Getting Your Nonprofit Started with Google Ad Grants
by Andrea Zuehlk
Google ranks as the top internet search engine worldwide. As of January 2023, it accounted for more than 84 percent of global desktop search traffic, so it’s no surprise that millions of businesses market their products and services through the Google Ads platform each year.
The program helps businesses get in front of potential customers with text, image and video-based ads that appear in Google search results based on relevance to the search query. While it generates huge revenue for Google – $224+ billion in 2022 – Google Ads also helps nonprofit organizations with a free version of the program called Google Ad Grants.
Launched in 2003, Google Ad Grants gives qualifying nonprofits FREE access to the Google Ads platform, providing up to $10,000 per month of text-based search advertising to encourage donations, recruit volunteers, publicize events and more.
To qualify, your organization must meet specific eligibility requirements and complete a verification process. And once you’re in, you can’t set it and forget it. Google imposes strict compliance metrics, so it’s important to actively manage your campaigns and performance. Learn more about the benefits of Google Ad Grants and how to get started and stay active with your account.
How can Google Ad Grants help my nonprofit organization?
Google Ad Grants helps your nonprofit connect with people who care about your cause. It allows you to create a variety of ad campaigns to target specific audiences and help you achieve your goals, for example:
- Informing the public about your mission or cause.
- Creating awareness of specific programs or service offerings.
- Reaching existing and potential donors to boost giving.
- Building a donor and/or e-newsletter subscriber base.
- Promoting events to encourage participation and ticket sales.
- Recruiting employees, volunteers or members to support your mission.
- Encouraging people to take action – vote for change, sign a petition or spread the word through social media.
What are the eligibility requirements for Google Ad Grants?
To qualify for Google Ad Grants, your organization must first join Google for Nonprofits, the nonprofit equivalent to Google Workspace. While eligibility requirements vary by country, your nonprofit must hold valid charity status. In the U.S., for example, this requires a filing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization.
Additional requirements include:
- Operating a secure, high-quality website that is hosted on a domain owned by your organization and meets Google Ad Grants’ website policy.
- Your organization cannot be a government agency, hospital or healthcare organization, or a school or university. Charitable arms of healthcare and academic institutions, however, are eligible.
- You must agree to the Google for Nonprofits terms of service and Google Ad Grants program policies.
How do I set up and activate Google Ad Grants?
Step 1: Set Up Google for Nonprofits
Visit Google for Nonprofits and request an account. You’ll need to answer a few questions to determine your eligibility, including contact and website information. Once you submit your request, Google for Nonprofits will verify your status through TechSoup. This review process can take up to two weeks, and you’ll be notified by email when the process is complete.
Step 2: Activate Google Ads
Assuming your organization is approved, you’ll access your new Google for Nonprofits account and activate Google Ads. Activation steps include:
- Verifying that your nonprofit’s website is secure with an SSL certificate (HTTPS).
- Completing the Ad Grants eligibility form, demonstrating proficiency in Google Ads and providing more information about your organization.
- Submitting your activation for review, which typically takes 3 business days.
- Accepting the email invitation to your new Google Ads account.
Step 3: Confirm Ad Grants Status
Once your Google Ads account is activated, you’ll need to ensure that Billing and Payments is set to “This account is not billed.” If your Google Ads account requests a credit card for payment, it is not linked to the Ad Grants program, and you need to contact Google Ads support to resolve the issue. If you only plan to run Google Ads through the Ad Grants program, do not launch search ads linked to your credit card or you will be responsible for the out-of-pocket costs.
Step 4: Create and Launch Campaigns
Once you verify that your Google Ads account is designated as an Ad Grants account, you will be eligible to create and launch campaigns with text-based ads that appear on Google search results pages, either by themselves or positioned below paid advertising. The ads are triggered when people enter search queries that match key phrases you’ve incorporated into your ads. You can create multiple ad campaigns, but keep in mind they all need to link to a URL within your organization’s website domain. There is no spend requirement each month, but the funds don’t roll over if unused.
How do I maintain compliance with my Google Ad Grants account?
To keep your account active, Ad Grants requires active participation and adherence to the Ad Grants compliance guide, which establishes metrics for performance and account structure.
Here’s a summary of the guide:
- Click-Through-Rate – The account must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month. Failing to meet a 5% CTR for 2 consecutive months can result in temporary account deactivation.
- Conversion Tracking – Ad Grants accounts created after January 2018 and those using Smart Bidding strategies must have accurate conversion tracking in place and report at least 1 conversion per month. By setting up Google Analytics on your website and linking it with your Ad Grants account, you can create specific conversion goals – the user watched a video, clicked a donate button or filled out a form – and import them into Ad Grants for tracking.
- Keywords – As you develop keywords for your ads, avoid one-word keywords, overly generic keywords and keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2. Quality scores depend on your click-through rate, ad relevance and the quality of the landing page experience.
- Account Structure – Your account must have at least 2 ads per ad group and 2 ad groups per campaign. It also has to incorporate at least 2 sitelink ad extensions. Sitelink assets, which can improve CTR, let you add additional links to your ads, giving users the option to land someplace other than the designated landing page.
- Program Survey – All grantees must complete an annual program survey.
- Terms & Conditions – Google requires you to stay current on changes to Google Ads by accepting revised Terms & Conditions. If you fall behind on accepting these changes, Google will pause your Ad Grants campaigns until you are back in compliance.
- Ad Policy – Google constantly iterates on the best ad formats, ad structures, asset requirements and ad extensions. That means ads in compliance today may not be in compliance tomorrow when a policy change is rolled out. Luckily, Google notifies you when ads are out of compliance. Ad Policy changes more than you might think, and it’s important to resolve “ads disapproved” messages quickly to keep your campaign running.
Need help getting Google Ad Grants launched for your nonprofit? Contact The Vella Group at email@example.com for more information. And stay tuned for more blogs on Google Ad Grants best practices.