It’s no mystery that online visibility is an efficient way to draw a crowd. NonprofitSource’s online giving statistics show that 98% of internet searchers click a result on the first page of Google search results. That means if you want your nonprofit’s website to be visited, page one is the place to be.
So how do you get there? Through Google’s Ad Grant program, nonprofits can receive free funding to create and place advertisements on the first page of Google search results when internet users search for certain keywords. In this guide, we’ll explore this process in more detail, covering:
- Google Ad Grant Basics
- Google Ad Grant Eligibility
- 4 Steps to Apply for the Google Ad Grant
- How to Use the Google Ad Grant
Applying for the grant program can be a complex process, especially as your nonprofit starts to plan what it will do with the grant. Many nonprofits trust a Google Ad Grant agency to manage the application for them, but you won’t know what your organization needs until you know what the application involves!
Another fact that’s no mystery: Google Ads are an excellent way to increase traffic to your nonprofit’s website, the conversion rate of your website visitors, and the overall reach of your online presence. Don’t let the resources at your nonprofit’s disposal go to waste—read on to understand the basics of the Google Ad Grant and how you can leverage this for your outreach.
Google Ad Grant Basics
Google Ads are sponsored pages that show up at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) when a user searches for a keyword. They look exactly like natural search engine results, distinguishable by the bolded word “Sponsored” listed above the page title.
Just like with any advertisement, securing a spot at the top of the SERP costs money. That’s where the Google Ad Grant program comes in. Through this corporate philanthropy program, Google gives qualifying nonprofits $10,000 in ad credits, renewable monthly, to create paid ads that will show up first when someone searches for a keyword related to the nonprofit’s mission.
After receiving the grant money, nonprofits compete for keywords related to their organization. Your organization will likely compete with other nonprofits that have similar goals. To use your grant money wisely, choose keywords that are:
- Non-competitive. Long-tail keywords are searches that tend to be longer and more specific. For example, instead of trying to place an ad on the search results page for “animal adoption,” a Massachusetts-based animal shelter might compete for the keyword, “adopt a dog from an animal shelter in Boston.” This specificity targets an audience of people interested in dog adoption and the animal shelter that chooses this keyword likely won’t have to compete with as many other organizations for it.
- Low-cost. Google assigns a cost-per-click (CPC) to each keyword, which means your nonprofit will use its grant money to pay each time a user clicks on their ad. It’s important to be aware of the CPC for each keyword so you can budget your grant money wisely each month.
- Relevant. Nonprofits will likely develop a list of keywords they’d like to target, but this should also include determining any keywords that your ad should not be associated with. For example, an ad that links to a landing page about how your donors can leverage matching gifts shouldn’t target the keyword “nonprofit volunteer opportunities.”
Whereas social media marketing and communication channels require a nonprofit to reach out to its supporters, Google is a unique marketing platform because users initiate the search. This is how the Google Ad Grant opens a whole new world of marketing opportunities for nonprofits—it essentially grants free access for organizations to be sought by potential supporters.
However, your nonprofit won’t see these results until it officially qualifies and applies for the grant. Let’s look at the eligibility criteria for the program.
Google Ad Grant Eligibility
The first hurdle in the Google Ad Grant application process is determining eligibility. According to Getting Attention’s guide to Google Grant eligibility, Google’s requirements ensure that the funding is used honestly to attract users to valuable websites that will provide the information they’re looking for. It also protects against security breaches, since these websites likely collect sensitive information from users through donation portals or volunteer event registrations.
Although most nonprofits qualify, you can’t begin applying before first verifying your organization’s eligibility. Requirements can vary depending on what country your nonprofit is based in, but in general, organizations must:
- Have a valid charity status. In the US, this means your organization must be deemed a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit by the IRS. Your nonprofit should have a charitable purpose (but if you’ve received tax-exempt status from the IRS, you will have already established your organization’s purpose). Note that schools, government organizations, and healthcare organizations are not eligible for the Google Ad Grant.
- Have a qualifying website. Google has requirements for the website that will be advertised through the program. For example, the applying nonprofit must own the domain of the advertised website. Also, the site must have unique content, a quick load time, HTTPS security, and no broken links.
- Comply with the program policies. There are various policies for the grant program that your nonprofit must meet not only to apply but also to maintain eligibility after being approved for the program. For example, nonprofits cannot use ads, keywords, or landing pages that promote hatred or violence. Your organization should also be prepared to handle sensitive data with care, such as site visitors’ names and contact information.
Carefully review the requirements before you apply. Also, keep in mind that meeting the eligibility criteria is not a one-time deal. The grant money renews monthly, but only for nonprofits who maintain their eligibility by continuously complying with Google’s requirements.
4 Steps to Apply for the Google Ad Grant
Equipped with an overview of the Google Ad Grant and an assurance that your organization is eligible for the program, you’re ready to apply! Follow these four steps to initiate your Google Ad Grant application.
1. Register with TechSoup
TechSoup is an international network of organizations that provide technological tools and support to nonprofit organizations. Notably, they offer nonprofit validation services, which can help your organization get started with Google Ad Grants.
To register, you’ll provide information about your nonprofit, which TechSoup will use to verify your eligibility for the Google Ad Grants program. Once you’ve been verified, TechSoup will send a validation token via email to prove your eligibility. As an added bonus, your registration will also give you access to the discounted or donated technology offered by TechSoup.
2. Create an account with Google for Nonprofits
Next, you’ll need to create a Google for Nonprofits account. Through this service, Google offers numerous tools for nonprofits to use for communications and marketing, such as the Youtube Nonprofit Program and Google Workspace. To create your account, you’ll need to:
- Agree to Google’s nondiscrimination statements.
- Input your TechSoup validation token.
- Provide your contact information.
- Provide any requested information about your organization.
- Agree to be contacted by Google (so you’ll know when you’re approved!).
If you don’t hear back from Google immediately, don’t worry! The approval process can take a few days. As long as you’ve been verified with TechSoup, your organization should have nothing to worry about.
3. Update your nonprofit’s website
Remember when we talked about the necessity of a high-quality website for Ad Grant eligibility? At this point in the application process, your nonprofit should take the time to update your website and ensure everything is in order for Google’s assessment. Consider the following tips to update your website:
- Make sure your website is well-organized. Statistics show that emphasizing the “Donate” button on your website can result in a 190% increase in donations. In the same way, the rest of your website should be easily navigable if you want first-time visitors to explore after their initial click on your ad. Make sure your content is valuable and relevant to your target audience.
- Include your organization’s background information. Transparency when it comes to your nonprofit’s operations is a key component of gaining audience trust. If you don’t already include a thorough description of your organization, its mission, and its operations for your audience, add it before submitting your Ad Grants application—it’s a requirement! You can also include information like your nonprofit’s employer identification number (EIN) for proof of your 510(c)(3) registration.
- Take the appropriate security measures. By obtaining an SSL certification, you’ll encrypt any data transferred on your website to keep it safe from interception. Not only is this a requirement from Google, but it will also give supporters peace of mind when donating through your website.
Optimize your website to ensure it’s compliant with Google’s standards and generally valuable and appealing to potential visitors. Don’t limit your optimizations to the landing pages that will be promoted. Consider the user journey through your website: After clicking on an ad, what pages will users be most prompted to visit next?
If web development isn’t your forte, don’t forget about the Google Ad Grant professionals that are available to help! An all-inclusive grant agency, like Getting Attention, will help you handle everything from your TechSoup verification to website optimization, and even future grant management (but we’ll get into that later).
4. Submit your application
Google will send you an email once your account has been approved officially inviting you to apply for the Google Ad Grant. Fill out the eligibility form and submit your organization for review. Within a few business days, the Google team will review your application and extend an invitation.
How to Use the Google Ad Grant
We’ve already touched on the basics of keyword strategies and ad creation, but putting your ad grant to use is a lot more complex than that. In fact, your nonprofit will be expected to meet certain compliance requirements for the grant to be renewed each month and you’ll find your Google Ads will only be effective when they’re regularly optimized. After approval, you’ll need to:
- Conduct keyword research.
- Set up your campaigns.
- Enable Sitelink Extensions.
- Log into your account at minimum once a month.
- Update your account components every 90 days.
- Evaluate your keywords monthly.
- Maintain a minimum of a 5% click-through rate (CTR).
The grant is more than a one-time gift. It’s a recurring source of funding that your nonprofit can incorporate into its existing marketing strategy to drive results, whether you’re fundraising for a challenge gift campaign or recruiting volunteers. As you prepare to use your Google Ad Grant, assign grant management roles to team members or meet with a grants consultant to learn more about how it should be managed.
A Google Ads Grant agency can be especially helpful if you don’t have the resources to apply for and maintain the grant yourself. Consider hiring an expert to handle some or all of the process.
Conclusion and Additional Resources
Nonprofit marketing budgets are often spread thin, and yet marketing tactics are crucial to these organizations’ missions. Effective outreach allows nonprofits to inspire involvement and spread awareness about their cause, and online tools take this a step further by enlarging their potential audiences.
Understand the tools and resources at your nonprofit’s disposal so you can leverage them to truly drive impact and launch a successful Google Ads campaign. Don’t let the Google Ad Grant go to waste—start the application process today!
Wondering what other ways your nonprofit can engage its supporters through digital outreach? Check out these additional resources:
- Developing a Matching Gift Program: A How-To Guide. Looking for other sources of free money? Learn how to develop a matching gift program with this guide.
- Microsoft Ad Grants: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofit Marketers. This Q&A answers common questions about the Microsoft Ad Grant program to take your nonprofit’s marketing strategy to the next level.
- The Ultimate Guide to Donor Retention: 8 Strategies. Read this guide from eCardWidget to learn how you can effectively engage and retain your nonprofit’s donors.