Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Non-profits can get up to $10,000 per month in in-kind advertising on the Google Search Network.
Google has a program for non-profits that is hard to beat; up to $10,000 in free advertising per month, or $120,000 per year! It baffles us, at Zova Marketing, that around 80% of the non-profits we run into have no idea that this program exists.
A few years ago, this free ad spend grant used to be at $30,000 per month, and they still have a special program for certain qualifying non-profits at that price. So why did Google decide to lower the ad spend for most non-profits? Well, less than 2% of non-profits were using anywhere close to the $30,000/ month maximum. On average, a non-profit will only spend $500 - $1,500 per month in their Google Ad Grant Account. This is because of the many rules that come with ad grant accounts, which makes it very difficult to spend the full $10,000 available. Even with the complexities that come with an Ad Grant account, the benefits of using Google Ad Grants are hard to turn down.
There is a myriad of benefits that come with a Google ad Grant Account. The most alluring being the $10,000 per month in free ad spend ($120,000 per year.) This is literally free advertising (unless you pay someone to manage the account.) Other benefits include:
Traffic to your website - traffic to your website is important for many non-profit activities including; generating donations, communicating your mission and vision, friend-making, announcing important news such as events and grant awards, and community outreach.
Conversions - when conversions and conversion tracking are set up correctly as a goal with measurement through your site, you can increase your desired conversions through your ads. If your goal is donations, your ads can go to a donation landing page and your ads can actually aid in fundraising. If you want email sign-ups to find volunteers, this can also be set as a goal.
Measurable results - All non-profit organizations have a board of directors that oversee the non-profit. Many times, these boards want to see how different efforts are effecting the goals that are made for the organization. Google ads, and all digital marketing, are able to show results in very concrete form. It's easy to see how many volunteers, donor dollars, visitors to your site, or even visitors to your location, come from ads, and your website. Many times, grants also ask for this kind of measurement. The tools within Google Ads and Analytics make it easy to report results to any person or entity. You can even measure increases in awareness of your organization by using tools that Google provides.
Google Search ads reach 92.26% of the entire online search world. That means that you can reach almost anyone that has online access in the entire world. So many more people can learn about your organization through Google Ads.
The Google Search Network works because of measured intent. Meaning that when someone searches on Google, they are intending to find something or do something. With this level of intent, ads work well because they catch people in times of decisions. For example, if you are a local museum in a medium-sized town, and you run ads for "things to do near me" and put a 25-mile radius around your museum, anyone who comes to town and searches "things to do near me" or "things to do in *your town*" will see your ad and potentially make a trip to your museum, even if they didn't know about it before! That is the power of Google Search Ads.
It's important to note that the Google Ad Grant is for the Search Network only. Google Display Ads are not included in Google Ad Grants.
How To Qualify
In order to get your Google Ad Grant account for non-profits, your organization needs to be registered as a 501 entity with the IRS. In simple terms, you have to hold a valid non-profit status. 501c(3) entities are the most accepted non-profits for Google Ad Grants. Even if your organization holds a valid 501, there are some organizations that Google will not accept. Those types of organizations are:
Governmental entities and organizations
Hospitals and medical groups
Academic institutions and universities
**Philanthropic arms of educational institutions are eligible.
Organizations in countries other than the U.S. may also qualify for Google Ad Grants. To find out more, go here.
Your organization must also have a website that meets Google's Website Policy. Make sure that your organization owns the landing page domain that users would click to. There are also a number of approved 3rd party donation sites that you may use as a landing page (without owning it.) Those are listed here. Note that AmazonSmile is NOT an approved 3rd party donation page.
It's not enough to just own your website though, you must also have a good, or "high quality" website. This can be a bit of a challenge for many non-profits, as high-quality websites can become very expensive and, as far as we've seen, websites seem to be a low priority for charities. Here's a list of what Google deems "high quality":
Your site must have a robust and clear description of your organization, mission, and activities. It must have substantial content, updated events and information, clear navigation, and clear calls to action for a high-quality user experience.
Your site's content must be unique to your organization.
Your website must load quickly, not contain broken links, and (for newly approved domains) be secured with HTTPS.
The Purpose of Your Website Must Not Be Commercial
Commercial activity must not be the purpose of your website. This includes sales of products and services, offering consultations, generating leads, and providing referrals.
Sites resembling businesses or for-profit blogs/vlogs are not permitted.
Any limited commercial activities must describe how they support your mission.
If your organization charges for products or services, your website must describe how your organization uses funds, for example, by disclosing an annual report.
Your website may not make claims that promise results only after a consultation, service, or purchase.
Your organization must serve the public in some way, rather than only those who pay for a service.
Limited Ads On Website
Advertising on your organization’s website must be relevant to your mission and not be obtrusive to users.
Your website may not host Google AdSense ads or affiliate advertising links. If you're required to link to an AdSense account to receive payments for the Android market, you're eligible as long as you don't display AdSense ads on your website.
**Pro-Tip: DO NOT PUT POP-UPS ON YOUR SITE. Many marketers advocate for pop-ups that prompt a website visitor to fill out a form or make a purchase/ donation. Although these pop-ups may increase immediate sign-ups, they do very little to build brand loyalty and are actually harmful to an organization's image. Pop-ups just piss people off, and they may sign up, but only for the one time 10% discount that you've offered. Google also hates pop-ups and may show your website less on organic and paid searches. So just don't do it.
Applying for Google Ad Grants
Once your organization has met all of the qualifications listed above, you can actually apply for your Google Ad Grant account here. After you go to this link, Google will walk you through the process of signing up. You'll need the following to proceed:
Your organization’s EIN (Nonprofit ID) AND your IRS determination letter. The Google application process does not list this as required, but we have found that in most cases, you will need it.
Your organization’s physical address.
Your organization’s online contact information.
The organization that actually verifies your non-profit status and creates your account is TechSoup. You technically do not need an account with TechSoup to sign up for a Grant Account, but many of our clients have found it helpful.
Whether you have a TechSoup account or not, Google will notify you of the following:
The information we collect will be shared with our partner TechSoup to verify your organization.
TechSoup will reach out to you to verify your organization or to create a TechSoup account.
This is where most organizations get tripped up. There is monthly, ongoing maintenance that must be done to the account to ensure that it follows Google's Ad Grant policy. If an account breaks the Ad Grant policy for too long (usually an organization has two weeks to fix issues after they are notified) then Google will shut down the ad account until someone calls Google, and works with an Account Manager to reinstate the account and fix the policy violations.
We highly recommend finding an agency that has experience running Google Ad Grant Accounts and letting them maintain the account. Many times, we've had clients that get the Ad Grant Account and then want to run the ads themselves (after we train them.) Every time a client has tried to maintain their ad account, it has been shut down and it actually costs more for us to go in and reactivate the accounts and fix issues than if we just ran the account ourselves. After three account shutdowns, Google may completely shut down the account and will not be able to be reactivated. Usually, metrics are measured in the month. So, you'd have to maintain these rules in a month, not a rolling 30 days.
Da Rules (Or You Can Go To Google Here)
No single-word keywords permitted
Under Ad Grants' Mission-based policy, single keywords aren’t permitted. Your own brand keywords, approved medical conditions, and certain cases are deemed an exception to this policy. To pause single keywords you can use a filter.
No overly generic keywords permitted
Ad Grants' requires overly generic keywords that don't indicate the intent of the person searching to be paused or removed, for example: ‘“free videos”, “e-books” or “today’s news”.
**PRO TIP: Your landing page experience is a good indication of whether your keyword is too generic. If a keyword has a landing page experience below average, this indicates that users weren't finding the content that they were looking for when they searched. Consider rewording these keywords or adding keywords found in the Search Term report that show a strong CTR.
No keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 permitted
Ad Grants' requires keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 to be paused or removed. Check your quality score on a regular basis to pause non-permitted keywords. You can also set up an automated rule so the system automatically pauses these keywords for you.
Must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month
Failing to meet 5% CTR for two consecutive months can result in temporary account deactivation. We recommend pausing any keywords or ads or ad groups that are performing below a 5% CTR.
Must have valid conversion tracking, if applicable
Ad Grants policy requires that accounts created since January 2018 and advertisers in the program using Smart Bidding strategies must implement accurate conversion tracking.
Accurate conversion tracking means that you are reporting at least 1 conversion per month (see the Conversions column) and that if your conversion rate is high (see the Conv. Rate column), it's accurately setup and due to strong performance of a meaningful conversion.
Must have at least two ads per ad group
Invest in building out your campaign structure with at least two ads per ad group, leading to relevant landing pages, and set the ad rotation to Optimize. This setting optimizes your ads for each individual auction using signals like keyword, search term, device, location, and more.
Must have at least two ad groups per campaign
Create at least two ad groups per campaign with a set of highly relevant and tightly knit keywords that align with the two associated ads and destination landing pages. Check out your Search Terms report to see what multiple word searches have gained a good CTR and add these.
Must have at least two sitelink ad extensions
Sitelinks provide the person searching more opportunities to click directly from your ad to landing pages on your site. Consider what specific pages might be most valuable to people searching and add these as sitelinks. For example, this could be a campaign page for a fundraising campaign.
Must respond to the program survey
All grantees must complete an annual program survey. The survey is sent to the login email addresses on each Ad Grants account early each year. If you've submitted this survey but received a notification that it still needs to be completed, it means they haven't been able to successfully capture your submission based on the customer ID you entered. You'll have to resubmit the survey in this case. **Note that this step cannot be completed by your ad agency, and must be completed by someone in the operations of the non-profit organization.** Do not ignore this email when it comes to you yearly.
Currently, Google does not require 2-factor authentication to be enabled on your account but we HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS. It keeps your account secure and we think that in the not-so-distant future, Google will require this of all accounts, both Grant and non-grant.
**Note, most of the copy has been taken directly from the Google Ad Grants Policy Page. There's no better wording than the wording directly from Google on policy and compliance.