Google adwords nonprofit screenshot

Get that extra online fundraising edge with Google Grants and AdWords

by Christiana Stergiou

Many nonprofits are struggling to find their place in the online universe. By advertising online, and with a little help from Google, you’ll be able to research the level of public interest in your cause, find out what people are really looking for and understand what calls to action people respond to best. And ultimately you’ll be raising more money for your cause.

Now by “with a little help from Google” I mean, up to $10,000 per month in AdWords advertising that’s on offer to eligible nonprofits through the Google Grants program. That’s a daily online advertising budget of up to $329 that many for-profit marketers would die for.

But first, what is this thing called AdWords?

Adwords are the ads that appear along the right hand side, and sometimes at the very top, of a Google search results page. Through AdWords, advertisers are able to target their products to people who are searching online for particular words or phrases. And the advertisers usually pay for the ad once a person clicks through to their website. If you’d like a more detailed definition, click here.

Maybe you’ve noticed Google AdWords and you’ve wonder if anyone uses them? I used to think the same thing. But in 2008, Google made $21 billion from Adwords. So yes, people use them.

What’s a Google Grant?

If you’re a registered nonprofit organization (in most countries) and you meet their eligibility criteria, Google will help you make the world a better place by offering you up to $10,000 per month of Adwords advertising to tell people about your services, acquire new supporters, seek volunteers, promote your events, ask for donations and more. There are limitations, of course, including the $1 maximum you can bid for a key word, but the opportunities are great.

How are nonprofits using Google Grants and AdWords?

International aid charity, Direct Relief International received its Google Grant in 2003. Annie Maxwell, COO says that two months after starting their first AdWords campaign, monthly traffic to its website had grown more than 2,000 percent to 200,000 visitors. “The campaign’s impact was immediate and exponential. Before our Google Grant, our most successful online fundraising year had been 2001, when we had received $56,000 in donations. In December 2003, we received $59,000 in online donations. In that one month, we exceeded the best previous annual online total.”

“Google AdWords has helped to drive investment for us as an organisation,” says Annie. “We don’t look at it solely as advertising; we use it to test messages, increase fundraising for specific initiatives and drive internal investment. And it’s part of our emergency response plans. If a significant natural disaster or emergency happens, we immediately run a campaign to draw attention to it.”

And Annie’s advice for other nonprofits considering Google Grants? “I would absolutely recommend that they apply. In our 60-year history, there are five events that have really affected us and our relationship with Google is one of them. It’s been incredible to take this leap in online visibility, for Direct Relief to move forward as an organisation and develop sophisticated advertising in such a short period of time.”

You can find more about Direct Relief International’s experience here.

Six simple steps to applying for a Google Grant:

1. Check that you meet the criteria. You need to be an officially recognized nonprofit. In Australia, that means being a prescribed charitable institution or a nonprofit with DGR status. In the US, that means having 501(c) 3 status. In other countries, you will need to meet Google’s local eligibility criteria.

2. Don’t apply if you’re not serious. Ten thousand dollars of free advertising sounds like a great idea. But it’s not free. It takes time and effort – to develop the campaigns, write brilliant ads and track and refine your campaigns – and time is money. What’s more, Google expects you to be an active user of the grant. If you stop developing and maintaing your AdWords account, you’ll find that your Google Grant will stop too. And you won’t be able to reapply. (In fact, maybe consider step six first, and give it a go before you even apply for the grant.)

3. Hurry up and apply. Google reviews the applications quarterly, and the Google Grants Blog recently said that approval of grants can take 5-6 months. So if you decide that a Google Grant is right for your organization, don’t delay, apply now.

4. What you need to apply. If only all grant givers made their approvals forms as easy as Google does. It’s a one-page form, and it takes ten minutes to complete. You’ll need to have at hand all of your form basics, such as your organization’s correct name, address, website and the like, but you’ll also need to have:

  • An electronic copy of your charitable status (PDF, JPG or similar)
  • Your ABN and registered name
  • Your mission statement or primary objective
  • Annual operating budget (just the amount)
  • A sample of an ad you might use
  • A brief listing of keywords that might be relevant to your organization
  • Web traffic figures – how many views you get per month

5. Print before you submit. The only time you can print is before you hit the submit button. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and Google won’t be able to provide you a copy of your application. So remember to hit print before you submit your application.

6. Start preparing and testing while you wait. Like many nonprofits and for-profits alike, you might want to just give it a go. Start by setting up few campaigns, writing ads, bidding for relevant keywrds and testing, measuring and refining your ads and campaigns. You might set a daily budget of $10 (that’s about $300 per month). Then once your grant comes through, you’ll have a head start. You’ll also want to be developing your website and landing pages as well as look at what your competitors are doing (but more about that later).

If you’ve received a Google Grant or you’re using Google AdWords, please comment to share your experience with other nonprofit fundraisers reading this article. If you haven’t applied and you’d like some help, please feel free to contact me.

Soon, I’ll be updating you more about developing and managing an AdWords campaign, writing killer ads, converting leads into action on your website, SEO (search engine optimization) and real stories of nonprofits who are doing the best online fundraising in the world (maybe that’s you!). So much to look forward to.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt G 7 May, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Great overview of the Google Grants program Christiana.

However, a few things have since changed since this article was written. An example is the max CPC is now $2 per click, not $1 as stated.

Would you like me to send you an updated version with the 2016 Google Grants requirements?

Christiana Stergiou 8 May, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Thanks Matt. Yes this article is now quite dated. Matt’s website has all the latest details. Thanks again!

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