Whether supporters find out about your nonprofit and its cause through social media, your website, or flyers, it’s all thanks to the power of marketing. With a strong marketing strategy, you can communicate to the general public what issue your nonprofit is working to resolve and how people can get involved.
Of course, having a sophisticated marketing strategy is often easier said than done. The term “marketing” itself probably makes you picture late nights spent planning out social media content, busy days writing blog posts, and hundreds of dollars poured into printing posters, flyers, and mailers.
But what if we told you that there was a digital marketing tool your nonprofit could tap into for free? One that has driven over 14 billion clicks worldwide to over 65,000 nonprofits’ websites?
We’re talking about the Google Ad Grant, a program that can empower you to capture new supporters’ attention online without paying a dime. Let’s dive into how your nonprofit can get started with this marketing tool!
A Quick Overview of the Google Ad Grant
So, what exactly is the Google Ad Grant?
The Google Ad Grant allows your nonprofit to tap into the power of Google Ads for free. You’ve likely seen a Google Ad before—search something like “dog sitter” and you’ll see a number of Google results pop up at the top of the search engine results page that are labeled “Sponsored.”
These are Google Ads, which companies pay for to get more visibility for their products and services. The Google Ad Grant lets you do the same—for free.
Here’s how it works. According to Getting Attention’s complete guide to the Google Ad Grant, select charitable organizations can apply for the grant, which gives organizations $10,000 in monthly Google Ad credits. And this isn’t a one-time grant—as long as the organizations comply with the program rules, the grant automatically renews every month.
So, if you want your nonprofit’s website to be visible for search terms related to your cause, like “beach clean up” or “animal shelter volunteering,” the Google Ad Grant can help you stand out.
On top of helping you reach more people, using the Google Ad Grant also comes with other benefits, like:
- Increased donations and support. While the Google Ad Grant is primarily a marketing tool, you can use it to promote things like your donation page, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events. Thus, the Ad Grant can help you get more people clicking on these important action pages and doing something to move your mission forward.
- No competition for the funding. While your nonprofit will have to meet certain requirements to be eligible for the Google Ad Grant, there are no limits to how many organizations can take advantage of the opportunity. This means once you ensure you’re eligible and apply, the grant is yours!
- Data into supporters’ online behavior. To get the most out of the Google Ad Grant program, you’ll be using a tool like Google Analytics to monitor your website visitors’ behavior. As a result, you’ll understand what does and does not encourage them to take action on behalf of your cause. This means you can improve your Ad strategy and also gather a wealth of insights to work with to optimize your website and other aspects of your online presence!
To take full advantage of all the Google Ad Grant program has to offer, your nonprofit needs to get a strong start to its Ads strategy. Let’s look at the three major steps you need to get up and running with the Ad Grant.
1. Meet the eligibility requirements.
To be eligible for the Google Ad Grant, your nonprofit must meet several requirements:
- Have a current and valid charity status. In the United States, this means having a current 501(c)(3) status. Also, note that the Google Ad Grant is not for governmental entities, healthcare organizations, or academic institutions (although the fundraising arm of an academic institution is eligible).
- Agree to the terms and conditions of the program. You’ll need to agree to comply with how Google expects your nonprofit to receive and use any donations received as a result of the grant. You’ll also need to agree to the terms of service for Google for Nonprofits and Google Ads.
- Have a functioning website with high-quality content. To ensure your website is Ad Grant-ready, you should have your own domain, plenty of high-quality, user-friendly content, and a description of your organization’s specific mission and work.
- Have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate on your website. The SSL certificate ensures there is security between a web server and a browser. If your website’s address starts with https, you already have an SSL certificate. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to get one. Check out this helpful resource from Google to get started.
As you assess your organization’s Google Ad Grant eligibility, you may find that your website could use some fine-tuning before you apply for the program. Apply these best practices to ensure that your website is the best that it can be:
- Get inspired by roundups of high-quality nonprofit websites, like Morweb’s full guide to the best nonprofit websites
- Streamline your site’s navigation by creating a simple menu that links to your most important pages, generating calls-to-action (CTAs) that point to action pages, and adding internal links to guide users to your top resources
- Optimize your “About Us” page so that it clearly communicates your organization’s mission, values, and vision for a better future
- Focus on your action pages, like your donation form or event registration form, ensuring they’re primed to convert visitors that land on them
- Ensure the site is optimized for mobile devices, meaning the site should resize to fit any screen size
- Make the site accessible to people of all abilities by adding alt text to images, ensuring your text and background colors have a high color contrast, and embedding an accessibility widget
Of course, you’ll continue to improve your website even as you start running Google Ads. But putting in a little extra effort now will help you start seeing results faster once you begin!
2. Apply for the program.
Once you know that your nonprofit is meeting all of the eligibility requirements, it’s time to apply for the Google Ad Grant program. Here’s how the process will work:
- You register your nonprofit with TechSoup. TechSoup partners with Google to provide technology and other resources to nonprofit organizations. Join TechSoup by signing up for an account on their website. After your organization is verified by TechSoup, you’ll receive a validation token to provide to Google.
- You enroll in Google for Nonprofits. To enroll, provide your tax ID number, contact information, and the validation token received from TechSoup. Once you’re enrolled, you’ll also be able to tap into other Google tools besides the Ad Grant, like Google Workspace and the YouTube Nonprofit Program.
- You submit your application. Once your Google for Nonprofits account is approved, you’re ready to apply for the Ad Grant. To submit the application, go to Google for Nonprofits, click on “Products,” and then “Get Started.” You’ll fill out the eligibility form and then select “Activate” to submit the application.
- Google approves your account and sends further instructions. After a few business days, you’ll get an email from Google. Accept the invitation and the billing profile in the email. From there, your Google Ad journey can begin!
To begin leveraging the Ad Grant, set up an ad campaign.
First, conduct thorough keyword research for your campaigns that have decent traffic and are relevant to your mission. Next, follow the required account structure: For each campaign, you should have at least two ad groups. (An ad group contains one or more ads with similar targets.) Within those ad groups, you should have at least two active ads. Finally, enable sitelink extensions so you can link to specific parts of your website below your ads.
3. Manage and maintain your account.
Remember, the Google Ad Grant isn’t a one-off grant—it will renew every month if you properly manage and maintain your account! Ensure you maintain your eligibility (as discussed above) and follow these requirements so you can keep running your Ads:
- Follow the keyword rules. Don’t use single-world keywords or keywords that are too generic. You must also ensure your keywords have a Quality Score higher than one or two.
- Comply with the Ad rules. You should have at least one responsive search ad per group and have at least two sitelink ad extensions.
- Ensure you’re getting clicks on your ads. Specifically, Google requires that you maintain at least a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month. Google also asks that you track these conversions through Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
- Respond to Google’s annual survey. Google will send your organization a survey each year to get feedback on the Ad Grant program. Make sure you fill it out—not only is it required to continue receiving Ad credits, but it will also ensure that Google can make useful updates to the program.
On top of proactively staying in line with these requirements, check the Ad Grants Compliance Guide often. This is the most up-to-date resource that you can reference to manage and maintain your account.
Bonus: Work with a Google Ad Grants agency.
Managing your Google Ad Grant (in a way that gets you real results) is essentially a full-time job. As a result, it’s often put on the back burner or farmed out to team members who already have plenty of responsibilities on their plates.
This is why many nonprofits opt to work with a Google Ad Grants agency. Google Ad Grants experts can take over the heavy lifting for your team and offer services like:
- Helping you apply for the Google Ad Grant and providing recommendations if your organization is rejected
- Conducting thorough keyword and competitor research
- Creating an ad strategy to grow awareness of your mission and bring in new support
- Setting up campaigns and keeping them organized
- Creating ad assets (text, headlines, ad extensions, and images)
- Managing your $10,000 Ads credit budget
Of course, working with a Google Ad Grants agency is an investment. However, the money you spend on working with Ad Grants professionals will feel like nothing once you’re seeing results for your mission!
There are many different ways to help your nonprofit stand out in its marketing and fundraising efforts, but the Google Ad Grant program is by far one of the most effective. Now that you know about this key resource, you’re already on your way to getting free advertising credits for your mission.
Use this mini guide to continue on your journey, and consider working with a Google Ad Grant agency to streamline your strategy and get the most out of the program. You’ve got this!