How to Use Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits in 2023

I’ve got three words for you: Google Ad Grants. What are they? How do you get them? And how can they help you grow your nonprofit? We’re here to show you how you can put this invaluable resource to work for your organization in 2023.

What are Google Ad Grants?

If you work for a nonprofit, you know how difficult it is to get the word out about your cause. Figuring out how to do the most with your advertising budget is always tricky – but for nonprofits with smaller teams and tighter resources, it can be particularly challenging.

That’s where Google Ad Grants come in. By getting a Google for Nonprofits account and applying for Google Ad Grants, you can add $10,000 a month to your online advertising budget – for free. Imagine how many more people you could reach with an extra $120,000 in your annual budget. Overlooking an opportunity like that would be leaving money on the table.

Are Google Ad Grants worth it?

Over 115,000 nonprofit organizations have received a total of $9 billion in free advertising through Google Ad Grants since it was launched in 2003.

People are four times more likely to click ads on Google than on any other advertising network, and you can use the program indefinitely, provided that you maintain Google’s standards for eligibility. With this program, you could draw up to 60,000 new, targeted visitors to your site each year.

How easy is it to get Google Ad Grants?

Most nonprofit organizations are eligible to get a Google Ad Grant provided they have tax exempt status as a 501(c)(3) and they’ve registered with TechSoup to confirm that fact. But Google has some stringent standards for maintaining your ads and your website that are fairly technical, but doable with time and effort.

How much do Google Ad Grants pay?

The Google Ad Grants program offers eligible nonprofits $10,000 a month to spend on Google search ads to promote their organizations. That means you can get up to $120,000 a year in free advertising.

How do I effectively use Google Ad Grants?

There are lots of ways to use Google Ad Grants. With them you could:

  • Encourage donations – Obviously this one’s the Holy Grail. Every organization is looking to find more donors and further encourage the ones you already have. Well-targeted ads will help you reach people who are looking to support your cause.
  • Educate the public – Before anyone can make a difference, they need to know about the problem! Google ads are a fantastic opportunity to educate people about the issues your organization addresses.
  • Recruit volunteers – When you get creative with your call-to-action, you’ll find there are lots of ways to get people to meaningfully interact with your organization – beyond donating. More volunteers leads to success.
  • Publicize events and sell tickets for fundraisers – Google ads requires nonprofits to use geo-targeting to make sure your ads are reaching people in the right area. Make even more use of this strategy by encouraging people to attend events or buy tickets for fundraisers nearby.
  • Encourage people to take action for your cause – Getting people to sign a petition or post about an issue on social media is a great way to make more connections with potential donors. People are more likely to get involved when they find out about an issue from a friend.
  • Expand your mailing list or social media following – Google Ads will allow you to cultivate future leads. Obviously every organization wants to increase donations, but you should never underestimate the value of simply getting donors on your mailing list or checking out your social media accounts.
  • Learn more about potential donors – Who wants to donate to your cause, anyway? What do you know about them? Using Google Analytics to track your ads’ performance will give you valuable insights into the people who want to solve the same problems you do. That’ll help you refine your messaging and your ad placement as you continue to grow.
  • Market different campaigns at the same time – Google Ad Grants doesn’t restrict you to just one campaign. Your organization can test multiple keywords simultaneously. This way there’s variety in your messaging and you’ll gather information about which keywords help you own that results list.

Are Google Ad Grants free for nonprofits?

Yes, Google Ad Grants are free for nonprofits as long as your organization meets and maintains the requirements for 501(c)(3) status.

How to Apply for Nonprofit Google Ad Grants

So far, so good, right? 115,000 other nonprofits already seem to think so! Now let’s start walking through the process.

How do you qualify for Google Ad Grants?

In order to sign up, your organization needs to be a nonprofit charitable organization in good standing. In the U.S. this means you must have current 501(c)(3) status. If you’re based outside the United States, see Google’s guidelines.

Google excludes some types of nonprofit organizations from eligibility, such as:

  • Government entities or organizations
  • Hospitals or healthcare organizations
  • Educational institutions like schools, universities, and childcare centers

You’ll also need a functioning website that provides a sufficient amount of information about your organization. (More on that below.)

How do I apply for Google Ad Grants?

  1. First, make sure you have Google Analytics set up on your organization’s website. You’ll need this down the road in order to track essential metrics for your site when you’re managing ads.
  2. Second, you’ll need to register your organization with TechSoup to confirm your nonprofit status.
  3. Once you’re registered on TechSoup, enroll in Google for Nonprofits. As part of the enrollment process, you’ll be redirected back to your TechSoup account to retrieve a Validation Token to add to the sign-up page.

Once you’re signed up for Google for Nonprofits, in addition to Google Ad Grants you’ll also have access to:

How long does a Google Ad Grant last?

All right, now this is where it gets tricky. Your Google Ad Grant can last indefinitely, but the company has A LOT of requirements to maintain your account, and Google’s very strict about enforcing its policies. In 2019 alone, Google removed over 2.3 billion ads for breaches of their guidelines on ad management. That’s why setting up Google Analytics was step one – because many of the requirements are going to depend on measuring and optimizing your site’s performance.

How do I maintain eligibility for my Ad Grant?

  • Your account must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month. If you don’t meet this threshold for two consecutive months your account could be temporarily deactivated.
  • Keyword Quality Scores can’t be below 2.
  • Your organization needs to have conversion tracking in place and must have at least one meaningful conversion per month. (Conversions need to be more than just click-throughs – they have to record key actions taken on the site, such as filling out a contact form.)
  • Your ads must point to only one domain. You can’t have ads that point people to third-party sites, such as social media pages.
  • The account needs at least 2 ad groups per campaign and at least 2 active ads per ad group.
  • You must activate geo-targeting to restrict ads to your area of service.
  • You need at least 2 sitelink ad extensions.
  • Your ads can’t offer financial products.
  • You can’t use overly generic or single-word keywords, except for a select few that Google Ad Grants approves in advance.
  • The landing page for your ads can’t contain many links to outside sources.
  • You must log into the account at least once per month.
  • You have to make changes or updates to the account at least once every 90 days.
  • Your organization has to respond to Google’s annual nonprofit program survey.

Whew! Did you get all that? It’s a lot to take in all at once, I know, but don’t let the long list of requirements and the technical terminology daunt you. With a little time and effort your organization can stay on top of these guidelines. The bonus: these requirements are really just a list of best practices. Meeting these expectations will actually improve your website’s overall functionality.

Remember: Don’t walk away from $10,000 a month in free advertising just because the enrollment requirements are scary.

What are the best practices for maintaining my Google Ad Grants?

Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll want to start thinking Strategy. Here are some extra tips for optimizing your advertising:

Find the right keywords

There’s a reason Google’s policy forbids most single-word keywords: they’re usually too broad to reflect your organization’s mission. They won’t drive the kind of focused, high-quality traffic you’re looking for.

To get the best click-through rate and keyword quality score, there’s got to be a tight connection between your keywords, your ad copy, and your landing page. That’s why it’s important to use long-tail keywords to drive lead-generating traffic to your site.

Use negative keywords

Figuring out what your audience isn’t looking for is just as important as knowing what they are looking for. One of the best ways to make sure your audience is clearly defined is through negative keywords. These help make sure that the people who click on your ad won’t just bounce when they see a landing page that isn’t relevant to them. Remember, the goal isn’t just to maximize clicks: you want your ads to match your audience’s search goals as closely as possible.

Run more than two ads per group

Google requires you to run at least two ads per group, but there’s no reason you need to limit yourself to that. Use responsive search ads to customize and match your headlines to your audience. The more ads you run, the more choices Google has to choose from. This helps them find the best fit for each targeted web search.

Choose the right conversions

Get specific (and creative!) with every call-to-action. Yes, we’re going to keep saying this: advertising isn’t just about getting new donations: your ads can drive people to subscribe to your email list, sign a petition, or check out your social media. Whatever your call-to-action is, make sure you choose the right bidding strategy to really get those conversions.

Partners in making a difference

Google Ad Grants are a remarkable resource for your nonprofit organization, so it’s important to learn more about how you can use them as effectively as possible. At Big Sea, we’re pros in nonprofit marketing. Let’s partner up to optimize your ad strategy so you can reach more people than you ever imagined. Contact us to learn more about our industry-leading expertise.