13 Things Nonprofits Should Know About Google’s Ad Grant

by | Aug 31, 2020

One of Google’s best-kept secrets is their $10,000 a month advertising grant to qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofits. While many nonprofits currently take advantage of this grant, many more have never heard about this program or those that know about it but are unsure of how they can utilize it for their nonprofit.

At Need by Need, we’re dedicated to helping nonprofits take advantage of Google’s Ad Grants for their marketing needs. Our team of volunteer digital marketers dedicates their time free of charge to help nonprofits set up, manage, and optimize their Google Ad Grant account to ensure the nonprofit is getting the most they can from this free resource.

However, there is a lot of information nonprofits that should know about the Google Ad Grant. In this blog, we’re going through the top 13 things nonprofits should know about Google’s Ad Grant.

1) The Ad Grant offers nonprofits $10,000 a month in search advertising.

This grant is a use it or lose it grant that resets every month. That means that if a nonprofit doesn’t spend the full $10,000 every month, it won’t rollover. Therefore, the nonprofit should try to spend as much of that $10,000 per month.

2) This grant is only for Google’s search advertising.

The grant cannot be used for display ads, video ads, or any other advertising type that Google offers. With search ads, the mentality has to be a little different than other forms of advertising. For example, instead of pushing a message out to somebody in their feed (like Facebook or Twitter), search ads are used to capture people already looking for an organization or a related topic.

3) Nonprofits need to maintain a 5% click-through rate.

To ensure nonprofits aren’t bidding on keywords that are not relevant to their mission, Google has required that Ad Grant accounts maintain a 5% click-through rate. This means that 5% of the people who see the nonprofit’s ads have to click on them. Overall, this is not hard if their ads are targeted to issues and topics relevant to their nonprofit. A full list of requirements can be viewed by clicking here.

4) Google requires conversion-based bid strategies for new Ad Grant accounts.

For any new Ad Grant account, Google requires ads to utilize a conversion-based bid strategy – either Maximize conversions, Maximize conversion values, Target CPA, or Target ROAS bidding. Most nonprofits will use “Maximize conversions.” In most cases, a conversion is a donation, email signup, or some other action on the nonprofit’s website.

5) Nonprofits can only send people to websites they own.

Google allows search ads that utilize the Ad Grant to be directed to any website that an organization owns. For most organizations, this is just going to be one website – their main website. However, some organizations may have multiple websites they utilize. If a nonprofit owns a website (i.e., pays for that website domain name), they can send website traffic to it with the Ad Grant. However, Google does not allow nonprofits to send traffic to websites like donation pages on third party websites (i.e., a GoFundMe or PayPal page).

6) Nonprofits can use the Google Ad Grant for commercial activity if that commercial activity supports the nonprofit’s mission.

Since this is an Ad Grant for nonprofits, the money is not meant to go towards purely commercial, money-making activity. However, Google does allow nonprofits to direct ads to commercial activities that support the organization’s mission. So, if an organization has a website store that sells t-shirts and other items where the proceeds go to support its mission, Google will likely allow that.

7) The Google Ad Grant takes time to get up and running.

Google has streamlined the Google Ad Grant application process in recent years. In some cases, a nonprofit could have their account approved in as little as 24 hours from start to finish. However, it will take an organization time to get their ads up and running and optimized. Unlike other forms of advertising, search ads perform best when they are left up and optimized over time, tinkering with the keywords or the targeting along the way. Have patience, and don’t expect results overnight.

8) Focus on spending the full $10,000 each month.

Unlike advertising that an organization pays for out of its funds, the Ad Grant is free money that can’t be banked or saved. There is no incentive to optimize the cost per result until the nonprofit is spending the full Ad Grant amount each month. Therefore, nonprofits should not worry about cost per click or cost per conversion until they spend the entire $10,000 per month. Until that point, spending $5, $20, or even $100 per click or conversion should not bother them even if the “return” is technically much less than what Ad Grant “spent.”

9) Use the Ad Grant for both ongoing initiatives and singular events.

Nonprofits should have ads branding their organization that are always running in their Ad Grant account. These are the ones they can set at the beginning and let them optimize over time. In addition to those ads, whenever a nonprofit has a gala, a fundraising run, or any other type of event they want supporters to attend, they should create specific ads to promote that event.

10) Google Ads grant is not going to be a nonprofit’s advertising magic bullet.

For some organizations, the Google Ad grant does well just because many people are searching for the topics they cover. For other organizations, there isn’t a lot of search traffic for the issues they cover. In either case, nonprofits shouldn’t look at the Ad Grant as a magic bullet for their organization. It should be something that complements what they are already doing. While it could be a big help, it will likely not be a singular thing that can drive a nonprofit organization to success.

11) Understand that an Ad Grant account could be suspended or shut down.

This mainly happens if a nonprofit organization does not have someone actively managing the account. This is why it is essential nonprofits have someone making sure that the nonprofit stay within Google’s compliance policies. Sometimes things happen, and nonprofits will have to fix an issue that Google has flagged. But as long as the nonprofit still has access to the Ad Grant account, any problems can be fixed and the account can be brought back into good standing.

12) A nonprofit can regain access to an old Ad Grant account or apply for a new one.

If a nonprofit loses access to an old Ad Grant account, they can only regain access if the account remains in good standing. Google has set up a streamlined process that allows organizations to contact their support team to request a new person be added to the old account (https://support.google.com/grants/answer/66163). However, if the nonprofit’s old account ends up getting suspended, they can still contact Google’s support team, ask them to shut down the old account, and reapply for a new Ad Grant account.

13) The ad grant is continually evolving.

What might be required for one month might be different in the next month. Here at Need by Need, we try to help organizations keep up with the changes and adapt their account to whatever the new rules are. Since Google is offering this Ad Grant for free, we can’t complain too much about any changes. And up until this point, Google has not made any ridiculous requirement for their service. Overall, the Ad Grant is an excellent tool for any nonprofit organization, even if it just helps drive a few extra people to their website each month.


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