Beginners Guide to the Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits [in 2023]
If you work for a nonprofit, then you understand how difficult it is to reach a new audience.
This is what makes Google Ad Grants such an indispensable tool. By providing nonprofits with a free advertisement budget in the biggest search engine in the world, Google gives you the ability to reach new supporters.
If you’ve never heard of Google Ad Grants before, then this guide will give you all the information you need to make the most out of this free marketing opportunity.
What are Google Ad Grants?
Established in 2003, Google Ad Grants is a program that awards eligible nonprofits with a free advertisement budget of up to $10,000 a month in in-kind donation. It allows organizations to create ads that appear at the top of result pages based on relevant searches.
But what does all of that mean?
As a program, Google Ad Grants gives nonprofits free access to Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). Google Ads is a platform that allows companies to advertise their services and products on Google, Youtube, and other websites through the usage of ads triggered by keywords and search queries.
In practice, this means that when a person types a certain word combination or phrase into Google, ads that are relevant to said search will be displayed at the top of the result page.
Notice the little “Ad” icon beside the URL in the links listed above. That indicates that those results are paid advertisements. A company or individual would have to pay Google for this type of service, but Google Ad Grants gives nonprofits the $10,000 monthly budget in in-kind donation to use at no cost.
Because these ads are the first thing a person will see when googling something, Google Ad Grants is a great advertisement resource for nonprofits, both big and small, as it can provide their organization with greater visibility.
How Can You Use a Google Grant?
There are many ways in which nonprofits can use Google Ad Grants to their benefit. These include:
Increase website traffic
Increase donations as a result of generating a wider reach
Find more volunteers through targeted advertisement
Raise awareness for their cause
Advertise events or campaigns
Let's say that you work for a nonprofit that helps a local animal shelter and you are planning to hold a fundraising event at a beautiful park in hopes of raising awareness of the need for adoption and fostering.
By using Google Ad Grants and taking advantage of their local targeting feature, you can not only advertise the fundraising event so that more people will come, but you can also encourage more donations (monetary, but also food or blankets and toys) to be made for your nonprofit and your shelter, or even use ads to recruit new volunteers for the event.
You can even incentivize those who might not be able to make it to the event to still adopt or foster some of the rescued animals.
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With a company as big as Google and an advertising budget of $10,000, you wouldn’t be at fault for thinking that only nonprofits of a certain size or that have a focus on technology would be eligible for this program. But the truth is that no nonprofit is too small or too specialized to qualify for Google Ad Grants.
All the qualifications a nonprofit needs in order to be eligible for this program is:
Be registered as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS or meet the equivalent requirement for countries outside of the United States
Have a functional website hosted on its own domain
Agree to Google Grants’ terms of service
The only organizations that are not eligible for Google Grants are:
Government agencies or entities
Hospitals or other healthcare provides (this does not apply to nonprofits whose mission is related to the medical field)
Educational and academic institutions such as schools or universities (this does not apply to nonprofits whose mission is related to education)
What Can My Nonprofit Do to Become Eligible for Google Grants?
If, for some reason, you do not meet all the eligibility factors listed above, do not despair! There are still steps you can take prior to beginning your application process.
If your nonprofit is not yet incorporated as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS, then that should be your very first step. This process can take a while, but it is absolutely crucial in becoming a legal nonprofit in the United States.
For more details on this process, check out this post on our blog.
Once you’ve received your tax-exempt letter from the IRS and confirmation that your nonprofit is indeed registered as a 501(c)(3), it’s time to work on your website. You do not need anything overly fancy for this, and thankfully, content management systems such as Wix or SquareSpace have made the process relatively simple. You can easily purchase your website domain with them, or with a service like Google Domains and get started.
If you’re not sure how you wish to structure your website, take a look at the ones from nonprofits that are similar to yours—both in terms of size and mission. This should give you an idea of what type of information potential donors and volunteers look for, and what attracts traffic.
It is also recommended to hire professionals to handle this type of job if you can at all afford it.
How Does My Nonprofit Apply for Google Grants?
If you’re already registered as a 501(c)(3) and already have a website, then you can get started on your application! Though eligibility for Google Grants was pretty straight forward, applying for the program is a little less so.
Here are the steps you need to take to apply to Google Grants:
1. Add Google Analytics to Your Website
Google Analytics is a web analysis service provided by Google that helps users easily analyze their website data. This information can then be used to craft or adapt marketing strategies so that you can increase website traffic, which in turn could lead to an increase in donations and volunteers.
As you can imagine, Google Analytics is already incredibly useful on its own. However, when it’s used in combination with Google Ad Grants, it can give you the information you need to create better ads.
2. Register with TechSoup
After adding Google Analytics to your website, your next step is to register your nonprofit with TechSoup.
TechSoup is a nonprofit that works together with tech corporations to bring their services to nonprofits at a discounted price.
It may take up to 30 days for your nonprofit to be properly validated and registered with TechSoup. During that time, they might request additional information for their files and to ensure the authenticity of your organization. Once the process is finished, however, they will give you a validation token, which you’ll be needing for the next step.
3. Use Your TechSoup Token to Enroll in Google for Nonprofits
Now that you have your TechSoup Token, it is time to enroll for Google for Nonprofits, of which Google Ad Grants is a part of.
Google for Nonprofits gives nonprofits access to all types of Google services to better help them in their mission. One example is their Youtube Nonprofit Program, which can be used for virtual fundraising purposes thanks to donation links on videos, or video annotations that take users directly to your website.
The first step to registering with Google for Nonprofits is agreeing to their terms of services. After that is done, you can use your TechSoup Token to gain access to the registration form.
After providing them with the requested information, all you need to do is wait for your account to be approved. This should not take more than a couple of days.
4. Complete the Eligibility Form for Google Grants
Once your Google for Nonprofits account has been accepted, you can now properly register for Google Grants.
To do this, log into Google for Nonprofits and scroll to Google Grants. Beneath the name you should see a button prompting you to join the program. When you click on it, it should take you to an eligibility form that you’ll have to fill out.
After that is done, go back to the Google Grants page and click “Activate” while also checking the box to indicate you completed the eligibility form. You’ll need to click “Activate” one final time before your request is submitted for review.
5. Accept the Invitation
The process to review your request should take Google a few days. Once you’re approved, they’ll send you an invitation through email. All you have to do now is accept it, and you’re good to go!
Can My Nonprofit Lose its Google Grants Eligibility?
Unfortunately, you cannot just register for Google Grants and keep your account indefinitely without ever using it. As such, there are ways in which nonprofits who were otherwise eligible for the program can be temporarily or permanently suspended.
One of the main ways this can happen is through lack of proper maintenance or activity in the account. Google Grants will require you to log into your account on a monthly basis and to make relevant changes to your account once every 90 days. Failure to do so might indicate that you are not properly using the program, which will then lead to your account being suspended.
But just being active is not enough to keep this service either—you must also be using it for the benefit of your nonprofit by making sure the ads you run remain relevant to your mission. This means that:
You should be using geotargeting properly
Your keywords, which must be at least two words long and cannot be overly generic, should have a score of 2 points or higher
You should only advertise domains you own and are relevant to your nonprofit
You must have 2 ad groups per campaign, and 2 ads per ad group
Google will also be checking your performance when using their service. They’ll be requesting a Monthly Keyword Performance Report, and will require you to maintain a 5% click-through rate after the first 90 days of activating your account.
When it comes to conversion tracking, Google expects you to have at least one meaningful conversion per month. If you fail to meet these requirements for two consecutive months, your account may be suspended.
Finally, Google typically sends annual program surveys about Google Ad Grants. You will also be required to fill this out in order to keep your account.
If all of that sounds overwhelming, do not worry. Below, we compiled a list of tips that should not only help you keep your Google Ad Grants account, but use it so your nonprofit can thrive.
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How Can I Optimize My Google Ad Grants?
Now that you know what Google Ad Grants is, it is time to learn how to best use it to your advantage.
Nail the Keywords
The key to optimizing your Google Ads is selecting the right keywords. While this may seem intimidating if you’ve never worked with SEO before, finding the right keywords can be easy when you put yourself in the shoes of your audience.
When it comes to search engines and databases, a keyword, sometimes also called a search query, is a word or phrase that a person uses to look for information on a certain topic.
For example, if you’re looking up books that go into detail about grant writing, management, and the grant lifecycle, your keyword for this search might be “books for grant writing.”
When choosing the keywords to target with your ads, avoid being too generic. While it may seem like you are casting a wide net by choosing generic terms, in reality, you’re just making it harder for the people who want to find you to do so. Being as specific as possible is crucial.
Something else you might consider is using what are referred to as long-tail keywords. These are longer phrases that tend to be more specific, and though they will yield a smaller number of search queries, the ones that they do yield are far more relevant to the subject being searched for. This also means they tend to be less competitive.
Try finding the right keywords by reverse engineering search queries relevant to the following topics:
Have you ever tried to search for something, typed the keywords into Google, but found that the results had nothing to do with what you were looking for?
That scenario happens when unrelated topics share similar keywords. This is why negative keywords are an effective part of any ad strategy. In the simplest terms, negative keywords are the words that when typed will not bring up your ad.
As you may have figured out already, when it comes to using Google Ads, you don’t simply want a high number of views on your ad—you want the right views.
Negative keywords help ensure that your content reaches only those who want to see it and not those who might have accidentally used a word or phrase that is too similar to your regular keywords. Negative Keywords help you keep your ad relevant, which in turn can help with conversion rates and performance measurements.
Effectively using the negative keywords can seem tricky at first, and if you’re not used to this type of advertisement, it may even seem counterintuitive. But you can try to find the best negative keywords by brainstorming phrases and googling your chosen keywords to see what unrelated results come up.
Improve Your Ad Groups
There are three different divisions in Google Ads that you should be aware of in order to effectively use this service. These are:
The individual ads
The ad groups
The ad campaigns
Ad groups are composed of one or more ads that share a set of keywords. Ad campaigns are composed of one or more ad groups.
When it comes to ad groups, you can typically set them to target a specific demographic. Each ad group also carries a bid which corresponds to the highest amount of money (in this case, the budget Google granted you) you would be willing to pay to get the ads in that group viewed.
It is recommended for you to tailor your ad groups to specific topics. You might also remember earlier in this article that we mentioned a requirement of having two ads per ad group in order to remain eligible for Google Ad Grants. While that is the minimum requirement, you should consider having more than two ads in your ad groups as that will give Google more options to choose from when selecting what to display when the relevant keywords trigger your advertisements.
But what does all that look like in practice?
Well, let’s take the example of the fundraising and adoption event for the animal shelter that we mentioned earlier in this article. Your nonprofit is seeking to use Google Ads to advertise this event for a variety of different people who will engage with it in different manners.
So a good way to effectively use ad groups is to create a campaign centered around the event, and then create different ad groups focused on each of those targeted individuals —one ad group for attendees, one for donors, one for people who might be seeking to adopt or foster a new pet, and one to recruit volunteers.
Finally, when crafting your ads, do not make it so they all lead to your website’s homepage. Instead, give each of your ads a landing page that is relevant to its purpose.
Again, in the animal shelter example, an ad targeting potential volunteers should not lead to a landing page related to donation—rather, it would be far more useful for the landing page in that scenario to be a volunteer sign up page.
Optimize Your Landing Pages
Optimizing your landing pages will help you get a higher quality score from Google Ads. To do this, you must ensure all the pages on your website, but especially those relevant to your ads, are easy to read and navigate.
Remember that you should also make sure your pages are updated regularly with relevant information. Maintaining a website, after all, requires constant work and upkeep.
Effectively Use Geo-Targeting
As we have mentioned before, when it comes to Google Ads, it is important to keep your advertisements relevant to your targeted demographic. One of the main ways you can do that is through Geo-Targeting.
As the name implies, Geo-Targeting allows you to select the location in which your ad will be displayed. You can choose a location as broad as an entire country or as specific as a radius area around a landmark.
Once more we go back to the nonprofit working to help animal shelters as our go-to example. If that fundraising event is happening in a park in New Jersey, it would not be useful to have ads viewed by animal lovers all the way in California. For this reason, the nonprofit may choose to use Geo-Targeting so that their ads are only shown in a 100 mile radius of the park in which the event will be hosted.
Focus on Conversions
When it comes to content creation and advertising, “conversion” is the term used to describe when a person who has interacted with your ad takes some form of action that is deemed meaningful. It is the equivalent of someone who clicked on your donation ad using your website to make said donation.
Most online ads are seeking to have a high quantity of conversion rates. After all, you want people to do more than just go to your website—you want them to make donations, buy tickets for fundraising events, sign up for a newsletter, sign up to be volunteers, and more.
Remember how one of the first steps to registering for the Google Ad Grants program was getting Google Analytics? Well, now it’s the time when that pays off.
Google Analytics will provide you with the data you need to see whether or not your ads are being effective. You can see if you need to change your keywords to get better results, or test out different ads to see which ones are more effective. The information you collect will help you improve your conversion rates.
Remember that just because something is working well now, it does not mean it will continue to do so six months in the future. Constantly analyzing your data so you can adapt accordingly is the best way to keep your ads relevant so you can continue to reach your audience.
Wrapping Up: Guide to Google Ad Grants
Spreading the word about your nonprofit can be difficult. The world is large and loud, and the internet allows us to curate our online experiences so that we only see what we search for. This makes Google Ad Grants an indispensable tool for nonprofits who wish to break through the noise and reach new supporters.
While there are still many fascinating and useful features to Google Ad Grants, this beginners guide hopefully equipped you with the knowledge you need to get started on the right path.
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