8 Ways to Craft a Communications RFP Process that Works

As the founder of a 15-year-old marketing firm serving nonprofits and foundations, I’ve probably reviewed over 600 RFPs in my time, all from nonprofits and foundations seeking communications services. And I can tell you, no more than 100 of them were designed well enough to motivate specific and thorough responses from top contenders.

Accuracy, of course, is key. Because if your nonprofit’s RFP doesn’t cover everything you’re looking for, in the way you want it delivered, your organization won’t get what it needs. Trash in, trash out as they say. So put some time and effort into the RFP process.

Here are some guidelines for implementing a RFP process that will motivate high-quality service providers to respond eagerly, thoroughly and accurately:

1. Be realistic…

In the work you’re asking for in a particular timeframe, within a specific budget. If you don’t know what it takes (time- or $-wise), ask colleagues in peer organizations.

2. Be thorough…

In what you include, and format the proposal with care so it’s easy for the recipient to scan and review.

Put the effort into making the proposal easy to digest, just as you would your brochures or website.

3. Cover these areas:

Organizational background (brief), project description, why you’re implementing this project now, goals and objectives, challenges (if you know them), deliverables, timeframe, who to contact with questions.

4. Know what you’re looking for.

Your organization can select the right expert(s) only if you know what you want — personality, skills, style and experience-wise. Don’t use the proposal process to try to figure out what you want. That will backfire, big time.

I recently received an RFP from an organization sending it out for a second round to four communications firms this time (it was released to six firms first time out). When I asked what was missing from the initial set of six proposals, the prospect said she didn’t really know, but that none of the proposals had “hit it on the head.” When I asked what the head was (i.e. what they are looking for, what does the staff team think it takes to make this process work), she couldn’t answer. Believe me, they won’t find the right firm until they do know what they’re looking for.

5. Ask recipients to let you know within a day or two whether they’ll be responding or not.

That way you can send the RFP out to additional marketers if you need to.

6. Give bidders two weeks to respond.

Crafting a proposal is extremely labor intensive if it’s done right. Give firms the opportunity to do it right.

7. Be prepared to answer these questions:

  • How many firms/individuals will be submitting proposals?

I never jump in if a prospect is expecting more than five proposals. That says to me that they are fishing for ideas or may not know what they want until they see it (or not) in a proposal. If that’s the case, I know that we don’t have a good chance of getting the work.

  • What’s your budget range?

Some  prospects are reluctant to  share this information, thinking that the bidders will just mark up the work to that level. Most of the time, believe me, the budget isn’t enough, and knowing the range enables us to define what we can provide for that fee.

  • What are your criteria for selecting a consultant or firm?

I like to know what’s most important to a prospective client, and also get a sense of the culture of the organization. A good fit is crucial.

  • How did you hear about me/us?

It’s the kiss of death if the prospective client tells me she doesn’t remember. Finding me on the Web is a sign that I have to probe more, to ensure she has done her research thoroughly and her findings (on experience, focus, perspective) match her needs.

  • Who is your point person on this project?

It’s difficult to succeed in bringing a project to life when there’s not a single point person. Your point person should run much of the review and approval processes inside your organization; synthesizing (solo or via a group process) what are bound to be divergent opinions.

8. Be aware of the firm or consultant who submits a proposal without asking questions.

Doing so indicates a player who’s not serious about the job or not putting the required time into the proposal development process. The proposal you’ll receive from those who don’t contact you for more information is likely to be generic. Not a good sign!

I’m looking for a sense of connection, as well, when I call a prospect with questions. That’s a critical component of project success, and can’t be assessed until speak we speak few times, even if only by phone.

Readers, follow these guidelines and I promise you a much more successful communications RFP process, and product.

How to Create a Nonprofit Style Guide: 7 Steps to Greater Consistency and Impact

Here’s a problem nonprofit communicators like you share with me time and time again: Due to the ubiquitous nature of information and promotion, we’re all bombarded by content—every waking minute.

In the face of this flood, inconsistencies in your organization’s content—both editorial and graphic—make it difficult for your audiences to digest, at a glance, that these varied communications are all coming from your organization.


Here’s the problem with that: When you’re recognized, it’s much more likely your email or envelope will be opened, which is the only way it will be digested and acted upon.

Consistency Is the Long-Term Solution

Consistency – cross-channel and over time – is the key to your audiences absorbing your messages, and for them to be able to “whisper down the lane” – repeating those messages to friends and family. Keep in mind that this consistency must stay flexible, to be adapted when the channel, audience or other factor is radically different from the norm.

No other form of communication is as powerful as this natural network which exponentially extends your organization’s reach. And a style guide helps you make it happen.

A Style Guide Is Your Path to Consistency

An easy way to ensure clear and consistent communications is to create an editorial and visual identity style guide, made available organization-wide as an ever-accessible PDF.

Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to getting the word out. The standards featured in your style guide will make it easy for them to do so, reducing time spent, errors made and endless frustration.

A style guide also makes it unnecessary for you and your colleagues to re-invent the wheel each time, saving you a great deal of effort while increasing your marketing impact.

How to Create Your Organization’s Style Guide

Here is a step-by-step approach to putting together, or updating, your style guide.

  1. Review your communications by spreading a full range of them out in front of you, including pages printed out from your website, e-news, blog, Facebook page and online fundraising campaigns, as well as print materials.
  2. Jot down standards that work best for the editorial and graphic guidelines outlined below. Traditionally, style guides covered punctuation, spelling and other editorial guidelines. I suggest you expand this concept to include visual guidelines as well so you and your colleagues have a single point of reference to shape communications.
  3. Craft a usage policy, outlining who (partners, volunteers) can and should use your organization’s graphic identity elements and how.
  4. Get input on your draft from colleagues and external audiences if possible. These conversations are a key way to get insights from the folks who matter most (your audiences) and buy-in from your colleagues who you want to use the guide.
  5. Make it as brief as possible—ideally a max of 6 pages—so people can quickly find what they need.
  6. Feature the contact info for the Consistency Czar—the person on your team in charge of the style guide—so that your colleagues can easily ask questions. You’ll revise the style guide to include responses to frequently-asked questions, and revise existing content more clearly when you hear that colleagues don’t understand it.
  7. Launch it with a training session for your colleagues—See below.

Editorial Guidelines

The primary purpose of editorial guidelines is to address topics specific to your organization that are not adequately covered in the standard published style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Style book.

In addition, your style guide summarizes your organization’s approach to the most-frequently-raised questions of style, topics that are dealt with in greater detail in these manuals, in order to offer a quick, but more comprehensive, reference tool.

Questions of style, unlike many questions of grammar, usually do not have a right or wrong answer. Instead, establishing a preferred style is helpful so that your consistent presentation can be maintained throughout an array of materials that may be produced by many different individuals.

Having a set of predetermined guidelines will also save those individuals the time and energy required to develop their own guidelines.

Guidelines should include:

  • Your organization’s name (spelling, abbreviations or acronyms that work)
  • Names of your programs and services
  • Your address, phone number, emails, website and social channels (should you begin writing your url with “http://” or simply with “www”)
  • Your tagline
  • Your positioning statement: The two or three sentences that establish your position in the philanthropic world and how it should be included, as a whole, in most communications
  • Talking points for staff and board members: Key messages that briefly cover the who, what, when, where, and how of your group, and how they should be incorporated in most communications
  • Person, tone and voice
  • Word style preferences (preferred spelling and capitalization, e.g. web site vs. website, grant making vs. grantmaking)
  • Words not to use
  • The title of the published grammar style guide that your group uses: Share the title of the guide that your writers need to follow when deciding whether to insert that final comma or not, or selecting the right preposition to follow the word parallel (to or with). Most importantly, buy print or online copies for all who need to use it!

Review these top two published grammar style guides, talk to colleagues, and select one if you haven’t already (partner links):

Graphic Guidelines

Since the power of a strong visual identity can only be realized through consistent application, these standards are crucial for colleagues throughout your nonprofit to follow.

Elements should include:

  • Organizational and program logos: Sizing; colors; position on the page; what elements should be included when logo is used
  • Color Palette: Official colors and details on how those colors are to be used
  • Typeface (e.g. all newsletter headlines are in Times New Roman, Bold, 14 pt.).
  • Layouts, templates
  • Web, e-news and other online templates
  • Photo and image library.

Putting Your Style Guide to Work

Your next step is to distribute the guide and ensure that staff and consultants are clear on its content and how to use it.

An in-person training session is often an effective way to introduce the guide, answer any questions and ensure that your colleagues view it as an aid (fewer open issues, decisions, delays) to them, rather than a dictum imposed upon them.

Remember to refresh your guide on an ongoing basis as questions come up and preferences are determined.

Useful Models–Nonprofit Style Guides

You’ll see that these examples range from a one-pager, which might be enough for your organization, to Rutgers’ multi-page guide. The more complex your organization, programs and audiences, the more depth (and, unfortunately, length) you’ll need in your style guide.

Consider contacting your communications colleagues at these organizations to learn more about the development or implementation of these guides:

Does your organization have an editorial and/or visual standards guide? If so, please share the link and/or how the guide has helped (or not) here.

Communicating in the Shadow of Disaster – Practical Tips for Nonprofits

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when this most recent crisis of epic proportions—the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan—is rightly dominating our minds and conversations, as well as the media?

For a nonprofit, the answer lies in the way (if any) your organization is involved in the relief effort. The following guidelines derive from an analysis of news of, and fundraising for, recovery efforts around the Japanese earthquake and Pacific tsunami disasters.

For organizations providing disaster relief services in Japan

Make it clear why your organization is well-equipped to help. Be as specific as possible.

  • The Salvation Army, having worked in Japan since 1895, was well positioned to provide immediate rescue help and medical care before many other organizations could get going.The Salvation Army immediately crafted compelling messaging emphasizing the value of its long-established operations and relationships in Japan, and the breadth of its services: “The Salvation Army in Japan immediately dispersed teams following the disaster to the most severely affected areas where they are distributing basic necessities to survivors. These teams will also assess the damage to discern the next steps in their relief efforts.”

    “The Salvation Army has been at work in Japan since 1895, operating more than 80 centers there, including two hospitals and four childrens’ homes. We have nearly 200 officers, 3,000 members and nearly 1,000 employees already at work in the country. We are a part of Japan’s communities and dedicated to their recovery.

  • Save the Children’s appeal focuses on the unique role it provides in disaster relief—helping children and their parents deal with the trauma. The organization is creating “safe places” in Japan that provide the structure and routine children crave.I learned about this much-needed focus via a moving interview of a Save the Children staffer in Japan. He told a number of stories about the children and families he’s working with, which made a huge impression. Here’s one family’s story.
  • Mercy Corps stresses its close partnership with Japanese charity PeaceWinds to deliver emergency supplies. The partnership enabled MercyCorps to get the effort going within a few days, getting “tents, blankets, cooking fuel, tarps, rice and bread to families evacuated from homes in the tsunami-devastated city of Kesennuma. Your donation will be used to meet immediate and longer-term needs of earthquake survivors.”

Communicate broadly, clearly and visually (if possible) about how donations are managed, where they are going and what your organization’s relief effort is achieving.

That comes after thanking donors immediately (and often) and adding them to your donor database for follow-up. Donor behavior in giving to the Haitian earthquake relief effort showed that interest in the relief effort fades much more quickly than your organization’s need for support.

More immediately, you’ll need reliable, timely reporting out, even though you’re frequently working with technological and logistical constraints. This is the time to put social media tools, from Skype to Twitter, to work for all they’re worth. Communicating on disaster relief work is where these tools make a huge difference in sharing the focus and impact of your work on the ground in real time via podcast, photos and/or video.

  • The American Red Cross’ home page features the many ways it’s communicating to donors, prospects and others right on its home page. Channels include video, blog posts and press releases. Its report-out on aid and impact is outstanding, as it has been with previous relief efforts.
  • U.K. charity ShelterBox is documenting the progress it’s making in delivering its trademark shelters in a box via this blog, supplemented by photos that do a great job of telling the story. The posts are thorough and specific, a style that conveys the organization’s expertise and value and builds trust on the part of prospective donors and other supporters.In addition, Shelterbox is keeping its community up to date (and enabling them to spread the word) via its twitter feed.

Be thoughtful in your use of graphic photos of the disaster.

  • The press is working for you by publicizing shocking photos of the disaster (not to mention the videos floating around YouTube, and the tens of thousands of photos on Flickr).
  • Some journalists argue that graphic photos (such as those of dead children) are too much. Others assert that the seriousness of disasters like this one necessitates the use of photos to convey the gravity of the situations, especially to a jaded U.S. audience in the midst of an economic downturn.

Follow-up to transition disaster donors into loyal donors.

  • Giselle Holloway, IRC’s Director of Direct Response, reminds us that “a person doesn’t truly become a donor until they make their second gift. When donors join your organization through an emergency, you need to start cultivating them immediately so you can retain them after the crisis is over. Send them an e-mail or letter that thanks them for their support, welcomes them to your organization and educates them about your broader mission. You also might want to make welcome phone calls to new donors at higher giving levels or try to convert them to monthly giving. And don’t forget to send all your new donors updates on a regular basis that show how their gift is making a difference.”

For organizations fundraising for relief efforts, but not directly providing help

Be proactive and specific in conveying the process for distributing donations and where/how/when the money will be spent.

  • Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) launched a Japan Earthquake Relief Fund to solicit donations for nonsectarian earthquake relief efforts, carried out through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a 94-year-old humanitarian aid organization that works in over 60 countries worldwide. JDC is “partnering with the Japanese Jewish community to provide funding to a local NGO for emergency needs including food, water, and shelter in the disaster region. JDC acquired substantial expertise in earthquake and tsunami-related response in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Maldives, and India following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.”

Explain why your organization has chosen to get involved as a pass through for donations.

  • This role, which is probably an unusual one for your organization, has the potential to confuse your established audiences. Help them understand what you are doing, and why.
  • JFNA does a great job of explaining why it’s getting involved in raising money for relief work. Several reasons are cited including its ability to reach out to its national network of regional Federations to encourage them to raise money for JDC’s relief work (a fundraising machine, already in place).

For other nonprofits continuing with fundraising and communications outreach

Be sensitive to inappropriate pitches.

  • You may actually go as far as to acknowledge the magnitude of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disasters, and the contributions your donors and prospects are likely to have made. In doing so, you craft the opportunity to talk about your issues (the environment, shelter and health are directly related) and/or service recipients and the fact that these needs persist in the face of these tragedies.Fundraiser Jeff Brooks characterizes disaster giving as “above-and-beyond giving,” and cautions, “There’s no need to take away from the need in [Japan]. Relief giving is not taking gifts away from you.”
  • Remember that your audiences have been immersed, whether they have wanted to be or not, in disaster coverage.

Relate your work to relief work when relevant—but don’t overstate.

  • Make sure you don’t overstate a connection between your organization, services or programs and the disaster.
  • At the same time, acknowledge the earthquake. Pretending the disaster didn’t happen is the worst mistake your organization can make. And homelessness is homelessness, be it among survivors in Sendai or Philadelphians living in poverty.

Continue with your planned communications and fundraising campaigns.

  • Don’t get nervous and pull the plug on carefully designed plans. Yep, many journalists are focused on the Japanese relief effort and other front-page news. But if you have a timely pitch, make it.
  • However, if you are planning a once-a-year bash or fundraising campaign and it coincides with the week of a disaster, consider delaying it. Otherwise, move full steam ahead.

Plan to communicate even more effectively around the next crisis.

  • If your organization isn’t focused on relief, or passing through contributions, it’s likely that you’ll be on the sidelines next time round.
  • While this experience is still fresh, sketch out a one-page plan of what you’ll do next time round. This approach will help you avoid panic at that point, and stay as productive as possible with marketing and fundraising communications.

I recommend you continue to track how these organizations, and others, are communicating on their relief efforts or in the shadow of the disaster in Japan. There’s lots to learn about how your organization can improve its outreach, in times of disaster or, better yet, days of calm.

6 Steps to Showcasing Your Marketing ROI

I was really jolted by this Ask Nancy query I recently received. Jessica (names have been changed to protect the innocent) asks for help with the most challenging (and most critical) step in nonprofit marketing — getting the support of decision makers and colleagues for doing it right.

Q: Help — We’re losing ground past and we need professional marketing help. How do I get the budget and support to get it?
My organization has been in existence since the 1960s, longer than any other environmental group in the state. But, like many nonprofits, we’ve never been good at marketing ourselves, and therefore don’t have the membership base we need. As a result, we’re beginning to lose our historical advantage.
We clearly need professional marketing help. I’m an implementer, but I’d be far more effective working with a marketing expert who has analyzed our challenges and designed a strategy for me to implement. While leadership recognizes our need for professional marketing help, they are not moving forward in that
direction. Help!
Jessica, Outreach Manager, State Natural Resources Council

Believe me, lack of support isn’t uncommon, especially now when tensions are high and budgets low. Many nonprofit professionals either don’t understand or doubt the value (or, in some cases, the seemliness) of marketing. Others see value in marketing but are in the “just do it” camp, not understanding that professionalism is as essential here as in other fields. It is these organizations that are frequently eclipsed by competitors in membership, fundraising and awareness. As a result, their impact is significantly limited.

Build support for marketing in your org by learning how to showcase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Read my guide to building support for doing marketing right today.

Flickr Photo: William Hartz

Learn about what makes Google Ad Grant confusing and 5 tips to optimize your account.

Why Are Google Ad Grants Confusing? And How to Simplify Them

Google Ad Grants are an asset to any nonprofit’s budget. While many organizations see the value of the program, some are turned away from applying simply because they find Google Ad Grants confusing.

If you’re unfamiliar with the program, it provides eligible nonprofits with $10,000 per month to spend on ads. Nonprofits can receive these funds in perpetuity, until they are no longer eligible.

While applying for Google Ad Grants will naturally provide many benefits to your nonprofit, the steps necessary for confirming your eligibility, getting approved, and then developing your ad campaigns are not always clear. A lack of familiarity with proper account management can result in losing the grant or missing advertising opportunities. But gaining a deeper knowledge of the program and its requirements will eliminate any Google Ad Grants confusion and make your experience go much smoother.

We’re here to clear up any questions surrounding Google Ad Grants to make sure you can take full advantage of your account. To simplify Google Ad Grants for your nonprofit, we’ll cover the following topics:

Here at Getting Attention, we provide professional Google Ad Grant support in hopes of helping nonprofits take advantage of this valuable opportunity. Our goal is to eliminate any confusion surrounding Google Ad Grants, so you can create successful ad campaigns that connect you with committed supporters.

If you’re ready to eliminate any Google Ad Grants confusion, keep reading!

If you're confused about Google Ad Grants, set up a free consultation with our experts.

These are the common reasons why Google Ad Grants are confusing.

Why Are Google Ad Grants Confusing?

If you feel mystified by Google Ad Grants, you’re not alone. Many nonprofit professionals have trouble with their Google Ad Grants accounts, and this can lead to missed opportunities. Some of the most common roadblocks you may face are:

  • Confusion about how to apply
  • Uncertainty around your eligibility for the program
  • Limited experience running paid search ads
  • Unfamiliarity with account compliance requirements

These are the common reasons why Google Ad Grants are confusing to nonprofits.

First, receiving a Google Ad Grant requires that you undergo a lengthy application process, which is something that we’ll cover more in-depth later on. This process involves multiple steps, such as getting verified by TechSoup and registering for a Google for Nonprofits account. With so many steps, there’s room for error and confusion in the process.

Any errors may lead to your nonprofit’s rejection without a clear understanding of why. Before the application process, you may not be sure what preparations you need to take, like confirming your status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or ensuring your website is up to par.

Beyond the application, maintaining a well-functioning Google Ad Grants account is often difficult for busy nonprofit professionals. A limited understanding of how to run high-performing ads or a lack of quality ad content can result in inefficient management of the grant. In turn, mismanaging your Google Ad Grants account can result in account suspension due to not complying with the program’s policies.

All of that said, managing marketing grants for nonprofits like the Google Ad Grant doesn’t have to be confusing. Learning more about the Google Ad Grant program can prevent potential challenges down the line.

Let's answer common questions nonprofits have to make Google Ad Grants less confusing.

FAQs to Help Clear Up Any Google Ad Grants Confusion

No matter if you’re just getting started with the program or already have your first campaign set up, you might have some lingering questions. Anyone who’s participated in the program has needed help at some point. Let’s answer and clear up anything that might be making Google Ad Grants confusing for your team.

How do I effectively use Google Ad Grants?

While there’s a lot of flexibility with the Google Ad Grant program, there is proper account management protocol you should follow to ensure your grant is put to good use. Effective Google Ad Grant management consists of:

  • Choosing the right keywords that will connect you with qualified users searching for causes like yours.
  • Developing effective ad copy and writing 3-5 compelling ads per ad group that are relevant to the keywords for that group.
  • Tracking your analytics to determine how well your ad campaigns are performing and what can be improved.
  • Using ad extensions to promote additional pages on your site under your ads.
  • Conducting A/B tests to determine the specific elements that drive users to click through.
  • Choosing the appropriate landing pages to promote and optimizing them to drive users to take the desired action.

These are the essential elements of effective Google Ad Grant management.

If you find any aspect of account management confusing, you might hire a professional to provide you with tailored Google Ad Grant help.

How much are Google Ad Grants worth?

Theoretically, they’re worth $10,000 per month, which averages out to $329 per day. You won’t receive the grant in cash, but instead, you’ll receive it in the form of Google Ad credits.

Plus, if your nonprofit uses Google Ad Grants to promote your fundraising initiatives, that will make the Google Ad Grant worth even more as donations start to roll in. In other words, not only will the program add free marketing money to your budget, but you’ll also connect with new donors who will provide you with even more funding!

How long does it take to get approved for Google Ad Grants?

Depending on where you are in the process of applying, getting approved for Google Ad Grants may take several weeks. The application process requires you to do the following:

The intricate application process can make Google Ad Grants confusing.

  1. Register your nonprofit with TechSoup. TechSoup partners with for-profit corporations (like Google) to provide nonprofits with free and discounted software. To apply for Google Ad Grants, you must first set up your TechSoup account. Validation can take up to 30 days.
  2. Create a Google for Nonprofits account. Once you receive your validation token from TechSoup, you need to apply for Google for Nonprofits. You must agree to non-discrimination statements and provide contact and organization information. After you fill out all the required details, Google will typically approve your application within a few business days.
  3. Apply for Google Ad Grants. Once your Google for Nonprofits account is approved, you can finally apply for Google Ad Grants. Within your account, you’ll need to fill out an eligibility form, which takes around 20 minutes. Google will get back to you within a few business days, letting you know if you have been granted eligibility or need to make any adjustments to be approved.

From here, you can create your Google Ads account and set up your first campaign. We recommend that you start the application process as early as possible. If the Google Ad Grants application process seems confusing to you, our team of experts is here to help!

Can I have an Ad Grants account and a paid Google Ads account at the same time?

Yes, Google actually encourages nonprofits to create a paid Google Ads account if the program is positively benefiting the organization! Standard, paid accounts are a proven way to expand your impact and gain access to paid features, such as:

  • Remarketing – This feature allows you to customize your display ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site.
  • Image Ads – This enables you to feature ads with static and animated images on webpages in Google’s Display Network.
  • Video Ads – This is a feature that allows you to create video ads to display on YouTube and across video partner sites.

Creating a paid Google Ads account won’t impact your Google Grant account either. Your accounts won’t compete with one another since Ad Grants ads will already appear below paid ads on the search results pages. Your Google Grant ad will be eligible to show if there’s available space, regardless of whether a paid ad is already showing.

Do I have to spend the $10,000 every month to keep my Google Ad Grant?

No, there are no rules regarding how much you have to spend each month to maintain your eligibility. In fact, most nonprofits don’t spend the full $10,000 every month.

The ultimate goal is to drive meaningful outcomes for your mission, not spend as much money as possible.

That’s also why Google created its compliance requirements. They want to ensure nonprofits aren’t spamming search results with irrelevant content and are instead putting thought behind each grant dollar they spend.

Why does Google have a policy regarding click-through rate (CTR)?

Google requires any grantees to maintain a 5% CTR every month. They use this as an indicator of ad quality since it lets them know whether users find the ads relevant to their search query.

While Google Analytics will automatically calculate your CTR for you, you can do so yourself by dividing the number of people who click through to your landing page by the number of impressions (i.e. how many people see your ad). So, if your ad is shown to 100 people and 5 people click the link to your website, your CTR will be 5%.

Part of what makes Google Ad Grants confusing is maintaining a high CTR, which can be calculated using this formula.

Google recognizes that it takes time to get your account up to speed and understand what drives users to click an ad. That’s why new accounts have a grace period of 90 days to comply with the policy.

These 5 marketing challenges make Google Ad Grants confusing.

5 Google Ad Grants Marketing Challenges That Cause Confusion

Google Ad Grants are incredibly beneficial to nonprofits, but they can bring about some unique marketing challenges. You may not have extensive experience in paid advertisement management— if that’s the case, you’re not alone! Let’s walk through 5 common challenges that nonprofits face that often make Google Ad Grants confusing to them.

1. Failing to abide by Google Ad Grants guidelines

Unfortunately, many nonprofits fall victim to the Google Ad Grants guidelines. Google created these compliance rules regarding keyword usage, quotas, and other requirements. Failing to follow these guidelines can result in a temporary suspension of your account or loss of the Google Ad Grant.

For the most part, these guidelines are simple and easy to follow. Nonprofits may be unaware of these rules, fall behind on quotas, or experience confusion around what they mean. Because these rules are fundamental to how Google permits spending the grant, you should keep a close eye on whether your site is keeping up.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick breakdown of Google’s guidelines:

  • Avoid single-word keywords. Don’t use single keywords that are not included on this list of approved exceptions. The keywords you choose should relate to your nonprofit specifically rather than being generic or broad.
  • Choose keywords with a minimum keyword quality score of 3. Google grades keywords for quality on a 10-point scale. Each score is based on the expected clickthrough rate, how closely your ad matches the user’s search intent, and the landing page experience. Ensure that your keywords maintain a score of at least 3.
  • Maintain a minimum click-through rate of 5% for your account. Your account must receive a clickthrough rate of at least 5% for all ads. In short, this metric means that at least 5% of those who view your ads click through to your website.
  • Use at least 2 ad groups per campaign. For each active ad campaign on your account, you must have at least two ad groups. Within these ad groups, you must feature at least 2 ads.
  • Use at least 2 sitelink ad extensions. Sitelink ad extensions enable you to link specific pages related to your ad below your main landing page. You should include at least two of these.

The sitelinks feature also tends to make Google Ad Grants confusing for newer search engine marketers.

Now that you are aware of the guidelines, it should be easy to follow them. While these rules are extremely important for remaining compliant, they’re also meant to maximize your ad performance. Many of these rules can double as tips that can improve your ad campaigns.

2. Neglecting your website’s landing pages

Being accepted into the Google Ad Grants program deserves excitement and celebration. But, it’s important to fortify your web presence before doing so. This will give your ads the best chance of success. Down the line, you won’t run into any confusion as to why your Google Ad Grant campaigns are underperforming, too.

Don’t fall behind and neglect your website — the ads you purchase using the grant send visitors to your site, but your landing pages are what seal the deal!

Each ad you run will direct users to a landing page on your website, through which they’ll be able to complete a desired action. This could be registering for an event, joining your volunteer program, or making an online donation. If your web pages are outdated or have unclear calls to action, your supporters won’t know what to do once they follow an ad and land on the page.

Looking to learn more about other crucial elements of your marketing plan? Check out our complete guide to nonprofit marketing.

3. Targeting broad, generic keywords

You may think targeting broad keywords like “donation” or “fundraiser” is a no-brainer. However, targeting short, generic keywords can bring about challenges for your nonprofit.

Keywords like “fundraising event” are very vague and often have many bidders. Google’s algorithm is not particularly conducive to smaller organizations winning these highly competitive terms. Therefore, it’s unlikely that your nonprofit will be able to edge out large organizations that are bidding on the same words, which means there is a lower likelihood your supporters will be able to see your ads.

In addition to competing with large organizations for these broad keywords, Google bans targeting single-word keywords. Not only can generic keywords lessen the effectiveness of your marketing, but they can also result in suspension from the Google Ad Grants program.

If you’re struggling to pick the right keywords for your cause, consider seeking professional Google Ad Grant help from an agency (like Getting Attention). We’ll clear up anything that makes Google Ad Grants confusing for your team, including keyword research!

4. Only running a single ad per group

Following the appropriate account structure is often where most Google Ad Grants confusion stems. Before explaining relevant account requirements, know that each Google Ads account is broken down into campaigns. Each campaign contains different ad groups that are assigned to specific keywords. Then, each ad group is made up of multiple ads that include your ad copy, link to a relevant landing page, and target those keywords.

To help make Google Ad Grants less confusing, here's the structure your account should follow.

Google requires that all grantees:

  • Have at least two ad groups for every campaign
  • Include at least two active ads in every campaign

Running only one ad violates Google’s policies and could put your account at risk. According to Google Ad Grant guidelines, you should have at least two ads running at all times. The consequences of noncompliance can result in suspension from the program.

Another problem with running a single ad is the lost potential to grow and develop your ad strategies. Running one ad doesn’t allow your nonprofit to track and evaluate performance. Further, it can be hard to improve if you have no way to note how and why ads perform differently.

Single ads can only reach so many people. With fewer touchpoints, there is a lower likelihood that you will reach the right people who are willing to support your organization. Don’t limit your organization’s reach with only one ad.

5. Creating unclear calls to action

Calls to action are an important element of nonprofit marketing, both in your ad copy and on your website. Lack of clarity can easily derail their success and leave supporters feeling confused.

When you create a call to action, be specific. Ensure that what you say in your ad aligns with what you want viewers to do. For example, an ad encouraging viewers to “donate here!” but also directs to a page about your upcoming events will not garner the success you are hoping for. Instead, this creates a bad user experience and leaves potential supporters feeling confused and frustrated.

Take the time to be clear and consistent with your calls to action.

These suggestions will clear up your Google Ad Grants confusion and better manage your account.

5 Ways to Improve Your Google Ad Grants Management

We discussed the challenges of leveraging the program, but there are plenty of things you can do to overcome those and step up your marketing efforts. Understanding proper account management best practices is a great place to start and will make Google Ad Grants less confusing overall, so let’s review our top 5 tips that will transform your advertising efforts.

1. Prioritize creating valuable and promotable webpages.

For a webpage to be useful within the Google Ad Grants program, it should be both valuable and promotable.

There are a few steps you can take to make each of your landing pages effective before you implement ads that promote them:

Use this checklist to optimize your landing pages and eliminate any Google Ad Grants confusion regarding page optimization.

  • Center it around a topic that receives a high search volume. Topics that receive a high search volume are more likely to receive clicks than those that are extremely narrow and focused. Highlight these popular topics on your webpage to engage supporters.
  • Limit to a single focus for each page. Avoid including several topics on one page. Narrowing each page on your website to a single focus will make it easier to create ads that target them.
  • Feature rich content. Including different media formats on a page of your website is much more engaging than just a few sentences of text. Try to engage site visitors with images, videos, animation, and more. But, ensure all multimedia elements have an accessible version— such as alternative text— so all viewers can engage equally.
  • Highlight a clear call to action. This tip is worth reiterating. Be consistent and clear with calls to action. Clearly label any direct action you’d like the supporter to take, and link them to the page on which to do so. Or better yet, embed the sign-up form (whether an online donation form, volunteer sign-up, or even event registration) directly on your landing page.
  • Make your site accessible to all visitors. Make sure that your web pages are accessible on both desktop and mobile formats, including both mobile phones and tablets.

A valuable landing page is a must-have to ensure high conversion rates from your ads. These five suggestions help nonprofits reap the many benefits associated with an optimized website.

Otherwise, failing to optimize your landing pages may lead to confusion down the line when you’re experiencing low conversion rates.

2. Familiarize yourself with Google Ad Grant compliance.

Becoming eligible for the program is the easiest part of the process. Staying eligible is a little more difficult. You must follow the Google Ad Grant policies if you want to maintain your grant status (and you do want to maintain eligibility).

We broke down some of these policies above, but you should continue to check in with them in case they change. Thoroughly understanding these rules and what they mean will keep you on track to succeed.

Knowing these policies well will make account management much simpler. Think of the rules as tips. Not only does following them uphold your Google Ad Grants account status, but it also benefits your ad performance. Keep these rules in mind as you continue to develop your Google Ad Grant management strategy to ensure the best results.

If you find the rules for Google Ad Grants confusing or hard to keep up with, consider reaching out for professional help. Hiring a Google Grants agency means you can maintain compliance without ever fully understanding the guidelines. Plus, they’ll be willing to translate any terminology you’re unfamiliar with from the guidelines.

3. Use Google Analytics for tracking your CTR and conversions.

Not only is it required, but tracking your nonprofit’s data is also a helpful way to understand how effective your ads are.

To get started, make sure you’re tracking your conversions and CTR within Analytics to ensure you meet the minimum monthly threshold. From there, you can begin to set goals for the individual actions you want people to take, like making a donation or registering with their email. These steps can help you see which ads best accomplish meaningful conversions.

The Google Ad Grants program requires a 5% CTR and at least one conversion each month. Not only are these thresholds necessary for maintaining grant compliance, but if your CTR or conversions fall below this, that means your ads are underperforming and not generating value for your cause. 

For instance, a low conversion rate or CTR might mean:

  • You’re targeting the wrong keywords and are putting content in front of unqualified prospects.
  • You’re pointing users to content that doesn’t match what they’re searching for.
  • Your landing pages aren’t optimized to maximize the user experience.

Even if your conversion rate or CTR is high, Google asks that you confirm that they’re actually meaningful clicks and conversions. When setting goals and tracking conversions, make sure you’re looking at actions that are valuable to your work. Google wants nonprofits to pay attention to actions that are important to them. What those are might change depending on your organization’s mission. For instance, organizations’ goals might relate to donations, petition signatures, event signups, volunteer registrations, email newsletter signups, or something else.

4. Make the most of your Google Ad Grant allowance.

You put in the work of applying and maintaining your Google Ad Grants account status. Now that you have an advertising allowance, what is the best way to make the most of it?

Here are some tips for managing your funds:

  • Run multiple ad campaigns. Use around 3 – 5 ad campaigns, each with tightly-focused ad groups. This is a great way to center ads around a few key concepts that you want to advertise.
  • Use at least 3 ads in each group. Using this approach, you should have at least one RSA, or Responsive Search Ad. These ads allow you to input several different headlines and descriptions which will change based on Google’s algorithm. Ads will then be more tailored to individual viewers.
  • Make use of the full character limit. Taking advantage of the entire character limit for headlines and ad descriptions will make your ad appear larger to viewers.

Using $10,000 per month can be a challenge, especially when you want to make the most of it. These tips are a great place to start when you are budgeting your Google Ad Grant.

5. Use geotargeting to hone your outreach.

If you’re a community-based organization or generally want to reach a local audience, geotargeting is an incredibly helpful feature you can leverage when creating your ads.

Geotargeting allows you to show ads only in locations where users will find the information you share and the services you offer useful.

A few examples of effective times to enable geotargeting include:

  • You have an upcoming event that doesn’t have a virtual participation option and want to promote it to nearby supporters.
  • You provide services to a local audience and want to make sure your beneficiaries encounter those ads. Examples include food banks and homeless shelters.
  • You’re located in the U.S. but most of your donors are located in France, in which case you’d promote fundraising ads in France.
  • Your organization has different chapters located across the country or globe. You’d want to separate campaigns into different geographic areas to ensure users in different locations receive ads for services closest to them.

Geotargeting is a feature that can make managing Google Ad Grants confusing for inexperienced marketers.

Unique features like this can make Google Ad Grants confusing to nonprofits, but they’re actually easy to understand once you start to use them!

If you still find Google Ad Grants confusing, consider hiring a professional agency.

Seeking Professional Google Ad Grant Help

Working with an agency can make applying for, managing, and maintaining your Google Ad Grants account a more straightforward, manageable process. There’s no room for any confusion when you have expert Google Ad Grant help just a phone call or email away.

Even if you don’t find Google Ad Grants confusing, you might not be able to invest as much time as you need to into properly managing your account and its campaigns.

Getting Attention is a Google Grants agency that’s ready to help with all of your Google Ad Grant needs, big or small. No matter where you are in the process, you can take advantage of Getting Attention’s full range of services, including:

These are the professional services that will eliminate any Google Ad Grants confusion.

  • Google Grant Application: We’ll make sure your nonprofit is accepted into the program the first time around. From helping you get registered for Techsoup to filling out the Google Ad Grants application form, we’ll handle the entire application process.
  • Google Grant Hygiene: Cleaning data and eliminating irrelevant, unnecessary data can be difficult to manage independently. We can help you maintain a clean, strong database so unnecessary data won’t slow anything down.
  • Google Ad Grant Management: From keyword research to metric tracking, managing your campaigns can be challenging. Our team will help you decide which conversions you should be tracking, pick the best keywords that will help you reach your goals, and make sure you have high-performing ad campaigns.

No matter what’s making Google Ad Grants confusing for you, we’re here to streamline every step of the process. We’ll work with you to make sure we fully understand your organization’s brand and goals.

Think you might benefit from our expert Google Ad Grant help? Get a free consultation, and we can chat about all of your Google Grants needs!

Continue learning about what makes Google Ad Grants confusing to strengthen your strategies.

Resources to Help Make Google Ad Grants Less Confusing

The Google Ad Grant is a great option for many nonprofits. While it could be a game-changer for your nonprofit, joining the program can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Don’t let any intimidation stop you from experiencing the benefits of the program!

Our top recommendation is to reach out to an experienced agency, like Getting Attention. However, we also have plenty of helpful resources to boost your knowledge of Google Ad Grants. Check out these articles to continue researching:

For professional assistance, get a free consultation with Getting Attention and let us clear up your Google Ad Grants confusion.