November 22, 2014

Google Grants Available for Nonprofit Organizations

google grants

Every few months I come across something for marketers that I had absolutely no idea existed.  This time, it’s the Google Grants program, an AdWords program for nonprofit organizations that falls into this category.

Whether you own a nonprofit or not, it’s interesting to see what Google has to offer and what others in your industry might be using in order to advertise. Knowing how it all works could also help you make your decision one way or the other if starting a nonprofit was ever something you considered.

Understanding this program is just another way to create well-rounded knowledge about Google.

How the Google Grants Program Works

The idea is that nonprofits can advertise with Google at no cost.

If your organization qualifies for the program, you get $10,000 per month in AdWords to advertise on Google to help accomplish your goals.

Sounds great, right?

It is an excellent program, but qualifying is strict and takes some time. As expected there is an application process, but you also need to make sure you’re following all of the program details to a tee or you could lose the grant money.

Google Grants Eligibility

In most cases if you’re a nonprofit organization you’re going to be eligible without having to do any extra work. But it helps to know all of the qualifications before you spend time getting started.

Knowing the eligibility requirements, shown below, is also a good place to start if you’re still in the planning stages:

  • You must have a current and valid charity status. In the U.S., this means you have a current 501(c)(3) status.
  • You have to agree to the Google Grant requirements. You will be prompted to accept, which is where you can read all of the requirements. How to use the donations, how to receive them, etc.  Remember, you have to agree and follow them. If you don’t like one, tough break.
  • You must have a website that is kept up-to-date and has enough information about your nonprofit for visitors to see (and those giving you the grant money).

While you have to possess the above to get involved, there are also strict organizations who cannot get involved, which might help you determine where your organization fits into the equation.

If you’re working with a hospital, medical group, government organization, school and/or academic program, or childcare centers, you are NOT eligible for the grant.

Maintaining Your Google Grant

Once you’ve got the grant, step #2 is, of course, keeping it. There are quite a few things you need to do to make sure you don’t lose the grant you worked so hard to get:

  • When you go to advertise, you have to link back to the URL that you cited in your application. On that same note, your ad has to be centered around sending people to your website.
  • You have to login to your AdWords account once every few weeks in order to show that you are active (otherwise Google might pause the account).
  • You cannot display ads from Google AdSense.
  • You can sell products, but they cannot be financial products, such as credit cards.
  • You cannot ask for donations in the form of large products, and all proceeds must go to your organization.

I recommend checking out this WordStream article that includes some extra restrictions and tips. The official Google Grants webpage also has more details and eligibility information for those wanting to learn.

Have you used the Google Grants program in the past?

Image: Video Still, Google

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Amanda DiSilvestro


Amanda DiSilvestro Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for Viral Content Buzz, a system designed to help you promote other content and get your content promoted on major social channels like Twitter and Facebook. You can also find her writing for the nationally recognized SEO firm, Higher Visibility.

10 Reactions

  1. Great job looking after the community and helping worthy causes promote themselves Google! personally I don’t work in the nonprofit sector, but I know quite a few people who do and will be telling them just how valuable this program can be.

  2. People are quick to criticize Google – but the Google grants program is an excellent example of how Google is giving back – quietly and discretely.

    As a Google Partner I am very familiar with the program and have helped a couple of non profits – and there are a couple of points that should be made…. firstly you cannot bid more than $2 per click – and you can only use the credit for text search ads on the Google sites – so no search partners. This helps Google avoid grant ads competing with paying customer’s ads to a degree. and the ads cannot appear on search partner sites as the search partners also rely on the income share, so it would not be fair for Google to impose free ads on their space.

    Secondly, and, perhaps more importantly, you need to figure out the strategy for turning the grant money into actual funds – i.e. donations. Getting plenty of people to the website for a non-profit is only half the job. You need to ensure that your website is then in a position to get the most from those visitors – and we propose remarketing effectively for this. This does require an investment from the non-profit but this is allowed under the scheme. We recommend a proportion of the funds be channeled back into a secondary ad campaign.

    And, to get the most out of a Google grant you will probably need to employ an account manager – and whilst Google will give you the ad spend, the manager will charge a fee on most cases. In our case the fee is substantially less than we would normally charge a paying client – but we are unable to work completely pro-bono. Some of the larger agencies might, but don’t expect to get the most experienced of managers!

    Finally, although it might sound surprising, you will likely find it hard to spend your $10,000 a month! The approach to grant money is quite different from the approach that we normally take with client’s stretched marketing budgets. With grant money – if you don’t spend it, you lose it – so work out creative ways to hit your budgets very month. With the limitations of search only (and no search partners) and a $2 maximum cpc this is not as simple as it sounds.

    • Steve is spot on. I’m managing a handful of Google Grants accounts right now and spending the available money can be hard. The $10K/month is actually limited to $330/day, so sometimes weekends can be especially hard to reach the max, but you lose out on traffic during high traffic days.

      It’s a great program that is also beneficial for Google because they’re able to write off all the click charges as charitable contributions on their taxes. Win-Win!

  3. Such wonderful comments thank you both! Love hearing personal stories and I think that will help quite a few people. This is a great program and I want everyone who can to take advantage and know it’s out there!

  4. Nice overview of the Google Grants program. Most nonprofits either aren’t aware of it or don’t know how to leverage it correctly. It works best for adding people to your email list or recruiting volunteers. It’s not so great for directly getting donations, mostly because most nonprofit websites aren’t very good at that anyway. They don’t take advantage of visual storytelling and can’t make “the ask” in 20 words. Plus, most of them never do any A/B split testing to try to improve their donations page.

    Steve Cameron made some excellent points about nonprofits needing professional help with setting up and running their AdWords spend with Google Grants. They also need to get some professional help with determining exactly what behavior they want from their site visitors (and narrowly focus on that aspect), plus some help with testing and improving the effectiveness of their donations page.

  5. That’s good news. I am with you on not knowing that a service like this even existed. It’s nice that they are helping non-profit organizations get their word out there for free. I just hope that it stays low so that it does not get abused.

  6. Cordelia May Hardin

    Fade to black!

  7. Good Evening, We are pretty sure we are getting the google grant. Our new and amazing website launches monday. I am looking for someone to manage our grant that is REASONABLY priced. I have gotten a couple quotes, but to be honest they are so far fetched that it would put us upside down.

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