Google Adwords: A non-profit guide

July 12, 2019

Why should non-profits use Google Adwords?

There are 3.5 billion searches done every day on the Google platform – with 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.

When people are using search to find a product or service they are motivated – visitors who click on a pay per click (PPC) ads are 50% more likely to purchase something than a visitor who arrives through an organic search.

No matter what industry you’re in – being ‘findable’ by people searching for your organization or a product you offer is key.

For non-profits with limited budgets, an inexpensive way to drive more traffic to your website is through Google’s sponsored non-profit tool: Ad Grants.

How does Google Ad Grants work?

In order to understand Google Ad Grants, you need to understand the Ad platform overall. It helps connect visitors and organizations/businesses who have similarly expressed interests.

An organization will use the Ad platform by first creating an ad campaign that includes ad copy (a headline and sub-text) which is associated with a group of relevant keywords. When a visitor types one of those keywords into Google search, the platform will determine which relevant ad to serve up based on the quality/relevance of all ads and the amount each organization wishes to bid on that keyword.

how does google grants work?

where google grant ads appear

Google Ad Grants: A non-profit resource

Google Ad Grants Program was designed exclusively for non-profits to help them promote their mission and services by providing up to $10,000USD per month in sponsored Google Ads spend.

The platform will display non-profit ads in the space below the paying customers also bidding on those keywords.

You can use Google Grants to:

  • Drive donations through targeted campaigns
  • Reach new volunteers
  • Build brand awareness through relevant keywords and associated content
  • Promote newsletter sign-ups or other conversions

In order to access the Ad Grants non-profit organizations must complete an application process (full info is here), but basic qualifications include:

  • For Canadian-Based Organizations: Must be registered as a Canadian Registered Charity, Canadian Federal Nonprofit or Canadian Provincial Nonprofit.
  • U.S.-Based Organizations: Must be registered as a charitable organization with the IRS and have 501(c)(3) status.
  • You do not qualify if you are one of the following: a government entity, school, childcare facility, academic institution, university, hospital or health care (medical) organization.

If you’ve used Google Adwords before as a paying customer, you’ll note that there are a few restrictions on the Grants platform:

  • Your ad budget needs to be set at $329 USD per day or $10,000 USD per month
  • You cannot have keywords with a Max CPC over $2.00
  • Ads can only appear on – you cannot use Search Partners
  • Google Grants are not eligible for the Display Ad Network – text search ads only
  • Use your $10k/month or lose it – you can’t carry over amounts to the next month
  • Finally, one of the trickiest parts of the Google Ad Grants process is maintaining your eligibility…more info on that below

How to Maintain Eligibility for Your Google Ads Grant

Google made some big changes to their Ads Grant platform in 2018, which requires much more effort on the part of non-profits, including:

  • You must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month (at account level) for the last 7 days of account activity
  • All the ads in your account must link to the website or URL that was approved in your application process
  • You must be active in your account – logging in at least monthly (or risk your ad campaigns being paused)
  • Your ads must be relevant to your organization and promote your mission (you can advertise to sell products as long as 100% of the proceeds are going to support your non-profit’s work)
  • Your ads can’t direct users to pages on your website that are designed to redirect visitors to another website
  • Your ads cannot promote financial products/services (mortgages, credit cards) or solicit donations of property, cars, etc.
  • Your website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or other affiliate advertising links while participating in Google Grants

If you violate these rules, Google may (will) remove you from the platform.

The full list of Google’s requirements is available here.

Setting up your first Google Ad Grants campaign

8 steps to create your first google grants campaign

It’s all about user experience

Now that we’ve got all the background and rules out of the way, let’s get your first campaign up and running so you can drive interest and donations for your non-profit.

The first and most important thing to consider when getting started is Google’s model. They are in the business of providing an exceptional user experience to their customers – people who are using their search tool.

That desire for a great user experience is at the core of all Google products – so keep that in mind when creating your ad campaign/keywords/ad copy – a better end-user experience usually translates to a better return on investment for the advertiser.

Make sure that page your driving users to is directly relevant to the headline copy and text from your ads. The copy on that landing page should also be good quality, relevant information that will interest the visitor.

If you put some thought and effort into your campaign creation, you will see a good return.

Now, let’s get started:

Once you’ve set up your account, you can create your first campaign by following these steps:

  1. Set a goal: It could be to get donations, engage volunteers or raise awareness…pick one goal and start building your ad group
  2. Select the ad type: Search network only. No search partners, display network (GDN) or YouTube ads are available under the Grants initiative
  3. Set your location: Decide what geographic location you want your ads to appear in – remember the user experience, don’t serve up ads in regions that your organization doesn’t have programs or services available
  4. Set your budget and bid style: Set your daily budget at the maximum ($329/day) and use either Enhanced Cost per Click (ECPC) or Maximize Conversions as a bidding strategy – if using ECPC make sure you max out the CPC at $2
  5. Select your keywords: The keywords you select are what triggers your ad to appear. Pick relevant terms that are consistent with the content on your website and what terms visitors are using to find you (use Google’s Keyword Planner and get some ideas using your website analytics data to see what terms people are using to find you)
  6. Write your ad copy: Try several different variations of your ads using different headlines/copy – Google Ads will automatically test them and serve up the ones that are most clicked by users
  7. Optimize your ads: Add site extensions and other details at the account level (to apply to all ads) or campaign level – Google will prompt you to add these in
  8. Set up your conversion actions: You’ll want to see how your ads are performing, which requires setting up conversion actions. These are what you have decided is the successful action taken by the user as a result of your ads; they could include:
    • Website conversions:  Arriving on a specific page, clicking on a specific link, completing an email sign-up form or other engagement actions
    • App conversion: Users download your mobile app
    • Phone calls: Users click on a link and call your organization
    • Imported goals: If you have custom goals you can import them from Google Analytics or your own in-house CRM database

Now you’re ready to submit your account for validation (Canadian users will need to enter their TechSoup Token) – once approved your ads can be activated.

Now that your account is up and running, you can start experimenting to see what works best and get the most out of your campaigns.

Want advice to supercharge your non-profit’s Google Ad campaign? We’d love to help.