Your website is one of the best resources at your disposal for spreading awareness about your organization and mission. But it’s only a great resource if people are actually using it to get to know your organization and work—and taking action to help move your mission forward!
There are lots of ways to drive traffic to your website, from email marketing and social media to search engine optimization (SEO) to digital ads. You may have dismissed Google Ads in the past for fear of a complicated setup or high ongoing costs, but don’t let that dissuade you!
Google Ad Grants equip your nonprofit with a $10,000 monthly ads budget to drive relevant and valuable traffic to your website with search ads. And there are lots of resources out there to help, from in-depth tutorials to agencies that can take all of the hassle of managing ads off of your hands!
In this article, we’ll cover the basics for getting started with Google Ad Grants, including:
Ready to learn how your nonprofit can leverage the Google Ad Grants to drive more impact for its mission? Let’s dive in!
But what actually is a Google Ad Grant, you ask?
According to Cornershop Creative’s guide to Google Grants for nonprofits, the grant provides a Google Ads account with a $10,000 monthly budget. You can use it to create text-based search ads (no Display or video ads, unfortunately) and connect them to various keywords. This way, when someone searches for one of your keywords on Google, your ad can appear above or below the organic search results for that phrase, depending on the bidding system that Google Ads uses to show ads.
For example, a shelter for people who are unhoused could create ads sending visitors to their organization’s donation page with keywords like “support the unhoused” and “shelter donations.” Or, an advocacy organization could encourage more people to reach out to their representatives through an ad sending visitors to a landing page where they can take action with keywords like “childhood literacy programs” and “childhood literacy programs in Missouri.”
Any nonprofit in good standing is eligible for the grant. However, there are a few notable exclusions. Ad grants are not available in every country (see the full list of countries), and certain missions are also excluded, like government organizations, hospitals, and schools.
The Google Ad Grant is free advertising! It’s a great way to help supporters find you online and drive more traffic to your website as part of your organization’s marketing strategy. On top of that, the Google Ads platform can be optimized to drive high-value visitors who are most likely to take meaningful actions on your website. You’ll also be able to see useful insights about your progress to feed your nonprofit’s data strategy, including clicks, conversions, and more since your ads can sync perfectly with your organization’s Google Analytics account.
While this is another platform to add into the mix and there will undoubtedly be a learning curve as you get started, Google Ads have the power to spread the word about your mission far and wide—bringing in new folks who are interested in your cause, but who may have never even heard your name before now!
To apply for a Google Ad Grant, you’ll first need to apply for and be accepted into the Google for Nonprofits program, which along with the Ad Grant includes tools like a Google Workspace, Google Maps credits, and the YouTube Nonprofit program. To complete that application, you’ll need a validation token from TechSoup to verify your organization as legitimate.
Once you’re a part of Google for Nonprofits, follow these steps to apply for an Ad Grant:
It’ll take Google a few business days to process your application, and you’ll receive an email once you’re approved for the Ad Grant. Accept the invitation to access your new account!
You’ll also receive an email about the account’s billing profile that you’ll need to accept before the grant money can be applied to your Google Ads account.
After that, the $10,000 monthly Google Ads budget is yours! You can then set up your Ad Grant account, making sure to add conversion tracking and follow Google Ad Grant policies and ad creation best practices to set your organization up for success.
Now that you have your Ad Grant account, the real fun begins! Google Ads accounts are organized into campaigns, where most of the settings around things like your location, budget, and bidding strategy can be set. Each campaign will then include multiple ad groups, where individual keywords and ads live.
Your first decision is whether to create standard Google Ads campaigns (which allow you more control over your ads and results but also require more management and updating) or Smart campaigns (which are more automated campaigns without as many optimization capabilities). We’ll cover standard campaigns in this article, but, if you’re short on time and resources to manage your account, Smart campaigns are a nice option to consider.
Follow the steps to create your first standard campaign and assign it the full $329 daily budget. You can always update the budget later to split the total amount across multiple campaigns.
You can think about ad groups as related keywords and ads that all go after the same goal. Following Ad Grant policies, you’ll need to create at least two ad groups within the campaign. Here are some tips for doing so:
You can create ad groups for general awareness efforts, events, specific programs and services, and even fundraising efforts like Giving Tuesday.
For example, if you’re creating an ad group to promote an upcoming nonprofit event like an annual gala, you might select keywords like “nonprofit galas,” “galas in New Orleans,” and “events supporting scholarships.” Your ad text could then include those exact keywords as headlines, along with descriptions that offer details about the event and encourage searchers to purchase tickets: “Join us for a gala on 4/22 and support scholars with drinks, dinner, auctions, and dancing!”
For each ad, you can write up to 15 short headlines (30 characters or less) and up to four longer descriptions (90 characters or less). Ad text should be to-the-point and action-oriented to encourage visitors to click through to your website. It’s a balancing act for sure, but you’ll want to include the necessary information, exact keywords, and calls to action in the ad text.
This might seem like a lot to manage on an ongoing basis. And, unless you’re using Smart campaigns, Google Ad Grant accounts are not something that you can set and forget.
Lucky for you, there are nonprofit web design and digital strategy companies that can help with the heavy lifting of both the initial account setup and ongoing account management.
Look for agencies with experience with Google Ad Grant accounts specifically, since they’re a different beast than typical Ads accounts. These folks know what works and have experience navigating Google’s policies to create effective ads that lead to real results for your organization.
The Google Ad Grant is an excellent tool to weave into your organization’s overall marketing strategy to get more of the right people to your website and to take action.
While it takes effort to apply, set up your account, and manage it over time (on top of all of the other hats that nonprofit employees wear), the rewards can far outweigh the hassle. And it helps that the ads themselves are totally free outside of the time it takes to create them!
Best of luck with your new Google Ad Grant account!
Self-described as a “non-profit junkie,” Sarah has dedicated her career to serving the needs of the non-profit sector. Her project management experience spans a variety of non-profit management disciplines including strategic planning, community engagement, capacity building, fundraising and research. She has worked both in and for the non-profit sector at the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and the consulting firms The Lee Institute and The Curtis Group. With her ever expanding non-profit tool belt, Sarah joined Cornershop Creative to tap into her techie, creative side, while developing meaningful partnerships with her clients to help them more effectively achieve their goals.