Skip to content
Searching on Google

Using Google Ad Grants to increase visibility for your nonprofit

As a nonprofit, it is important for people to know who you are and what you do. So, why wouldn’t your organization want an extra $10,000 a month through the Google Ad Grant program to market its services to potential clients, patrons, and users, generate donations and recruit volunteers?

Google Ad Grants sound great, and they are. In fact, they are relatively straightforward to obtain for qualified organizations. The challenge is, they aren’t so easy to manage or execute if you don’t know much about digital marketing.

Before you get too excited about the free money, it is important for you to understand what Google Ad Grants can do (or not do) for your nonprofit. It is also important to know what your nonprofit needs to have in place to obtain a grant and keep it active. Once you have a handle on these two things, you have a better idea if you want to take on the challenge of managing your Google Ad Grants yourself, outsourcing the work to a qualified agency or not applying at all.

What Google Ad Grants are and what they aren’t

Marketing can be expensive. And if you advertise on digital media, it can take time AND money to rank properly in searches.

Google Ad Grants help alleviate some of that expense by providing $10,000 a month in free Google Search ads to qualified nonprofits. These dollars, when used properly, help your organization get front and center in the coveted sponsored section. This is great because people who find you via search are more likely to act. (We’ll get more into what the sponsored section is and the details of how this works later in the blog). They’re a great supplemental tool to help give your marketing, fundraising and hiring efforts a boost.

They are a great tool to have in your marketing arsenal, but there are several things Google Ad Grants are NOT:

  • Replacements for your current marketing initiatives (they complement them).
  • Designed to raise general awareness about your nonprofit.
  • Used for general branding purposes. Remember, your ad only shows up when users search keywords relevant to your nonprofit.

Google Ad Grants are also not:

  • Display ads (ads that you see in your web browser or pop ups on your screen after you have searched for something or visited a site.)
  • A way to magically increase traffic to your website or organization.
  • Money-making machines.

How do Google Ad Grants work and how they can help your nonprofit

When you search for something specific on Google, for example – customizable coffee mugs – the first site to show up beneath the search bar is in the sponsored section. This is ideally where your ad will show after setting up your Google ads.

Usually, when any user clicks on your ad, the payment comes out of your organization’s pocket. But, with Google Ad Grants, Google pays for every single click! How much Google pays is dependent on:

  • The relevance of your ad.
  • Competition with your chosen keywords.
  • How much of your ad grant funds you want to spend on a given click.

Keep in mind that the information you include in your Google ad campaign needs to coincide with information on your website and is designed to drive website traffic. Your nonprofit can increase visibility and traffic to its website and encourage visitors to take actions like signing up to volunteer, donating, opting in for your newsletter and more by setting up your campaigns and website properly.

Eligibility and website requirements for Google Ad Grant applications

This program is highly appealing, but it’s not open to just everyone. To apply for Google Ad Grants, your nonprofit:

  • Must have a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
  • Cannot be a governmental entity, hospital/healthcare organization, or school/academic institution/university*
    • *The only exception to this would be if supporting organizations have their own 501(c)(3).

You also need a website that is optimized to Google standards to begin your application. Your site must:

  • Be secured with HTTPS so your data is protected.
  • Have an SSL certificate installed to verify your site. This will show up as a lock icon by your URL in the search bar when a user is on your site.
  • Have Google Analytics installed.
  • Have copy that states your nonprofit status.
  • Be user-friendly.

How to apply to Google Ad Grants

You have determined you are eligible, and your website has met Google’s standards. Now it’s time to apply! There are two components to this process – creating a Google for Nonprofits account and submitting your Google Ad Grants application.

First, visit the Google for Nonprofits homepage and click “Get started” to create your account. Here, you will provide key information about your organization, like your EIN and your nonprofit’s address. Then you must verify your nonprofit through TechSoup, a Google-trusted third-party nonprofit. After you’ve been verified, you will receive a virtual token from TechSoup to use in your Google Ad Grants application. The entire process can take anywhere between 2-14 days, so be patient!

Second, you will submit your Google Ad grant application. This process is pretty straightforward!

What to do with your grant and how to maintain it

Now that you have the grant (congrats), it’s time to lay out some goals. Maybe you want to generate awareness of new programs or services. You might be looking for seasonal employees, want to promote a large event or recruit volunteers.

Once you have solidified these goals, you can start building your campaign keywords and ad copy to appeal to your audiences and align your goals with your current communications strategy to make sure you’re getting the results you need. You’ll also want to reassess your website to make sure that when users click on the ad, they’re able to clearly understand the action you want them to take.

Ask yourself – is your website:

  • Set up for people to apply, donate, participate, volunteer, etc. with clear calls to action (CTAs)?
  • Full of content that is relevant to your goals?
  • Easy to navigate?
  • Answering the questions people are searching for?

If you’ve gone through your goal checklist and made sure that your marketing strategy and website are synched to support them, it’s time to get the ball rolling by setting up your Google Ad Grants account. This process can be a bit complex if you are not familiar with ad accounts. So, take time to research or look to a qualified Google Ad Grant firm (like Dot Org Solutions) for help.

You will need to do the following to set up your Ad Grant account:

  • Build your campaigns.
  • Identify keywords by doing research on what users’ search topics are.
  • Write ad copy that is relevant and helpful.
  • Determine geographic targeting to decide if your campaign needs to be national or more location-specific to a certain county or state.
  • Identify negative keywords that you do not want to show up for in searches.
  • Evaluate your landing pages to make sure they stay relevant to what users are looking for.

How to keep your Google Ad Grants

Your campaign may be up and running, but there are still important things you need to do to maintain your grant. Think of your Google Ad Grants account like a plant – you have to water and care for it; you can’t just let it sit and hope it grows. For your ad campaign itself, you’ll need to make sure you:

  • Maintain a 5% account clickthrough rate (CTR), which is how many people click on the ad.
  • Have keywords that have a quality score of two or above.
  • Have two active ad groups per campaign.
  • Have two sitelink ad extensions.
  • Have specific geo-targeting.
  • Don’t have any single-word keywords.

Your Google Ad Grants account itself also has certain expectations you’ll need to maintain, including: Showing active account management.

  • Tracking your goals through conversion tracking.
  • Setting up your Google Analytics.

Consistently monitoring your ads is another key part of maintaining your Google Ad Grants. Some things you will want to monitor include:

  • Reviewing your keywords to see what’s performing best and what needs to be changed.
  • Keeping ad copy relevant.
  • Watching your competition and making sure your bids stay competitive.
  • Checking that your location targeting is working.
  • Making sure you’re hitting your 5% CTR.

As a nonprofit, it’s important to use every bit of help you can get, and Google Ad Grants are an exceptional tool to help boost your nonprofits marketing and help you reach your goals. It will take some effort on your part to set up and maintain your ads, but in the end the payoff can be worth it!

Looking to get your Google Ad Grants going but are overwhelmed? Our experienced team at Dot Org Solutions can help take the stress out of the Google Ad Grant process. 


Contact us today