Nonprofits: Get Free Advertising From Google AdWords

If you represent a nonprofit organization, I hope by now you've applied for a Google Grant for Google AdWords. Started in 2003, the Google Grant provides nonprofits with $10,000 or more of free clicks in the Google AdWords advertising platform. That equates to $120,000 or more of free advertising for each nonprofit organization each year! And for current Google Grant participants, there is another grant level, Grantspro, which awards even more grant money for advertising each month -- up to $480,000 per year!

What Types of Nonprofits Are Eligible?

First and foremost, organizations applying for the Google Grant must have 501(c)(3) status.  Additionally, the organization must have an active website:

  •        be the destination URL from the Grant ads
  •        cannot host Google AdSense or other advertising

    However, not all types of nonprofit organizations are eligible. Google does not provide grants to the following types of organizations:

  • Commercial goods and services
          Car, boat and real estate donation websites (even if they benefit a charity)
         Websites where the primary focus is selling goods, products or services
          Consumer credit counseling organization
  • Communities and groups

    Organizations that require membership and/or provide benefits solely to members, such as clubs, sports teams, alumni organizations, etc.
    Religious content
    Organizations with the primary function of lobbying or special interests
    Schools and universities
    Places or institutions of worship (such as churches)
  • Other organizations
    Promotion of illegal or disruptive tactics
    Government organizations
    Directory or portal websites 
    Websites with an unclear mission or providing a poor user experience



    Grant Amounts

    The Google Grant has two levels: the basic Google Grant and Grantspro. If your organization is approved for a basic Google Grant, the beginning level provides $329/day as a daily budget, which works out to approximately $10,000/month. However, if you are able to spend $9,500 out of the $10,000/month budget for two months out of twelve (not necessarily consecutive months), your organization can apply for the Grantspro level, which provides $40,000/month of Google AdWords budget!

    Limitations and Challenges of the Google Grant Account

    The Google Grant does, however, have a few limitations. First, the top bid is $1/click, which can be challenging if you have very highly searched, expensive keywords (like "breast cancer"). The bid limitation can make it difficult to get ad visibility on the first page of search results, making long-tail keywords (which often cost less per click) crucial in most Google Grant accounts.

    Daily budget also works slightly differently in a Google Grants account than in a regular Google AdWords account. In a normal AdWords account, if the daily budget is not fully spent on a given day, Google will try to spend the remainder on another day. However, if the daily budget in a Google Grants account is not spent in a given day, the remainder is essentially lost - it will not flow over to another day.

    The greatest challenge of the daily budget limitation occurs when trying to ramp up from a Google Grant to a Grantspro level. To achieve the Grantspro level, your organization must spend a minimum of $9,500 each month for at least two months, up to a 12-month period. This means that, on average, the daily clicks must accrue to about $317/day to ensure your account meets the $9,500 monthly threshold.

    Meeting the minimum spend tends to be a challenge because of weekends, when most nonprofits see a dip in clicks. And since the remainder of daily budget isn't carried over to another day, it's crucial to ensure that your organization spends as close to the full $359/day budget on weekends as possible. Again, a breadth of keywords here (usually a plethora of long tail-keywords) can really help an organization reach that full-budget spend, even on weekends.

    How to Apply

     Are you ready to apply? First, if you don't currently have a basic Google Grant, you only need to apply for the introductory level first by filling out the application form. It may take up to five months for Google to process and approve your application. It is very difficult to reach anyone at Google to discuss your grant application status, so you'll have to be patient. Google will notify you via email once your application has been reviewed and a decision made on awarding your organization a grant.

    If you already have a grant and wish to apply for the Grantspro level, there are a few more hurdles to achieving the higher grant award level:

    1.     First, you'll need to have Google Analytics installed on your website. Once you do, be sure to set up at least one goal to track (for example, newsletter sign-ups) using Google Analytics. You can also use another Web analytics package if you wish.

    2.     Next, be sure that your organization has achieved at least a $9,500 monthly spend in at least two months during the last 12 of your Google Grant.

    3.     Finally, take the Grantspro exam. You'll need to score 85% or higher on the exam to pass. Once you pass, you'll have access to the Grantspro application.

    The Grantspro grant level is good for 12 months. Every year the Grantspro team will send your organization a survey to fill out. FILL OUT THE SURVEY! If you don't, you very likely will lose your Grantspro level status and return to the $10,000/month budget of the basic Google Grant (and you may not get much warning of this). So when you set up your Google Account for the Google Grant, be sure the email for the account is sent to several people, just in case. I've seen nonprofits sadly lose the Grantspro level simply because an employee who managed the account left the organization and no one else received the survey email!

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