the previous fiscal year. While this is a quick and easy method to prepare a budget, it’s more difficult to find funding for new campaigns or projects since unspent funds may have been reallocated to another campaign.
  • Zero-Based Approach: The current fiscal year’s budget is prepared from scratch, without consideration for income or expenses from the previous year. Although this method is accurate and efficient, it’s time-consuming. Your organization will have to test several assumptions about where money will come from and how it will be spent.
  • Percentage Approach: Break down marketing, communications, and fundraising by percentages of the total budget. This approach is favored by those who believe that marketing and communications expenditures should directly reflect a nonprofit’s evolution and the size of its budget. If done correctly, you could see communications spending grow as your organization does.
  • Flat Dollar Approach: Some experts in the field consider a flat dollar approach to be more relevant and safer than the percentage approach since your total budget has to cover costs like utilities, rent, taxes, health insurance. Give special campaigns, marketing, communications, and fundraising efforts a set dollar amount based on past expenditures. This method simplifies projections and gives you a clear baseline budget.

Each approach has benefits and limitations. That’s why most nonprofits implement a combination of these strategies. Whichever approach you take, you’ll find that a formal budget is a great aid in decision making. You’ll clearly see how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, by tracking results, will gain a sense of which strategies work best.

Now that you have solidified a budget approach, share your strategies and goals with leadership and staff.

Develop a budget with your entire team.

Team-based financial planning is the most effective way to ensure your budget aligns with your organization’s goals and mission. Involve staff and board members in the budgeting process to create a comprehensive strategy that relies on a variety of perspectives. This will enhance your team’s ability to communicate your organization’s financial story to other key stakeholders.

Consider these steps to running a budget meeting:

Consider these steps to running a team-based nonprofit budget meeting.

  1. Determine a timeline. From preliminary drafts to approvals, the entire budgeting process can take weeks to months. Set deadlines and milestones to track progress against measurable benchmarks.
  2. Agree on goals. Calculate how much revenue is needed to cover your campaign and marketing goals. How do you plan to raise these funds? Make a plan of attack with your team.
  3. Review past data. Examine financial statements from previous years for areas of growth and improvement. Then, problem solve! If you notice a slump in revenue, work with your team to revise past financial strategies.
  4. Draft the budget. Find a template with expense line items that work for your team’s organizational skills. Then, build out anticipated costs and expenses according to your research.
  5. Present findings to your board. Before the start of the fiscal year, hand your budget over to board members for review. They will assess the effectiveness of resources, evaluate administrative systems, and measure progress towards goals.
  6. Debrief. Budget planning takes a lot of time and energy. After you complete your budget, get with your team to discuss what went well and what needs to improve before the next fiscal year.

Once you develop your budget and align it with your marketing goals, you will have a clear plan for moving forward, shaped by concrete data and strategies. A budget that your entire team agreed on can increase the probability of getting more marketing dollars. As a result, it will be comforting for your leadership to have these plans readily available.

Include non-monetary contributions.

If your organization is fortunate enough to attract in-kind donations, record these contributions to express your gratitude and abide by legal standards. When documented in your budget’s revenue, non-monetary contributions show what it truly takes to drive your mission.

In-kind donations are donated goods, services, and time. Consider the following examples to determine which donations you need to budget for:

  • Tangible goods: Equipment, office furniture, clothing, food, supplies, etc.
  • Intangible goods: Advertisements, patents, copyrights, etc.
  • Services: Accounting, printing, catering, consulting, photography, security, etc.

In-kind donations should be recorded at fair market value. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) defines fair value as “the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date.” To determine the value of your in-kind donation:

  • Calculate what your organization would have paid for donated goods on the open market.
  • Track the hours of professional services donated to your organization.
  • Contact your donors and ask them to price their own in-kind services.

Volunteer hours do not need to be reported in a budget. However, your organization can still acknowledge the impact of volunteers in your audit or in a short narrative included with your budget.

Conduct regular checks of your budget.

Set regular team meetings to monitor your budget’s progress. Whether you hold these meetings monthly, quarterly, or annually, ensure that your entire team is involved. This will improve communications and management between departments.

Consider the following topics in your meeting:

  • Assess the “why” behind budgetary issues.
  • Determine which campaigns need more financial attention.
  • Review past finances to determine if your budget is on track or not.
  • Compare your budgeted revenue and expenses to actual amounts.
  • Inspect balance sheets for discrepancies.
  • Account for any unusual circumstances that may arise (such as the pandemic).

Monitoring your budget throughout the year is the key to financial success, along with setting aside enough funds for marketing.

Apply for a Google Ad Grant.

The average small business using Google Ads spends between $5,000 and $12,000 per month on Google paid search campaigns. That’s $60,000 to $150,000 of marketing expenses spent solely on ad-clicks per year. Thankfully, Google Ads created a grant to help nonprofits budget for marketing.

Google Ad Grants provide eligible nonprofits with a $10,000 monthly stipend to spend on paid search ads. While regular Google Ad accounts have to pay per ad-click, Google Grant participants can display their advertisements for free. These ads enable your nonprofit to appear on Google when it matters— when someone searches for topics related to your mission.

The ideal Google Ad Grant candidate has a website that effectively serves their audience and promotes their mission. With the Google Ad Grant program for nonprofits, organizations can:

  • Increase online conversions.  
  • Reach out to new donors.  
  • Recruit volunteers.  
  • Market multiple ad campaigns. 
  • Analyze and track performance.  

As long as your organization complies with the eligibility requirements, the allotment renews monthly without a time constraint. That means, your nonprofit will be relieved of Google Ad expenses indefinitely. We recommend setting a daily budget of $329 to run as many campaigns as possible and take full advantage of your grant.

For more information on Google Ad Grants, read this article or contact our team at Getting Attention.

When you manage a Google Ad Grant with Getting Attention, we’ll make sure you have a strong digital marketing strategy that works for your budget.

Our Final Tip: Work with a team of Google Ad Grant Experts.

It’s no secret that budgeting can fuel your nonprofit’s impact. When you manage a Google Ad Grant with a Google Ad Grant professional like Getting Attention, we’ll make sure you have a strong digital marketing strategy that works for your budget. Our team of experts offer free consultations and resources to help your organization plan a successful strategy.

Getting Attention is a fully certified agency ready to guide your organization through the Google Ad Grant process. Our services include Google Grant application, Google Grant hygiene, Google Grant reactivation, keyword research, and Google Grant Management. Maintaining your data and keeping it clean can be a pain point for many nonprofits. We’re here to champion your nonprofit digital campaigns.

Since your nonprofit’s budget is a critical component of your overall success, make sure you do your research. If you want to continue learning more about nonprofit budgets and how to optimize your strategy, check out these additional resources:

Contact Getting Attention to incorporate Google Ad Grants into your nonprofit marketing budget.

What is a Google Ad Grant? Learn more in this guide.

What Is A Google Ad Grant? The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits

For nearly two decades, Google Ad Grants have helped nonprofit organizations thrive in highly competitive marketing environments. It is a valuable tool that fuels many nonprofits’ missions and supports the growth of organizations. However, if you’ve clicked on this guide, you likely fall within the large population of nonprofits that are unfamiliar with this game-changing opportunity.

Don’t fret! You can still learn all you need to know about Google Ad Grants and begin your application today.

Getting Attention is a trusted expert in bringing new supporters to your website through Google Ad Grant management. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Google Ad Grant Program, including the application process and eligibility requirements. We’re here to clarify your questions and help your nonprofit make the most of its grant.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following foundational information about Google Ad Grants:

Then, at the end of the guide, we’ll provide a few tips to bring your Google Ad Grants strategy to the next level. Let’s get started!

Learn what a Google Ad Grant is and how to optimize your strategy with Getting Attention.

What is a Google Ad Grant?

What is a Google Ad Grant? 

What is a Google Ad Grant? This graphic defines it.

If your nonprofit has a website, the Google Ad Grant is one of the most cost-effective and powerful marketing resources available. The Google Ad Grants Program awards select 501(c)(3) nonprofits with monthly ad credits to create and host advertising campaigns on Google. These free ads allow organizations to amplify their presence on search engine results pages (SERPs) and get their website content in front of the right eyes. 

How much is the Google Grant? 

Since 2003, Google has awarded over $10 billion in free advertising to over 115,000 nonprofits across 51 countries. The Google Ad Grant gives $10,000 in ad spend to eligible nonprofits per month. While regular Google Ad accounts actually have to pay per ad click, Google Grant participants can display their advertisements for free. 

As long as your organization meets and maintains compliance with the eligibility requirements, the allotment renews monthly without a time constraint. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to spend the full $10,000. Google Grant managers from an agency like Getting Attention will ensure you get the most out of your grant by focusing on online conversions and driving measurable results for your organization. 

How do Google Ad Grants work?

Google Ad Grants give nonprofits monthly funds to spend on paid search ads in Google. These ads enable your nonprofit to appear on Google when it matters— when someone searches for topics related to your mission. It’s a great way to educate the public about your cause and grow your audience. 

The ideal Google Ad Grant candidate has a website that effectively serves their audience and promotes their mission. Whether your organization wants to increase event sign-ups or inspire new donors to take action, Google Ad Grants can help you achieve your goals. With the Google Ad Grant program for nonprofits, organizations can:

  • Increase online conversions.
  • Reach out to new donors.
  • Recruit volunteers. 
  • Market multiple ad campaigns.
  • Analyze and track performance.

Paid search ads are shown at the top of the SERP, meaning your nonprofit will have a greater advantage at increasing visibility and connecting with more people. Your nonprofit will choose keywords (abiding by certain guidelines outlined by Google), run campaigns, then track the success of those campaigns using Google Analytics. For more information, read our dedicated article to learn more about how marketing grants work.

What is a Google Ad Grant and who qualifies for them?

Who qualifies for Google Ad Grants?

Before requesting a Google for Nonprofits account, find out if your organization qualifies, what you’ll need for verification, and what to expect throughout the process. If you apply and you’re eligible, you will automatically be approved. 

Every 501(c)(3) nonprofit— other than hospitals, schools, and government organizations— is eligible for the Google Ad Grant. There is no limit on the number of nonprofits who can be approved for the program, unlike traditional grants which often have a limited amount of funds to be dispersed. 

If your nonprofit organization has an established web presence, it doesn’t take much to be eligible for the Google Ad Grant. To meet the eligibility requirements for Google Ad Grants, your organization must: 

Once you understand what a Google Ad Grant is, you can discover whether your nonprofit is eligible.

  • Hold a current and valid nonprofit status (501(c)(3)) 
  • Not be a government entity, healthcare organization, or educational institution
  • Have a functioning and detailed website with few existing ads
  • Install a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) 
  • Agree to the terms of service 

Once you’ve applied for and been awarded the grant, Google has multiple rules for maintaining eligibility. Your organization must remain compliant with the following to continue reaping the benefits of free ads: 

  • No single-word keywords: Google determined that keywords must have at least two or more words to increase relevance. Swap keywords like “conserve” or “water” for complete phrases like “conserve water” or “donate to conserve water.” 
  • No low-quality score keywords: Avoid keywords that have a quality score of 1 or 2 to ensure the results are relevant to searchers. 
  • Maintain 5% minimum click-through rate (CTR): Google requires that Ad Grants accounts maintain a CTR of at least 5% to stay in the program. If the click-through rate is low, this means that the ads aren’t meeting the searcher’s intent for the target keyword. . 
  • Geo-targeting: Only show ads in geographic locations where your organization operates to ensure you’re targeting actual supporters of your nonprofit, rather than a wide, but uninterested audience.
  • Conversion tracking through Google Analytics: Install Google Analytics on your website to set up and track conversions and understand your Google Ads performance.
  • Annual survey: Complete a survey each year to share your experience with the program. 
  • Account structure (minimum of two ad groups): Google requests that you have a minimum of two ad groups (a collection of keywords and ads) for each campaign. 
  • Account maintenance: Google needs to see that your organization is staying active with the account. If you don’t spend any money on the account for a certain period of time, your account may be deactivated. 

If your organization is eligible and looking to take control of a digital marketing strategy, then it is fully recommended to apply. We’ll break down the application process in the next section.

How to Apply for Google Adwords for Nonprofits

The amount of time spent on the application process will depend on your organization’s readiness. If you are already registered with  TechSoup and have a website that meets Google’s requirements, the process should only take 2 to 14 days. If not, your organization will have to jump through a few more hoops to finalize the application. 

Check off these steps before submitting your application for the Google Ad Grant:  

Once you understand what a Google Ad Grant is, you can apply using this application checklist.

  • Register with TechSoup 
  • Sign up for a Google for Nonprofits account 
  • Apply for the Google Ads Grant 
    • Create a Google AdWords Account 
    • Submit a pre-qualification survey and grant training. 
    • Submit required materials for pre-qualification review. 
    • Once approved for pre-qualification, set up your first Google Ads campaign. 
    • Submit your AdWords account for final review. 
    • Once approved, the nonprofit can begin running a Google Ad campaign!

If you’re unsure of where to start, consider working with skilled Google Ad Grant consultants,  like our team at Getting Attention. We can help you save time and avoid potential mistakes that could slow down the process or risk your eligibility.

What is a Google Ad Grant and how can you set your account up for success?

How can you set your Google Ad Grants campaign up for success?

A healthy Google Ad Grant account requires proactive organization and optimization. Take full advantage of your grant by following these best practices for Google Ad Grant management. 

Optimize your website before directing ads to it. 

Rather than focusing on targeting ads, consider what happens once searchers land on your website. A common mistake is to send those users to your homepage, leaving it up to them to find the desired information. Take the time to study your audience— what are their personas, their drivers, and the keywords that resonate with them? What do you want them to do when they arrive at your website?

Create a targeted landing page that corresponds to the next action that you want ad viewers to take. On this landing page, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Have a compelling headline 
  • Include strong visuals 
  • Share impact stories
  • Add a call-to-action button
  • Adapt to different screen sizes

Targeted landing pages can increase engagement and drive conversions, so it’s important to develop an optimized website with landing pages for each campaign.

Aim to run at least 3 to 5 campaigns. 

With the Google Ad Grant Program, your nonprofit can market multiple ad campaigns at the same time. Take full advantage of this feature by running at least three campaigns. Then you can compare the metrics of each to determine the successes and shortcomings of your marketing strategy. To create easy-to-manage campaigns, make sure to: 

  • Set clear goals
  • Always keep the target audience in mind
  • Use mobile-preferred ads
  • Implement conversion tracking
  • Modify campaigns when needed

These quick, simple tricks will help your campaigns reach the right audiences and drive meaningful action. 

Base each campaign on tightly focused ad groups. 

An ad group contains one or more ads that share similar targets. Each campaign should have multiple ad groups that organize keywords under a common theme, such as the different sections or categories that appear on your website. Ad groups should include at least three ads, with one responsive search ad, an ad that adapts to show more text and relevant messaging to your customers. 

Ad groups should be narrowly focused. For example, if your organization runs a clothing drive campaign, your ad groups should contain a few closely-related keywords and drive a wide variety of related phrases. Examples could include: 

  • “Donate shirts” 
  • “Donate pants” 
  • “Donate shoes” 
  • “Why clothing drives matter”
  • “Clothing drives near me”

Organizing your campaigns in this way simplifies the process of monitoring your account. 

Make the most of the ad space and characters allotted. 

Maximize your ad space by using the full allotment of headlines and descriptions. This will make your ads appear larger, increasing the click-through rate and the number of visitors arriving to your website. As a general rule of thumb, be as descriptive as possible in headlines and ensure your ad descriptions convey exactly what users can expect when they click on them. Follow these tips to write the most effective headlines and ad descriptions: 

  • Include the main keyword in your headline
  • Add numbers and statistics
  • Be clear about what you’re offering
  • Keep your most important messaging in the main headline
  • Check spelling and grammar 
  • Use remaining characters to say something new, not restate information 

Learning to write strong ad copy is essential in growing your campaigns, so make sure you tackle this task! 

Prioritize conversion tracking.

The Google Ad Grants program prioritizes high-quality traffic, rather than just driving a high quantity of users to your website. High-quality conversions happen when searchers take an action like signing up to your organization’s newsletter, donating to your cause, or signing a petition. Google strives to help your team rethink your digital advertising strategy and discover which calls-to-action are most effective at driving a visitor down your funnel of engagement.

Set up and optimize Google Ads conversion tracking to follow which ads drive the most users to take action towards your mission and what type of messaging drives the most engagement. Then, use that information to optimize your future ad campaigns.

What is a Google Ad Grant agency?

Working with a Google Grants Agency

Whether you manage a Google Ad Grant in-house or outsource it to a Google Ad Grant certified professional like Getting Attention, your return on investment will be positive if you prepare a strong digital marketing strategy. 

Getting Attention is a fully certified agency here to guide your organization through the Google Ad Grant process. Our services include:

  • Google Grant Application: Our team of experts can walk you through every step of the way to ensure that your nonprofit is accepted.
  • Google Grant Hygiene: Maintaining your data and keeping it clean can be a pain point for many nonprofits. We’re here to ensure you never have to worry about outdated or unnecessary data bogging down your processes. 
  • Google Grant Reactivation: Has your account been lagging or even suspended? We can help get your account reactivated.
  • Keyword Research: High quality and valuable website content is one of the most important qualities of a successful Google Ad Grants campaign. Make sure that you’re targeting the most relevant and useful keywords with our research team. 
  • Google Grant Management: To determine if your marketing strategies are working, you need to be tracking conversions. We’ll ensure that not only are you on top of your conversions but that you also are tracking the most useful opportunities. 

Getting Attention’s team of experts offers free consultations and resources to help your organization plan a successful campaign strategy.  Reach out to our team today to learn more!

Want to continue your research on Google Ad Grants or learn how to market your mission effectively? Explore these additional resources:

Work with Getting Attention to optimize your Google Ad Grant strategy.

Explore this guide for a comprehensive look at Google Grant eligibility.

Google Grants Eligibility: Is Your Nonprofit Eligible?

If you’re involved in the nonprofit world, you need to know about Google Grants. Google Grants are a digital marketing resource designed to get your nonprofit the attention it needs and deserves in a financially practical way. Through receiving a monthly paid advertisement stipend, your nonprofit will absolutely see a spike in website traffic from Google Search.

While Google Grants is a valuable nonprofit resource, not all nonprofits are eligible to receive the funds. The process to determine eligibility can appear daunting, as can the next steps once you’ve figured out your organization is indeed eligible. That’s what this guide is here for, to clear up any confusion or misconceptions surrounding the Google Grants process. 

At Getting Attention, we specialize in helping nonprofits just like yours secure and strategize for Google Grants. In this guide, we’re going to cover the following points to help your nonprofit determine your eligibility for Google Ad Grants:

  1. What is a Google Grant? 
  2. Google Grants for Nonprofits: Who is eligible for Google Ad Grants? 
  3. How do I get a Google Grant? 

Would Google Grants benefit your nonprofit? Continue reading and we’ll give more program details, as well as help you determine your nonprofit’s eligibility. 

Contact Getting Attention today to elevate your Google Grant strategy.

Before we discuss Google Grant eligibility, what is a Google Grant?

What is a Google Grant? 

Google Grants (also known as Ad Grants or AdWords Grants) are awarded through a  Google-sponsored marketing grant program that gives eligible nonprofits $10,000 monthly in AdWord credits. These credits provide your nonprofit with a free way to advertise at the top of Google search results. 

Unlike most nonprofit grant programs, the Google Grants for Nonprofits program is not constrained by available funds. In other words, all nonprofits with Google Grants eligibility can receive the $10,000 per month— there is no limit to the number of nonprofits who can participate.

What does free advertising on the world’s largest and most popular search engine mean for your nonprofit? You’ll have: 

  • Increased digital visibility and reach 
  • More interactions with your website 
  • Free and amplified promotion to potential donors and volunteers
  • Complimentary analytics on your campaign
  • The ability to market multiple digital campaigns at once

Each of these five benefits come together to drive more awareness for your nonprofit, and in turn, garner more donations. Next, we’ll cover eligibility requirements for the program. 

When it comes to Google Grants eligibility, who is eligible for a grant?

Who is eligible for Google Grants? 

To be eligible for Google Grants, your nonprofit must be in good standing, meaning you are fully registered with your respective country, be located in a country in which Google Grants operates, and meet the full eligibility requirements of your respective country. 

Beyond that criteria, there are three main categories Google looks at when determining a nonprofits Google Grants eligibility: 

This graphic breaks down the three main criteria of Google Grant eligibility.

1. Type of nonprofit organization 

Not every nonprofit can receive Google Grants. In the U.S., for instance, only 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible. 501(c)(3) means the Internal Revenue Service recognizes the nonprofit as an official charitable organization and thus exempts it from any federal tax obligations.  

A nonprofit’s specific industry matters, too. The following three sectors are ineligible for Google Grants:  

  • Government: All government-affiliated organizations and entities
  • Healthcare: All hospitals, offices, and other healthcare organizations
  • Education: All schools, academic institutions, and universities

It’s important to note that these eligibility requirements are specific to Google Ad Grants. There are other programs offered by Google, such as Google for Education which offers support to educational institutions, designed for different purposes and thus have different specifications. 

2. Quality of website 

Google also looks at the attributes and quality of a nonprofit’s website to determine the organization’s Google Grants eligibility. This is because the advertisements purchased via Google Grants will send search engine users to the nonprofit’s website, and Google doesn’t want to direct users to ineffective web presences.

When evaluating a website, Google looks for:

  • An owned website: Your organization must own the domain that a Google ad would direct users to when they click on it.
  • A clear and detailed description of the organization, its mission, and its activities: There should be no mystery as to what your nonprofit does and stands for. 
  • Unique website content: Materials on your site should be exclusive to your nonprofit and not found elsewhere on the internet.
  • No broken links or slow loading time, and HTTPS-secured: 
    • Broken links are links that no longer direct to their previously intended destination. Avoid these by constantly checking your linked materials and updating as needed.
    • There are many factors that contribute to slow loading time, and therefore many ways it can be avoided. For instance, opt for smaller images as opposed to larger ones to keep your site running quickly. 
    • HTTPS-secured refers to a website that is encrypted and therefore offers users greater protection and privacy during their browsing. Make sure your website is secured for best results with Google’s quality evaluations. 
  • Noncommercial in nature: Your website must serve the general public, not just those who provide financial contributions. The main purpose of your website cannot be anything commercial. This includes the sale of products and/or services, consultation offers, lead generations, and referral provisions. If anything commercial appears on your website, you must clearly describe how it supports your mission; and in certain cases, you must provide an annual report detailing how your organization used the commercially-obtained funds. 
  • Limited advertisements: All ads must be relevant to your mission and not obtrusive to site users.

In short, make sure your nonprofit owns its website, the site clearly describes your mission and purpose, the site hosts unique content, the site has no broken links or slow loading time and is HTTPS-secured, and is noncommercial. Next, let’s discuss program policies. 

3. Compliance with program policies 

In order to be eligible and remain so for Google Grants, your nonprofit must comply with various program policies set by Google. 

This includes following the Google Ad Grants terms and conditions, standard Google Ads policies, Google’s general terms and conditions, and account management policies.

After determining your Google Grant eligibility, how do you secure a grant?

How do I get a Google Grant? 

So, you’ve determined your organization’s Google Grants eligibility. What’s next? Here are the steps to getting the Google Grant process started:

  1. Register with TechSoup. If you haven’t already, you need to authenticate your nonprofit through TechSoup. It could take a few days, so be sure to factor this step into your timeline. 
  2. Sign up for a Google for Nonprofits account. In order to access Google Ad Grants, your nonprofit needs a Google for Nonprofits account. It’s a straightforward process that involves providing your tax identification number, non-discrimination policies, and general contact and organization information. Plus, this account offers many other nonprofit resources  that your organization can take advantage of. While straightforward, this process could take many months. It’s best to get started as soon as possible. 
  3. Apply for the Google Ads Grant. This is a six-step process that includes the following steps: 
    1. Create a Google AdWords account.
    2. Submit a pre-qualification survey and complete ad grant training.
    3. Submit required materials for pre-qualification review.
    4. Set up your first Google ads campaign once approved for pre-qualification..
    5. Submit your first AdWords campaign for review.
    6. Begin running Google Ad campaigns once approved.

If this process seems a bit overwhelming, relax. Getting Attention specializes in helping nonprofits apply for Google Ad Grants, so reach out today for a free consultation

Can you lose Google Grants eligibility? 

In short, yes.

If your nonprofit doesn’t maintain compliance with the program’s policies, you can absolutely have your eligibility revoked. To avoid that outcome, abide by the following best practices: 

  • Maintain an active account. Google wants to see that you’re making good use of the grant, so log in at least once a month and update your account at least every 90 days. 
  • Target ads in a relevant way to a specific region. Make a recognizable effort to target your desired audience by both topic and region. You want your ads to accurately reflect your nonprofit’s mission as well as reach who your mission is relevant to. 
  • Evaluate keywords monthly. Check your keywords often to see what’s working and what’s not. Based on your evaluation, restrategize as necessary. Additionally, there are a few keyword rules to keep in mind. For example, no single keywords, overly generic keywords, or keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 are permitted. 
  • Maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR). Failing to meet 5% CTR for two consecutive months can result in account deactivation. 

Google provides a number of resources to help you meet these account requirements. For example, to improve CTR, you can pause generic and high impression, low CTR keywords. You can also ensure geotargeting is set for each campaign. Don’t worry about having to figure it all out on your own; Google is here to help. 

Have you lost your eligibility? Don’t stress about it too much yet. Google has a clear process for requesting account reactivation. You can partner with a Google Grants consultant to work through the reactivation process.

Partner with a Google Grants agency to understand your nonprofit's Google Grant eligibility.

Wrapping Up 

We know this is a lot of information to take in. Don’t worry, though— you don’t have to navigate Google Grants alone. There are professionals out there who can help you use your Google Grant funding to its fullest potential. 

Oftentimes, nonprofits will look to traditional marketing agencies for their Google Grants needs. However, the Google Grants program is not the same as standard Google Ads. It’s best to look for an agency that specializes specifically in Google Grants.

For example, Getting Attention is qualified to help you every step of the way. Here are just a few of the many services we can offer your nonprofit throughout your Google Grants journey: 

This graphic illustrates the ways Getting Attention can help your nonprofit after you've determined your Google Grant eligibility.

  • Google Grant Application: Our experts can complete the application for you efficiently and effectively, pledging a high success rate for your nonprofit’s acceptance. 
  • Google Grant Hygiene: While you focus on your nonprofit’s mission, we will take care of maintaining your campaign and keyword data. 
  • Google Grant Reactivation: If your account is ever suspended, we can help get your account back up and running. 
  • Keyword Research: The key to a successful Google Grants campaign is choosing the perfect terms to target. Our research team can do the heavy lifting to make sure you’re using the most relevant and effective keywords for your nonprofit. 
  • Grant Management: Accurate conversion tracking is a crucial component of your Google Ad Grants campaigns. In fact, Google requires your nonprofit to report at least one conversion per month. We’ll meet and beat this expectation by tracking conversions as well as taking note of potential valuable opportunities based on our findings. 

Interested? Sign up for your free consultation today and we’ll get to work on shaping up your Google Ad Grants strategy.  

We’ve covered the ins and outs of Google Grants and your nonprofit’s potential eligibility, but that’s not all we have to offer. Review the following resources on the Getting Attention blog to help you take your nonprofit to the next level and meet your mission goals:

Contact Getting Attention today to elevate your Google Grant strategy.

 

Learn all about how to apply for a Google Grant in this guide.

How to Apply for Google Grants | 3 Steps for Your Nonprofit

Are you looking to drive traffic to your nonprofit’s landing page without breaking the bank? We understand. Luckily, initiatives like Google Ad Grants exist— helping nonprofits broaden their reach, increase visibility and drive conversions at exponential rates. 

Through awarding organizations $10,000 per month in AdWords funding, Google Ad Grants pose enormous potential for growth in your business. If this seems of interest to you, come along as we dive into the steps of how to apply for Google Grants.

Let’s start our journey by uncovering an overview of what exactly a Google Ad Grant is.

Ready to apply for Google Grants? Connect with Getting Attention today.

To understand how to apply for Google Grants, you first need to understand what the grant is.

Overview of Google Ad Grants

Google Ad Grants allow your organization to acquire valuable search engine ad space at no cost. This opportunity presents a wide array of benefits for your nonprofit, including:

  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Attracting new donors
  • Marketing multiple ad campaigns simultaneously
  • Analyzing and tracking campaign performance

However, these nonprofit marketing grants are not a free-for-all. In fact, there are several specific guidelines organizations must review to determine their eligibility before applying.

How do you qualify for Google Ad Grants?

In order to qualify for a Google Ad Grant, there are several criteria that organizations must meet. Given that the program is available in over 50 countries, be sure to locate the specific guidelines of your current location. In the United States, the following is required to be eligible:

These are the requirements to apply for Google Grants.

  • Nonprofits must hold current and valid charitable status, which in the United States means registering as a 501(c)(3) organization. 
  • Must have a functional website that contains valuable content that is relevant to the nonprofit’s mission.
  • Adherence to Google Grant program policies, including registration with Google for Nonprofits and TechSoup.
  • An SSL—secure sockets layer—certificate, proving that your online domain is secure.

Outside of these eligibility requirements, there are specific types of nonprofits that are ineligible, including:

  • Government entities
  • Hospital or healthcare organizations
  • Schools, academic institutions, or universities

If you find your organization is within one of these categories, consider further research into initiatives that do apply to your nonprofit. For example, Google For Education offers separate benefits for educational institutions. Although these benefits may not consist of a $10,000 ad grant, they still help to get the ball rolling.

When it comes to how to apply for Google Grants, these are the requirements.

Requirements for the Google Grants Application

Now that you have evaluated your eligibility, it is time to begin the Google Grants application process. But wait! There are just a few more requirements you must fulfill before finalizing your application. These include:

  • Having a fully-functional website to which the ads placed on the Google results page will link.
  • Ensuring your site does not already contain revenue-generating ads.
  • Having the ability to manage Google Ads campaigns, meaning you’re able to evaluate keywords for relevancy, accuracy, and timeliness on a regular basis.
  • Selecting keywords that have a maximum cost of $1 per click.

The last thing to consider is the optimization of your nonprofit’s website. Given the potential spike of traffic that will be directed to your site, it is important that your website is running in optimal condition. After fulfilling these requirements, the Google Ad Grant application process should run smoothly.

Here are the steps for how to apply for Google Grants.

How to Apply for Google Grants in 3 Steps

Step 1: Register with TechSoup and acquire a validation token.

The first step to apply for Google Grants requires validating your organization via TechSoup. After this, you will acquire a subsequent Validation Token. Here are the steps to do so:

This graphic illustrates how to apply for Google Grants.

  1. Start by visiting the TechSoup registration page.
  2. Select the country in which your organization is based, as well as the preferred language used.
  3. Click new member, register, and agree to the terms and conditions listed. From there, you wait to receive validation. In some cases, this can take up to 30 days. If there are any issues, TechSoup may contact you for further documentation.
  4. After receiving validation, you can log into your account to claim your TechSoup Validation Token which is presented in the form of a code. Include this code in your Google for Nonprofits application and you’re good to go!

After completing this process, you are one step closer to successfully applying to Google Grants!

Step 2: Sign up for a Google for Nonprofits account.

Once you are verified, the next step is to register for a Google for Nonprofits account. Beyond Ad Grants, Google for Nonprofits offers an array of advantageous methods for growing awareness of your organization. Examples include:

  • YouTube Nonprofit Program, which allows nonprofits to spread the word of their organization through visual storytelling. Using videos as a method for telling your nonprofit’s story will help inspire empathy for your cause, form connections within your community, educate mass audiences, and much more. 
  • Google Earth and Maps, which helps to share compelling data visualizations which highlight your organization’s impact. Additionally, the use of Google Maps helps community members locate your nonprofit’s programs and resources nearest to them. 
  • Google Workspace, which is a registration under Google for Nonprofits that offers complimentary access to Google’s most useful apps, such as Gmail, Docs, Drive, Calendar, and Meet. In allowing you to stay organized and efficient, Google Workspace for Nonprofits helps to keep your team running smoothly.

If this seems like an offer you can’t refuse, follow these steps to ensure a proper Google for Nonprofits application:

  1. Visit the Google for Nonprofits registration website.
  2. Agree to Google’s non-discrimination statements.
  3. Input the validation token provided through TechSoup.
  4. Fill out the subsequent forms, including contact and organization information. Be sure to agree to be contacted by Google and double-check that you used an email that you check often.
  5. Submit your request and await a response!

The Google for Nonprofits application is fairly straightforward, however the registration approval process may take up to a couple of months. Stay patient, as the wait is worth the reward!

Step 3: Apply for the Google Ads Grant.

Once approved, you can submit your application for the Google Ads Grant. Here is how you do so:

This graphic illustrates the final steps to apply for a Google Grant.

  1. Create a Google AdWords account after receiving approval from Google for Nonprofits. Use this link to get started. AdWords will prompt you to select your billing country and timezone. Once submitted, it will take you to your new account! Make note of your customer ID number, found in the top right corner of the browser.
  2. Submit your pre-qualification survey—which takes roughly 10 minutes—and complete the Ad Grant training. The training video will cover policy requirements, key guidelines, and best practices for managing your account. A short quiz will follow, so make sure you’re paying attention!
  3. Submit the required materials for pre-qualification review. After signing into your account, look for the “Activate” option under Google Ad Grants. Upon finding, select “Enroll.” Await a response back from Google in regards to your pre-qualification submission. 
  4. Once approved for pre-qualification, set up your first Google Ads campaign!
  5. Submit your AdWords account for final review. This uses the same process of approval, found above, for the pre-qualification review.
  6. Once approved, the nonprofit can begin running Google Ad campaigns, offering your organization $329 in Google Ads spending per day, for free.

Although receiving grant money is great, it does not guarantee ad campaign success. In order to see meaningful results, consistent upkeep, performance tracking, and compliance with Google’s official account requirements are necessary. With the weight of running a nonprofit already on your shoulders, this may seem like a lot to handle. Have no fear— that’s why Google Grant agencies exist.

Although there are many marketing professionals willing and able to help oversee your campaign, the Google Ad Grant program is unlike other Google Ad accounts. Therefore, Google offers a certification program dedicated to Google Grants specifically, ensuring that your agency is well-equipped to assist your nonprofit in any capacity. 

From application to account management, Google Grant agencies are there to ensure your success every step of the way. Some valuable areas of assistance include:

  • Creating, maintaining and optimizing ad campaigns. With effective results requiring 3-5 ongoing campaigns, having professionals there to continuously track performance and refine strategies will prove incredibly beneficial to your overall success.
  • Optimizing website content. In order to best serve the needs of your audience, your website will need refinement to account for the increase in generated traffic. Google Grant agencies can help keep your website in the best shape via constant keyword research, landing page relaunches and more.
  • Account upkeep. To avoid grant suspension due to poor account maintenance, agencies can help make sure your organization is in constant compliance with Google Grant guidelines. This will help to avoid the headache of ever having to go through the account reactivation process.

The process of selecting an agency may seem daunting, but doing proper research will help make the decision easier. Be sure to look into pricing models, expertise, agency case studies and testimonials before taking concrete action. Starting with the application process, agencies will help you from beginning to end.

Once you apply for a Google Grant, these are your next steps.

Wrapping Up: After the Application

Now that your nonprofit has secured its Google Ad Grant, be sure you’re taking the proper precautions in maintaining eligibility. To ensure your account remains in good standing, here are a few key components to key an eye on:

  • Account activity:  By logging into your account at least once a month and updating its components every 90 days, you will prove to Google that you’re still using the help they’re providing. After all, Google will not give away money and resources to those who waste them!
  • Ad relevance and geotargeting:  Be sure that the ads you are putting out have specific relevance to their audience. A great way to do this is by including geotargeting, so Google knows their users are receiving ads relevant to them. 
  • Monthly keyword evaluation: Google requires a Keyword Performance Report once a month to ensure that you are optimizing your keywords for best results. In doing so, Google ensures you’re in the best position to remain profitable.
  • A minimum of 5% click-through rate (CTR): Google mandates the maintenance of this CTR, after 90 days, in order to improve user experience and ad relevance. Accounts who fail to meet this requirement will be notified and if not reached after two consecutive months, those accounts will be suspended.

All of this information may feel a bit overwhelming, but the opportunity to utilize $10,000 a month of free Google AdWords spending is worth weathering the confusion. Contact Getting Attention today for a free consultation with our agency to help plan the best Google Ad Grants strategy for your nonprofit. If you are in need of any more help, feel free to explore our additional resources:

Getting Attention can help you learn how to apply for a Google Grant and more.

 

Marketing Budget How-tos — Answers to Calm Your Fears and Power Up Your Budgeting Mojo

The hands-down, most hated and most frequently-avoided marketing task is budgeting. I hear that from you and your peers time and time again.

But I urge you to get past this bias by taking 10 minutes to absorb today’s budgeting guidelines. You’ll learn the value a budget brings to your work as it translates the actions outlined in your marketing plan into expense. The result is a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, serving as both a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves” and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, text and paid advertising in order to match legislative timeframes. At the same time, your budget might indicate that it makes sense to hold off on enhancing your already-strong membership program with the launch of a members-only community.

Start building your budgeting skills and confidence right now with my responses to the your most frequently-asked questions:

1. A to-do list is not a marketing plan.

I have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan and what I use to create my budget. Or do I need something else, too?

No, that to-do list is not your marketing plan! It’s a marketing checklist that you hope will move your organization forward. And I guarantee that even if you complete every single one of those tasks, you won’t be contributing as much as you could to meeting your organizational goals.

Your current marketing approach is all action, and no traction. You’re generating a stream of one-off marketing outputs that don’t achieve much and may even be confusing to and/or alienating the individuals you need to engage to move your mission forward.

I urge you to scrap the laundry list and take a one-day marketing planning sabbatical (here’s a marketing plan template to work from). In just a single day, you’ll finish with a much clearer path in front of you to:

  • Direct and prioritize your focus, and ensure you make the most of your budget
  • Know what you are working towards and make the best decisions on how to get there (critical for leadership buy in and ongoing support)
  • Craft an accurate, realistic budget built on logic and strategy, one that will greatly increase your success rate in getting the budget you need
  • Track progress (against concrete, measurable benchmarks)
  • Confidently draft a realistic daily work plan.

When you’re making marketing decisions throughout the year, use the plan as your framework. It will enable you to distinguish “needs” from “wants,” to craft a budget around what really matters.

2. Connect the dots between your marketing goals and what it will take to get there.

How do you propose we ramp up our marketing dollars from zero to what we really need?

Start with reviewing your marketing goals (or articulating them, if you haven’t already) to ensure they represent the best way you can put marketing to work to advance your organizational goals. Once you review those goals with leadership, and get approval, then clearly connect the dots between your proposed budget and what you want to accomplish in a way that’s easily accessible.

In most cases, achieving marketing goals requires financial outlay in addition to human resource (time, effort and skills; in-house or outsourced). There’s no way out of it: You have to pay for services such as reliable web hosting, flexible email marketing tools and postage. And if you want to design a high-impact website, analyze targeted email marketing or implement successful fundraising campaigns, there’s a price tag associated with doing that well.

All too frequently the barrier to a sufficient budget is that your colleagues (staff and leadership) don’t understand what communications really is, what it can accomplish and what it takes to do it really well. I recommend you guide them to that understanding by sharing your marketing plan (talking through it is far more effective than simply circulating the document) and making that clear connection between goals and budget.

3. Your budget projections are a key factor in your marketing decision making, and a concrete baseline to work from.

How important is it that my actual expenses match my projection? I feel like my budget is just made up.

Projections are the best way to assess how your investment in each campaign or project relates to its relative importance in your marketing plan. That’s a crucial ingredient in your marketing decision making, so there’s no avoiding projecting what your expenses will be.

Secondly, tracking expenses versus projections during the course of your budget year is the only way to keep on track with your marketing budget; the equivalent of benchmarking for your marketing dollars. Without projections, you have no guidance on whether you’re spending too much, or too little.

Keep in mind that a first-time budget is always fiction, as is any plan or projection (and a budget is a quantitative plan) before you implement.

To minimize the gap between fantasy and reality, craft a first-time budget based on your marketing expenditures of the prior year. Extrapolate from those what the costs of new campaigns and projects will be and modify your allocation depending on the relative importance of the featured program, campaign or service. That’s the kernel of ROI—return on investment. In addition, consider tracking how staff marketing time is focused by program, campaign or service as well.

Use that first year to scrupulously track your expenses—by program, campaign or service; and by expense type (e.g. online tools or graphic design services). Assess quarterly, to make sure you’re expenses aren’t exceeding your budget, and again at year end. Doing so will help you:

  • Understand what you’re really spending to market your organization, and each program, campaign or service
  • Compare your marketing investment for each program, campaign and service with its relative importance in achieving your current marketing goals, and with the specific benchmarks you set up to measure your progress in meeting those goals (see this marketing plan template)
  • Whether you track marketing results qualitatively, quantitatively (easy to do for a fundraising campaign or a campaign launching a new program, but challenging in many cases) or using a bit of both methods, compare those results to expenditures, to understand the ROI of each initiative.

You’ll finish with an accurate map of expenditures and a sense of ROI that together will guide fact-based decision making as you shape the follow year’s marketing plan and budget.

Do keep in mind that your budget will have to be adjusted each year to reflect increasing costs and changes in your organization such as new programs, cut programs and changes in geographic area served. For example, launching a new program requires an increased marketing budget for the first year or two so you’ll need more dollars or do less on other fronts.

4. Advocate for the budget you need to achieve your marketing goals.

I’m told how much money I get for marketing each year regardless of what I think I need. Is that normal?

There’s no standard but unfortunately, being delivered a marketing budget is a very common practice, one that is seldom grounded in data or a clear understanding of what it takes to achieve your marketing goals!

I urge you not to sit back and accept it. Instead, move into action to educate your colleagues and leadership so they understand the power of marketing, and what it takes! Advocate for what you really need to move your mission forward.

In many cases, a misunderstanding on what kind of budget is required is actually the fault of us marketers. Time and time again, I see nonprofit marketers fail to share their strategies and goals with leadership and peers. As a result, you’re sabotaging far more than your budget. You’re also sabotaging the potential of this vital strategy for nonprofit success.

Once you develop your plan, it will very clearly enable you to outline out a comprehensive budget. Share the budget with your marketing plan—both are effective ways of conveying that you have a clear plan for moving forward, shaped on concrete data and strategies. It will be comforting for your leadership to have these plans in hand, and greatly increase the probability of getting more marketing dollars.

If you can’t get the budget you need, take this opportunity to reset expectations on what can be delivered for less than that.

How to Design an Effective Marketing and Communications Budget (Case Study)

Question: What percentage of a nonprofit’s budget should be spent on marketing and communications?

–Sherri Greenbach, Executive Director
Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York

Dear Sherri,

What a great question! The answer is (as you probably expected) “it depends.”

You definitely need to have a comprehensive, realistic budget. It’s a critical component of your annual marketing and communications plan and, like the work plan, serves as a map to ensure you reach your goals. The budgeting process helps you to determine whether your plan is realistic. If not, cut the plan to focus on ultimate priorities and retool the budget.

In the for-profit world, it’s fairly standard to determine a marketing budget by allocating 10-20% of projected gross revenues to marketing and communications. However, things aren’t so black and white in the nonprofit world with our dual bottom line of people and dollars. You can take the percentage approach OR the flat dollar approach.

What’s most important is that you establish a detailed marketing and communications budget prior to the start of each fiscal year, and track costs (by strategy and program or project) and results AS YOU GO so that you can analyze cost vs. benefit. The budget should be integrated into your annual marketing and communications plan, with a dollar cost allotted to each strategy (direct mail, email, paid advertising, media relations, etc.) and program or project, each of which should be broken out by its various components (consulting, evaluation, printing, postage, etc.).

Each organization’s plan (and budget) will cover a unique set of components. Don’t forget to budget for the tasks – such as researching your audiences and evaluating outcomes – that give you the information to make your selected strategies as successful as possible.

The Percentage Approach

This approach is favored by those who believe that marketing and communications expenditures should directly reflect a nonprofit’s evolution and the size of its budget. Personally, this is the approach I prefer. The advantage of developing a budget based on your organizational finances is that it’s organic. Communications spending grows as does your organization. Of course exceptions are made for special needs such as the launch of a new program, introducing new leadership, or tackling an urgent advocacy campaign.

The average allocation is from 9-12% of your annual organizational budget (start with 10%). Advocacy organizations tend to allocate a higher percentage (12% or higher) of their organizational budgets to communications, since much of their advocacy work is communications based.

Here’s a highly-simplified example of a budget shaped by the percentage approach:

2% Purchasing all advertising and promotion media, including internet, newspaper, radio, TV, and direct mail (postage).
+
4% Producing (design, artwork) and printing all communications. This includes newsletters, brochures, web sites, press kits, etc.
+
1.5% Producing special events.
+
3.5% Salaries, consultants and freelancers.
=
11% Total percentage of the organizational budget going to marketing and communications.

The Dollar Approach

Others in the field consider a flat dollar approach to be more relevant (and safer) than the percentage approach since your total budget has to cover utilities, rent, taxes, health insurance, etc.

Defining the dollar figure is challenging the first time round but becomes much easier once you have records of several years’ marketing expenditures to work from. Start out with a quick-and-dirty calculation based on last year’s costs and revise it to reflect special campaigns, inflation, etc. Or, if this is your first year out, estimate the costs of what you think you’ll be doing based on what you know today. Contact colleagues in the field and prospective vendors to get your projections as accurate as possible. Either way, you’ll end up with a baseline budget.

Frankly, I’ve heard a lot about this method as a viable alternative to the percentage approach, but have never seen it put into practice.

What Budgeting Does for You

Whichever approach you take, you’ll find that a formal budget is a great aid in decision making. To begin with, your marketing communications budget (and plan) will help you distinguish between needs and wants. You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, media relations, and paid advertising in order to match legislative timeframes. However, you may decide to hold off on enhancing your already strong membership campaign with the launch of a members-only web site.

So, Sherri, start your budget process today, even if you’re in the middle of your fiscal year. Make sure that you track costs by category and maintain a spreadsheet of actual vs. projected expenses. By next year, you’ll have an accurate map of expenditures that will serve as a great foundation for next year’s planning process and a sure means of ensuring you make the most of your marketing and communications budget.

Do keep in mind that your budget will have to be adjusted each year to reflect increasing costs and changes in your organization. For example, launching a new program requires an increased marketing budget for the first year or two so you’ll need more dollars or do less on other fronts.

This Creative Brief Template Helps Ensure Powerful Copy and Design

Many creative marketing projects get underway without a clear sense of expectations between a nonprofit’s marketing and organizational leadership, and the creative folks (whether in-house or freelance) delivering it.

The result? An extended and expensive creative development process with many revisions—not to mention chewed-up nails, bruised egos and depleted momentum.

Taking the time and energy up front to craft a thorough creative brief will save you organization time and money, and ensure you get the fundraising campaign, program mini-site, campaign website or annual report you envisioned. And going through this process may highlight that another medium or approach will work better than the one you had in mind.

Your brief should be, well, brief, running no more than two pages. Make it easy to scan with the use of clear sub-headings, white space and bulleted lists.

Here’s what your brief should include:

  • Overview
    • General project information
    • Goals
    • Measurable Objectives (benchmarks to measure progress towards goals, e.g. increase donor retention by 20% this year)
    • Deliverables Needed
      Note: Deliverables can change during the creative process, i.e. the graphic designer might suggest that a blog, rather than an e-newsletter, will do more to address your goals.
  • Primary audiences
    Provide enough detail to enhance everyone’s understanding of who the audience is. Include some user demographic information if possible.

    • Who are your primary target audiences? Choose a typical audience member or two and profile including job, age range, gender, passions, what her day looks like, etc.
    • How will your audiences use this Facebook page, white paper or website?
    • What should be avoided in talking to these audiences?
  • Tone and Image
    • Funny and casual, or formal and buttoned-up, or…
    • What do the audiences believe or think, before you start communicating with them?
    • What tone and imagery should we use to engage them?
    • Specific visual goals?
  • Messages: Features, Benefits and Values
    • List top features and/or facts about the program, service or organization, and its value to target audiences
    • How do these stack up against the competition?
    • If you could get one sentence across, what would that be? How would you prove it?
    • Other major points?
  • Budget and Schedule
    • Has a budget been approved? If so, what is the range?
      Note: Having a budget range enables creative to shape a doable approach, rather than a sky-in-the-pie approach that doesn’t fit your budget.
    • When must the message get to the audience for greatest impact (e.g. service introduction date, conference, special event)?
    • What are start and due dates for the finished work?
  • Process
    • Who is the point person (on the nonprofit side)?
    • What is the internal review and approval process?
    • Who needs to sign off on final execution?
  • Anything else?
    • How many rounds of revisions on your side (be they yours, your bosses, or your CEO’s) should the writer or designer include in her bid for the job?
    • Your additions?

Download this creative brief template today and review it with my tips fresh in your mind. When you do, you’ll be poised to outline a clear and productive creative brief when your next marketing project pops up.

Get your creative brief template here.

What techniques do you use to ensure that your communications product match your vision and goals, and your audience profile? Please share here.

More at Five Steps to Great Graphic Design for Nonprofits

No Time for a Marketing Plan? Start With a No Pain, All Gain, Do-It-Now Nonprofit Communications Audit

More on Communications Audits

I recently received this Ask Nancy query and was eager to respond ASAP, as this is a question I hear frequently from nonprofit communicators like you…

Dear Nancy,

Colleagues at two other organizations in our county are in the middle of communications audits. I’m interested, but don’t know what that process would mean for our organization.

What is a communications audit, and what value does it deliver? We’re overloaded as it is and it’s hard to even consider taking on even one more thing!

Thanks much,
Denise Harris, Project Director
Human Services Coalition

Denise asks a great question, seeking not only the definition of this marketing strategy but it’s value, so she can weigh ROI (return on investment). That’s the ideal way to prioritize marketing strategies.


Dear Denise,

First of all, let me promise you that executing a communications audit is a far happier experience than an IRS audit! And in doing so you’ll generate an immediate impact:  The audit findings will save you time immediately on completion, helping you focus on doing more of what’s working, and less of what’s not, while providing a clear framework for prioritizing.

Ideally, I’m a big believer in the value of creating a full marketing plan — so you know where you’re going (clear goals) and the best way to get there (based on realities of your target audiences wants and values, factors in the environment in which you work). But if you don’t have time for that right now, or it seems too daunting, a communications audit is a great place to start.

  • Definition — What is a communications audit?
    • A snapshot view of what you are doing marketing wise, evaluated that against your marketing goals and benchmarks, and in light of the wants and needs of your target audiences, and what your competitors and partners are doing.
  • Value — You’ll use your findings to:
    • Be more strategic: Ensure you’re reaching the right audiences with relevant messages via the right platforms, to increase engagement and action.
    • Get the most from your marketing investment: By increasing internal awareness of current approach vs. more productive opportunities, and building this practice into a habit.
    • And you’ll continue to leverage this information (and new findings your seek out) on an ongoing basis to fine-tune your strategies and tactics to work better than ever before.
  • Follow these steps:
    • Drawing on conversations with your colleagues and with target audiences, and on research of colleague and competitive organizations communications.
    • Ask these questions first:
      • What are our marketing goals and the benchmarks we can use to measure our progress towards them?
      • What do our target audiences (the folks we need to engage to meet our marketing goals) want and value?
      • What do we want them to do and what might help and/or get in the way (call to action)?
      • Are our messages relevant to our target audiences? Are they engaging them and motivating them to act?
      • Where and when are their open-minded moments (the times and channels–e.g. Facebook vs. a PSA) that they’re most likely to digest our messages? This is where to invest!
      • What are others competing for the same engagement, time, donations doing well (models)?
    • Assessment comes next:
      • Assess all communications materials channel by channel (e.g. all websites, all email communications, all print materials, all direct mail) against these criteria.
      • Assess consistency of key elements (e.g. messages, branding) across channels, products and programs/campaigns.
  • Make indicated changes ASAP!
    • Do more of what’s working well. Cut what’s not.
    • Get inconsistencies in line with branding standards asap to ensure its’ easy for your network to recognize–in a moment, at a glance–that the marketing content is from your organization, and make it easy for them to remember and repeat it to friends and family.
    • Eureka–Clarity and immediate time savings!

Hope that helps, Denise. I urge you to go for it, and let me know how it goes!

All best,
Nancy

P.S. How do you audit your communications, and what do you do with your findings? Please share your communications audit guidance here.

Proactive Budgets Get the Marketing $ Needed for Impact!

The hands-down, most hated and most frequently-avoided marketing task is budgeting. Believe me, I hear it constantly.

Now’s the time to get past this bias and digest the coming series on on budgeting how-tos. You’ll learn the value a budget brings to your work as it translates the actions outlined in your marketing plan into expense. You’ll discover is a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, that works as both a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves” and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

Start building your budgeting skills and confidence right now:

Q: I have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan and what I use to create my budget. Or do I need something else, too?

A: No, Virginia, that to-do list is not your marketing plan! It’s a marketing checklist that you hope will move your organization forward. I guarantee that even if you complete every single one of those tasks, you won’t be contributing as much as you could to meeting your org’s goals.

That’s because this kind of marketing is all action and no traction. You’re generating a stream of one-off marketing outputs that have little impact. In fact, these one-offs are likely to confuse and alienate the people you really need to motivate to give, volunteer, and register.

So scrap the laundry list and take a one-day marketing planning sabbatical (here’s a marketing plan template to work from). In just a single day, you’ll finish with a much clearer path in front of you to:

  • Direct and prioritize your focus, and ensure you make the most of your budget
  • Know what you are working towards and make the best decisions on how to get there (critical for leadership buy-in and ongoing support)
  • Craft an accurate, realistic budget built on logic and strategy, one that will greatly increase your success rate in getting the budget you need
  • Track progress (against concrete, measurable benchmarks)
  • Confidently draft a realistic daily work plan.

You’ll see clearly how much you have to spend to reach your goals and, via tracking results, will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve which goals. And when you’re making marketing decisions throughout the year, use the plan as your framework.

Your plan (can be a one-pager) will enable you to distinguish “needs” from “wants,” to craft a budget around what really matters—what’s going to drive your marketing impact–motivate your people to take the actions you need!  For example, based on your budget framework, you may decide to promote your advocacy campaigns via direct mail and email, social, text and paid advertising in order to match legislative time frames. At the same time, your budget might indicate that it makes sense to hold off on enhancing your already-strong membership program with the launch of a members-only community.

What’s keeping you from budgeting to fuel your marketing impact?

Ramp Up Your Marketing Budget to What You REALLY Need: Nonprofit Marketing Budgets, Part 2

Dive into this second installment in my series to learn how to get what it takes to fund your nonprofit marketing plan. You’ll find Part One here.

Q: OK, now I get how much it’s going to take to do our marketing right. How do you propose we ramp up our marketing dollars from zero to what we really need?

A: Connect the dots between your marketing goals and what it will take to get there.

Start by reviewing your marketing goals (or articulating them, if you haven’t already) to ensure they represent the best way you can put marketing to work to advance your organizational goals. Once you review those goals with leadership, and get approval, then clearly and concretely connect the dots between your proposed budget and what you want to accomplish in a way that’s easily accessible. Your goal is to translate the actions outlined in the plan — what it will take to meet those goals — into expense.

In most cases, achieving marketing goals requires financial outlay in addition to human resource (time, effort and skills; in-house or outsourced). There’s no way out of it: You have to pay for services such as reliable web hosting, flexible email marketing tools and postage. And if you want to design a high-impact website, analyze targeted email marketing or implement successful fundraising campaigns, there’s a price tag associated with doing that well.

All too frequently the barrier to a sufficient budget is that your colleagues (staff and leadership) don’t understand what communications really is, what it can accomplish and what it takes to do it really well. I recommend you guide them to that understanding by sharing your marketing plan (talking through it is far more effective than simply circulating the document) and making that clear connection between goals and budget in a one-page spreadsheet.

When you do, you’ll find that budgeting is a completely different way of looking at your marketing work, serving as both a clear framework for your decision-making on wants vs. “nice-to-haves” and a powerful tool for getting the marketing dollars you need to meet agreed-upon goals.

Nonprofit Marketing Budgets: Part One

What’s the barrier to getting the budget you need to achieve approved marketing goals?