Any organization can develop a clear identity and mission, but how can a nonprofit amplify the public’s awareness — for fundraising, attracting volunteers or bringing attention to critical issues? Many nonprofits have benefited from Google Ad Grants to reach these goals (and more), not only for expanding their organizations’ reach, but also for developing tools to sustain future growth.
WHAT ARE GOOGLE AD GRANTS?
Google Ad Grants provide up to $10,000 worth of advertising credits per month to qualifying nonprofits to promote their website on Google search results, or run banner ads on websites that use Google ads. Some benefits include:
- Capacity to run multiple marketing strategies at the same time
- Access to analytics tools in addition to grants, so organizations can optimize both their websites and campaigns
- Funding to support the organization in various ways, such as:
- Driving traffic to the nonprofit entity’s website
- Informing and educating (by attracting new visitors)
- Selling tickets to special events
- Driving in-person actions (e.g., signing petitions)
- Recruiting volunteers
- Promoting donation/sponsorship opportunities
- Building an audience
Nonprofits of all sizes can benefit from this grant program, from local-level groups with a small staff to internationally-recognized charities. With access to these powerful tools, an organization can develop a dynamic approach to effectively accomplish its mission and goals.
WHAT ORGANIZATIONS QUALIFY FOR GOOGLE AD GRANTS?
Many nonprofits may already qualify without taking additional steps. Eligible nonprofits must be registered as a 501(c)(3) and cannot be a hospital, school/college or governmental institution. However, philanthropic arms of ineligible entities can still qualify.
The nonprofit must also have a high-quality website, adhering to specific standards:
- The site must be hosted on the entity’s own domain (e.g. “ournonprofit.org,” not “ournonprofit.weebly.com”).
- If an organization is applying for the Google Grant for the first time, their website must have an SSL certificate installed (usually indicated by a URL beginning with “https”). If a user sees “not secure” next to the website’s URL in Chrome, it means SSL is not installed or there is a configuration issue.
HOW DOES AN ORGANIZATION APPLY?
Compared to other grant programs available, the process for Google Ad Grants is often a simple, straightforward process. It involves three main steps:
- If an entity does not have a Google for Nonprofits account, register with TechSoup.org (a third-party nonprofit that partners with Google to verify eligible organizations).
- Receive a validation token from TechSoup, then sign up for Google for Nonprofits.
- Install Google Analytics on the organization’s website.
Once the organization has completed these steps, it can apply by following the link here. The approval process can take several months to complete, though many nonprofits have received an approval in only a few days.
MAINTAINING ELIGIBILITY AND BEST PRACTICES
Once approved, as with any ongoing award, a nonprofit must follow certain steps to maintain eligibility from month to month. This ongoing process can take some effort and includes requirements such as:
- Keeping an active account (logging in at least once per month, and updating account details every 90 days)
- Employing effective ad relevance and geotargeting
- Reviewing the monthly keyword performance report and adjusting campaigns and landing sites effectively
- Maintaining a minimum of 5-percent click-through rate after the first 90 days (i.e., at least 5% of people who view an ad must click the link). The award will be suspended if this minimum is not met for 2 consecutive months
A full description of Google’s account management policy for the Ad Grants program can be found here.
Other best practices include:
- Run three to five ad campaigns at a time
- Keep ad groups focused (e.g., know the target audience and design campaigns to reach them)
- Use at least one responsive search ad per group (and have around three ads per ad group)
- Experiment with a variety of headlines and descriptions
- Use ad extensions (e.g., callout, sitelink and call extensions)
- Focus on effective keywords (and identify negative keywords for ineffective targeting)
- Direct traffic to multiple landing pages on a site (not only the home page)
- Use geotargeting (e.g., focusing on specific counties, cities, etc. — wherever donors or beneficiaries might be)
MANAGING THE GRANT
Some nonprofits may have legitimate questions about how much time and resources they can allocate to this award. In some cases, organizations reported that they underestimated how much time managing the grant would take; even so, with some planning and attention, this award can allow an entity to quickly reap benefits. There are a few other considerations:
First, organizations do not have to use the total $10,000 per month, and many organizations use only around $500 worth of services each month yet still see significant reach. (However, the monthly credits do not roll over month-to-month.)
Second, the size of an organization (and the aims for seeking this grant) will affect how the program is administered. For smaller organizations with limited staff, taking on this grant could potentially overextend a team, while larger organizations may be able to leverage experience in advancement departments or IT teams. Nonprofits of any size could consider investing resources in additional staff or seeking the help of a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations apply for and implement this grant; some consultants also provide services to help organizations oversee and maintain the grants.
Lastly, an entity should apply for this grant only if it fits within the organization’s strategic aims. If a nonprofit lacks a clear purpose for deploying ad campaigns, this grant can become a frustration. However, this award can provide a rich resource to those nonprofits that envision the ways it can amplify their mission, messaging and reach.
Figuring out how to make the best use of Google Ad Grants can be challenging but rewarding. For more information and resources, please contact GHJ’s Nonprofit Team.