Nonprofit's Guide to Google Ad Grants

January 24, 2016
5 minutes

The days of thinking direct mail and door-to-door flyers would be enough to get the word out about a nonprofit organization or a cause are well over and done. The reality is that advertising is more complex than it ever was and while it can be intimidating and seen as a necessary evil to pay for, nonprofits need to advertise in order to bring in the funds needed to fuel their cause.

There is no denying the fact that money is tight in the nonprofit world and advertising at times can be out of reach for some organizations. Google Ad Grants offer nonprofits an opportunity to advertise in ways they could not before.

Introducing Google Ad Grants 

Google Ad Grants, for many organizations, serves as their main strength in advertising. It is a virtually free advertising program that offers to help your nonprofit source website users in support of your organization’s impact. Additionally, Google Ad Grants, unlike most other grant applications, has a very simple application process.

What are Google Ad Grants?

This program gives nonprofits the opportunity to advertise on Google Ads at no cost to the organization. Qualified nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 per month in Google Ads spend on promoting their mission or initiatives on Nonprofits must apply for the grant online and if accepted, will need to follow Google's program details in order to keep the grant.

What are the qualifications?

To be eligible for Google Grants, your organization must:

  • Hold, in good standing, a valid charity status.
  • Acknowledge (and agree to) Google Grants required certifications. This would be regarding how to receive and use the donations obtained with the grant.
  • Possess an adequate, functioning, and well-maintained website that details your mission or initiative.

Governmental agencies and organizations, hospitals and medical groups, as well as schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities are not eligible, though philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible. (Google does have a similar program for educational institutions at

Maintaining eligibility for your new Google nonprofit grant

  • All ads on the account must link to the nonprofit URL.
  • Nonprofit advertisers must log into the Google Ads console at least on a monthly basis. If this does not occur, you may have your free advertisements paused by Google without notification.
  • All ads that your nonprofit is promoting must reflect your mission. Selling products is allowed provided that 100% of the sale are going to support your program.
  • All ads created cannot point to webpages that are not under your nonprofit’s domain. Visitors clicking on your ads must only go to your organization’s website.
  • All ads cannot offer financial products. This includes mortgages or credit cards. Additionally, your ads cannot request large donations such as vehicles, boats, or property. Related keywords to these are also not allowed.
  • Your nonprofit’s website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or any other affiliate links during the Google Grants term.

Any violations of the above, as noted by Google, will subject the nonprofit to removal from the grant program. As with all terms of agreement, Google reserves the right to supplement or amend the eligibility guidelines.

Google Ad Grant Details

Once approved, you will build and manage your own Google Ads account. This will look similar to Google’s paying advertisers. You will be managing the account, not Google.

There are some restrictions though:

  • Your daily budget will stand at $329 (total is $10,000 monthly)
  • You cannot have keywords with a CPC over $2.00
  • Your ads must appear on only
  • You are not able to use Search Partners
  • You are not eligible for the Display Network (you are restricted to anyway)

Given the above restrictions, it may be a bit more difficult to manage a PPC account. Keep in mind that if you don’t use the money, you will lose it. For some nonprofits, you may have a hard time finding ways to spend the full amount. That said, the following basic optimization recommendations may help:

Negative Keywords

You don’t need to go overboard here. It is understood that your goal is to keep only relevant traffic going to your site, but keep in mind you are not measuring ROI or even ROAS (Return On Advertising Spend) the same way as a paying advertiser would. You will also need to monitor for irrelevant traffic by looking at your query information to see what queries are triggering the ads. 

Keyword Selection

Pick relevant terms and match types here. Competing with $6 CPC keywords where you are restricted to $2 CPC only means you will need to get creative. Think of using longtail keywords here. Don’t restrict your thinking to only keywords related to monetary donations, also look at keywords relevant to the volunteer experience as well.

Keyword Match Types

Keep an eye on your match types in that you don’t restrict them too much. Broad types will garner you more impressions and potential clicks. This makes your website more open to more searches. There is still a need though to find keywords that you want to phrase or match exactly. You can still use them but ensure they are keywords that can handle the $2 limit on the max CPC but remain competitive as well.

Final thoughts

Over time you will gain insight looking at the advertising possibilities from the eye of a nonprofit rather than the traditional paying advertiser seeking ROI and ROAS at every turn. To be able to compete in a crowded digital space is a great way to have the advertising playing field leveled for your organization using Google nonprofit grants.

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