Your Nonprofit Can Afford To Buy Brand Awareness On AdWords

So you’ve started a nonprofit, and you’d like to get the word out. There’s social media, SEO, word of mouth, etc., but you’re getting impatient. You need a visibility boost, and fast.

Have you considered AdWords?

Before you throw up your hands and say your nonprofit doesn’t have any budget to run ads, check out Google Grants, the search behemoth’s program that gives out $10,000 worth of free advertising a month to organizations with 501 (c) (3) status. There are qualifiers, to be sure – all ads must go to the approved non-profit website, for instance – but it’s free money and free advertising.

Our advice, of course, would not be to treat it as such; AdWords optimization is a complex, ever-evolving process that takes a dedicated expert to get the most out of your dollars. Buy a few head terms with broad match, and that free money will be gone quickly without a whole lot of brand equity to show for it.

Now, not a whole lot of nonprofits have an in-house SEM expert on hand. So what to do if you’re pursuing or have actually secured a Google Grant? Luckily, there are some agencies out there to deal specifically with nonprofit advertising (our favorite is MediaCause, based in San Francisco). They’ll help get your AdWords campaign off the ground for free, and from there it’s like any for-profit campaign: once the ROI starts opening your board’s eyeballs, you can consider paying for enhanced suites of service.

One thing we’d caution against is spending all the money on your own brand keywords; you want to show up when someone searches for your company, of course (even if you’re already dominating the organic results), but the real opportunity to increase awareness will come via non-brand terms. For instance, if you’re an organization like 826 Valencia, the incredible writing-for-youth organization based in San Francisco and spread nationwide, you need to own one of these spots yesterday:

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