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Google ad grants guide for nonprofits

Introduction

Welcome to the Google Ad Grants Guide for Nonprofits, written and developed by Tower33 founder and Lead Strategist, Anthony Miller. 

 

Much of the information in this guide—in some form or another—can be found and accessed around the web, and throughout the Google Ads help center. In our experience, that information is very scattered and is often missing the detail you need. This guide is designed to take you through the process from start to finish, getting you from just learning about Google Ad Grants to actively running campaigns. 

 

Throughout our guide we highlight information that should be used and considered when setting up and using a Google Ad Grants account. It’s not just about a checklist of what to do; it’s also about making sure you know the thinking so you don’t end up making other harmful errors as a result. 

 

If you have any questions or feedback about the information in this guide, please email author, Anthony Miller at anthony@tower33.com

 

Article in Summary 

Google provides 501(c)(3)s with a program known as Google Ad Grants (from now on, we’ll just call it Ad Grants). Through this program, nonprofits can gain access to in-kind donated advertising of up to $10,000 per month in value. 

 

There are a few simple steps to follow in order to apply for an Ad Grant and be approved if eligible. Once approved, you must either self-manage the Google Ad account or hire a professional to help you manage it. 

 

There are many compliance requirements for Ad Grant accounts that do not apply to traditional Google Ad accounts, and violation of these policies can result in suspension of the account.

 

Program Details 

In case you’re not already familiar with the Ad Grants program, we’ll start by covering some of the basics of what it is and how it can benefit your nonprofit. 

 

Benefits 

Are your potential donors and supporters searching on Google’s search engine, looking for resources that you provide? In most cases, this is an obvious yes. With many functions of our lives revolving around a search engine, nonprofits have the potential to generate many new supporters by reaching people who are looking for ways to contribute. 

 

Some common uses and benefits of the Ad Grants program are to: 

  • Raise awareness 
  • Drive more website visits
  • Reach people when they’re in need 
  • Capture donors looking to give 
  • Build your email and social communities 

 

How it works 

If you’re not currently enrolled in the Ad Grants program, there are a few steps that will take you through the process, from setting up to actively running ads on Google. 

 

  1. Complete the eligibility and application process found here.
  2. Once approved, access your Ad Grants account, which will provide up to $10,000 per month in advertising value. 
  3. Create campaigns within your Ad Grants account.
  4. Maintain compliance with the policy and performance requirements.

 

Eligibility 

Not all organizations can qualify for an Ad Grant. In most cases, the program is restricted to 501(c)(3) designations and to the 50 or so countries listed below. Across the globe, there are more than 20,000 nonprofit organizations currently receiving Ad Grants through the program. 

 

Countries included in the program, as of December 2020, include: 

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Belgium (Dutch), Belgium (French), Belgium (German), Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada (English), Canada (French), Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong (English), Hong Kong (Cantonese), Hungary, India (English), India (Hindi), Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Luxembourg (German), Luxembourg (French), Mexico, Macau, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines (English), Philippines (Filipino), Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore (Chinese), Singapore (English), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland (French), Switzerland (German), Switzerland (Italian), Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, United Kingdom, United States

 

In order to qualify, your organization must hold a valid charity status. In the United States, this means being recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization formed for charitable, educational, religious, literary, scientific, or other tax-exempt purposes. 

 

Fiscally sponsored organizations (FSOs) that do not have their own 501(c)(3) status are not eligible. 

 

Organizations that are automatically considered tax-exempt under group exemption, such as churches, must still obtain recognition of 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS to qualify for the Ad Grants program.

 

Program policies 

All Ad Grants accounts must follow standard Google Ads policies, in addition to the specific guidelines for Ad Grants noted below. 

 

Terms and conditions

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/46103?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

These terms and conditions place a special emphasis on discrimination. While this might be an obvious point, it’s stated clearly that no campaign may use, or direct viewers toward, messages that discriminate against any marginalized or protected groups. 

 

Mission-based campaigns 

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/4410314?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

Your Ad Grants account must reflect your organization’s mission, be relevant to your nonprofit’s programs and services, and be specific enough to provide a good experience for the user seeing your ads. 

 

Website policy 

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/1657899?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093

When running advertising, you must send people to a website and domain that you own and manage. In some cases, you can run advertising that points to third-party sites used for fundraising. The approved third-party sites can be found here: https://support.google.com/grants/topic/9298837

 

The website you maintain must be in good working order—with no performance issues or page loading issues—and in general, it must effectively convey the message and work of your organization. Use common sense to determine whether your site needs additional work before it’s worth spending money to direct users there. 

 

If you’re running advertising on your site, it must be limited, relevant to your mission, and unobtrusive for users. You may not host Google AdSense ads or affiliate advertising links. 

 

To add or update website domain(s) to your account, complete the additional website domain(s) request form. Your request will be reviewed within 10 business days.

 

Account management policy 

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/117827?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

 

Account structure

A well-structured account is imperative to ensure that you show your audience the right ad at the right time. 

 

Ad Grants accounts must have:

  • Proper location settings (specific geo-targeting to show ads in locations where users will find your nonprofit’s information and services useful). 
    • If you do humanitarian relief in Nepal but your primary online goal is to raise donations from donors in the United States, show your ads in the US. 
    • If you would like to brand your organization in a wider geographic area—for example, if your museum would like to attract visitors from across the country—create one campaign that is geo-targeted widely to nationwide users searching for “art museums in Toronto,” while targeting most of your campaigns to users in the Toronto area. 
    • If your organization offers different services locally and nationally, separate campaigns by geographic area to ensure that users can benefit from your services in their geographic location.
    • If you primarily serve your local community—for example, your organization is a food bank or a house of worship—show your ads only in your town or local area. 
  • At least two active ad groups per campaign (if you are not exclusively using Smart campaigns), each containing a set of closely related keywords, and two active, unique text ads.
  • At least two unique sitelink ad extensions.

 

Performance

Ad Grants accounts that are not exclusively using Smart campaigns must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month (at the account level, not necessarily for each keyword). If the CTR requirement isn’t met for two consecutive months, your account will be temporarily deactivated. You may request reinstatement after bringing your account into compliance with this performance requirement.

 

Tracking conversions

In order to use Ad Grants to drive meaningful impact, your account must set up conversion tracking, following tailored requirements intended to suit the needs of nonprofits. This Ad Grants Conversion Tracking Guide provides instructions for setting up your conversion tracking properly.

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/9038650?hl=en

 

Examples of meaningful conversion goals include donations, purchases, membership registrations, email sign-ups, volunteer sign-ups, new membership form completions, petitions signed, information request submissions, calls to your organization, or engagement with content on your website. 

 

For accounts created on or after April 22, 2019, at least one of the above conversion types must be set up (as described in the Ad Grants activation guide), and the account must accrue at least one conversion per month. Conversion types such as time spent on site or homepage visits may be added to your account, but must be excluded from “Conversions” and must use the category “Other.”

 

For accounts created on or after January 1, 2018, or for any account using a conversion-based Smart Bidding strategy, valid conversion tracking must be set up (as described in the Ad Grants Conversion Tracking Guide, link above). These accounts must accrue at least one conversion per month.

 

If your account is deactivated, you may request reinstatement after you’ve adjusted your account to bring it into compliance.

 

Bidding

In order to drive performance for grantees, Ad Grants requires that accounts created on or after April 22, 2019 must use conversion-based Smart Bidding for all campaigns, unless using Smart campaigns. Each campaign must use either Maximize conversions, Maximize conversion values, Target CPA, or Target ROAS bidding. 

 

If your account is deactivated, you may request reinstatement after you’ve adjusted your account to bring it into compliance.

 

Third-party management

Google Ad Grantees are permitted to work with third-party account managers. 

 

Program engagement

Any account found in violation of program policies is subject to automatic suspension without notification. Google reserves the right to grant or deny an organization’s application or participation at any time, for any reason, and to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time.

 

Media or press announcements 

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/181607?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

If you’d like to mention your acceptance into the Ad Grants program, you must follow the rules as outlined here: https://www.google.com/permissions/faq/ and here: https://support.google.com/grants/answer/181607?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093

 

Refunds

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/4387997?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

Do not create a traditional Google Ads account and mistakenly use it in connection with your card. No refunds are provided for such instances. Follow the Ad Grants account setup process and use the Ad Grants account to avoid such issues. 

 

Compliance guidelines

https://support.google.com/grants/answer/9314402?hl=en&ref_topic=3500093 

We’ll cover compliance more thoroughly below in the Getting Started section. The account type you use (standard Google Ads or AdWords Express), and whether you’re self-managing or using a provider to help manage the account, will dictate the type and amount of compliance that will be required for your account. 

 

Getting Started 

Now that you’re familiar with Ad Grants, it’s time to figure out how to set it up. 

Start by visiting this page https://www.google.com/nonprofits/account/u/0/signup?locality=us to begin. Use the account that you want to remain as administrator for the organization within Google for Nonprofits. 

https://www.google.com/nonprofits/offerings/google-ad-grants/ 

 

From here, confirm that you’re not one of the ineligible organization types, and that your organization operates in one of the included countries. 

 

Eligibility questions

In this step you’ll provide the details about your nonprofit organization that will be reviewed to determine your eligibility. You’ll need to provide information such as your organization’s EIN (nonprofit ID), your organization’s physical address, and your business contact information. 

 

This step will take an estimated 10 minutes to complete. 

 

Verification

Once your eligibility submission has been placed, you’ll wait for verification. This typically takes anywhere from 2 to 14 business days. While you wait, you’ll be able to track and check your status any time from your account page. 

 

Activation 

Once your confirmation is received, you’ll be able to activate your account and get started using Google for Nonprofit products. 

 

Building Campaigns

There are two available account types for your Ad Grant account: AdWords Express and standard Google Ads. The differences are significant, so we’ll start by explaining these considerations first, as they ultimately dictate where you go from here. 

 

AdWords Express vs. Google Ads 

The two biggest factors involved in deciding between AdWords Express and Google Ads will be the time you have to commit and your level of confidence in learning a fairly complex technology. If you have the time and are confident in being able to learn everything that factors into managing an account, a standard account may serve you best. Be warned, or at least take note—we’ve seen many professional agencies have their accounts shut down by Google when they were unable to manage them properly. This is not a regular occurrence, and it shouldn’t scare you away, but we want to make it clear that self-managing requires learning multiple new skills and putting in regular time to maintain them. 

 

If you choose to self-manage your Ad Grants account, you might be better off using the automated value of AdWords Express. If you choose to hire someone to help manage your Ad Grants account, you should in most cases go with the standard Google Ads. 

 

Program basics

  • The cap of your campaign is set at $329 USD per day, equivalent to about $10,000 per month. 
  • Only include keyword-targeted campaigns. 
  • Only include text ads that appear on Google search results pages, in positions below the ads of paying advertisers.
  • There is a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) limit of $2 USD for manual bidding. The Smart Bidding strategies Maximize Conversions, Target ROAS, and Target CPA can bid over $2 to help get more conversions, if this is appropriate to your account goals. Note that other Smart Bidding strategies besides the three mentioned above are capped at $2 CPC.

 

Program compliance 

No single-word keywords permitted

Under the Ad Grants Mission-based campaigns policy, single keywords aren’t permitted. Keywords pertaining to your own brand, certain approved medical conditions, and some other cases are deemed exceptions to this policy. To pause single keywords, you can use a filter.

 

No overly generic keywords permitted

The Ad Grants Mission-based campaigns policy does not permit the use of overly generic keywords that don’t indicate the intent of the person searching, such as “free videos,” “e-books,” or “today’s news.”

 

No keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 permitted

The Ad Grants Mission-based campaigns policy requires keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 to be paused or removed. Check your quality score on a regular basis to pause non-permitted keywords. You can also set up an automated rule so the system automatically pauses these keywords for you. 

 

Must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month

Failure to meet 5% CTR for two consecutive months can result in temporary account deactivation.

 

Must have valid conversion tracking, if applicable

The Ad Grants Conversion Tracking Guide requires that accounts created since January 2018, and advertisers in the program using Smart Bidding strategies, implement accurate conversion tracking.

 

Accurate conversion tracking means that: your conversion tracking is set up correctly; you are reporting at least 1 conversion per month (see the Conversions column); and, if your conversion rate is high (see the Conv. Rate column), this is due to strong performance of a meaningful conversion. If your total number of clicks is nearly equal to your total number of conversions, this indicates a problem with your conversion tracking setup. 

 

Must have at least 2 ads per ad group

Invest in building out your campaign structure with at least 2 ads per ad group, leading to relevant landing pages, and set the ad rotation to Optimize. This setting optimizes your ads for each individual auction using signals like keyword, search term, device, location, and more. 

 

Must have at least 2 ad groups per campaign

Create at least 2 ad groups per campaign, with a set of highly relevant and tightly knit keywords that align with the 2 associated ads and destination landing pages. Check out your Search Terms report to see which multiple word searches have gained a good CTR and add these.

 

Must have at least 2 sitelink ad extensions

Sitelinks provide more opportunities for the person searching to click directly from your ad to landing pages on your site. Consider which specific pages might be most valuable to people searching and add these as sitelinks—for example, add a campaign page sitelink for a fundraising campaign. 

 

Must respond to program survey

All grantees must complete an annual program survey. The survey is sent to the login email addresses on each Ad Grants account. Later in the year, you may receive a notification that the survey still needs to be completed. If you receive this notification even though you have submitted the survey, that usually indicates that Google has been unable to successfully capture your submission based on the customer ID entered and that you need to resubmit.

 

Set up and manage your account 

At this point, you’re inside your account and ready to start setting things up. You know the details of the program, understand what you need to build out, and are familiar with the compliance you need to adhere to. 

 

Account setup 

Log in to your Ad Grants account. 

Once you’ve received an email stating your activation has been approved, follow the instructions included in the confirmation message to access your account and finish setting up Google Ads.

 

  1. Accept the email invitation to a new Google Ads account. You will be the administrator of this account and can use it to set up and run your campaigns. 
  2. Accept the email invitation to the Google Payments billing profile. This is a requirement for account access. As a nonprofit organization, you will not be charged.
  3. Sign back into your new Google Ads account and follow the prompts to accept the Google Ads Terms and Conditions. 

 

Set up conversion tracking 

Conversion tracking is a free tool that shows you what happens after someone interacts with your ads—whether they donated, purchased, called your support line, signed up for your newsletter, or downloaded your app. When someone completes an action that you’ve defined as valuable, these completed actions are called conversions. 

 

Create a campaign

  1. Once conversion tracking is set up, go to the “Campaigns” tab on the left.
  2. On the “Campaigns” page, click +New campaign.
  3. Under “Select the goal that would make this campaign successful to you,” click Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.
  4. Under “Select a campaign type,” click Search.
  5. Under “Select the results you want to get from this campaign,” select the goals most closely aligned to the action you want users to take when they see your ad.
    1. If you select Website visits, enter your website.
    2. If you select Phone calls, enter your phone number.
    3. If you select App downloads, enter your app’s platform and name.
  6. Click Continue.
  7. Enter a campaign name. A campaign name can remind you what the campaign is about. For example, “Drive donations” or “Recruit volunteers.”
  8. Under “Networks,” deselect the checkboxes for Include Google search partners and Include Google Display Network.
  9. Under “Locations,” select the relevant locations to show your ads by selecting Enter another location and entering the name of a city or region in the search box.
  10. Under “Languages,” select the languages you want to write and show your ads in.
  11. Under “Budget,” enter $329 USD or less. You’ll have $329 per day to use across all of your campaigns.
  12. Under “Bidding,” click Select a bid strategy directly. Under “Select your bid strategy,” select Maximize conversions, Target CPA, or Target ROAS bidding in the drop-down menu.
  13. Under “Sitelink extensions,” click the down arrow next to “Add additional links to your ad.”
  14. Click +New sitelink extension.
  15. Enter at least two unique text sitelinks. Sitelinks take people to specific pages on your site (not your homepage), such as your calendar of events, one of several programs, or your donate page. When someone clicks on your sitelinks, they skip right to what they want. Two sitelinks with different URLs are required, but you may create as many as make sense for your organization. Click Add sitelink to add more sitelinks.
  16. Click Save.
  17. Click Save and continue to start creating ad groups.

 

Create ad groups with keywords 

  1. Under “Set up ad groups,” enter a name for your ad group. An ad group shows the same ads for a closely related set of keywords. For example, each exhibit in a museum would likely merit its own ad group, and the ad would reference that exhibit.
  2. Enter or paste keywords. Keywords are closely related to search terms that people search for on Google and are often more than a single word. Add multiple phrases—for example, “where to donate clothing” or “memberships to environmental clubs”—that you want to call up your ad when they are searched for. 
  3. Click +New ad group.
  4. Repeat steps 1 – 2 to add at least 2 ad groups, each with a set of closely related keywords.
  5. Click Save and continue.

 

Create ads 

  1. Under “Create ads,” click +New ad to create at least 2 active ads for each ad group. All ads should use the same URL that was submitted for the eligibility assessment.
  2. Click Done.
  3. Click Save and continue to review your campaign.
  4. Review your campaign and click Continue to campaign to finish campaign creation.

 

Maintain compliance 

There are a few compliance requirements that can be managed with account automation. You can automate the management and oversight of things like CTR, single-word keywords, and quality score.

 

Filter for single keywords and pause them 

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. From the page menu, click Campaigns. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Campaign status and All enabled.
  3. From the page menu, click Ad groups. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Ad group status and All enabled.
  4. From the page menu, click Keywords. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Keyword status and All enabled.
  5. Click the Filter button above the statistics table. Choose Keyword text from the list of options and does not contain. In the text box, enter a space by pressing the spacebar on your keyboard once. Click Apply to see a list of single keywords. 
  6. Check the select all checkbox, click Edit, and then click Pause. If the single keyword is an exception to the rule—a brand term, a medical term accepted by Google, or a listed exception—make sure to uncheck it before editing and pausing.

 

Pause keywords with quality scores of 1 or 2 with an automated rule 

You can set up an automated rule so the system regularly pauses keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2 for you. 

 

  1. Click Keywords in the page menu to reach the keywords page, then click the 3-dot icon.
  2. Select Create an automated rule.
  3. For Type of rule, select Pause keywords.
  4. For the Apply to keywords selection, choose All enabled keywords.
  5. For the Condition selection, choose Quality Score, then < and 3. Ensure the checkbox for Include keywords with quality scores of “—” is deselected. 
  6. For Frequency, set Daily. Set time as 11:00 PM and choose using data from Same day.
  7. Choose whether or not you wish to receive an email notification, enter a rule name, and click Save Rule. 

 

Maintain 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month 

Failing to meet 5% CTR for two consecutive months can result in temporary account deactivation.

 

To correct your CTR before your account is temporarily deactivated, or once your account is temporarily deactivated, follow these steps: 

 

  1. Set the date range to the past 7 days that your account was active. If your account was deactivated or campaigns were paused, set the date range to the last 7 days that your ads accrued impressions. 
  2. From the page menu on the left sidebar, click Campaigns. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Campaign status and All enabled.
  3. From the page menu, click Ad groups. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Ad group status and All enabled.
  4. From the page menu, click Keywords. On the filter bar above the statistics table, select Keyword status and All enabled. 
  5. Order by top impressions down by clicking the column header Impr. at the top of the statistics table. 
  6. Pause keywords with high impressions (see Impr. column) and low CTR (see CTR column) by clicking the checkbox to the left of the keyword, clicking Edit, and then clicking Pause. This step will increase the average CTR of all enabled keywords. 
  7. Continue until the CTR metric for the total bar on the statistics table, called Total: filtered keywords, reads at least 5%. 

 

Closing Summary 

There are many other resources available online that can help you in setting up and managing your Google Ad Grants account. Here’s the Google Ad Grants help center link, which houses many of the topics covered in this guide. 

 

If you’re looking to set up and manage everything yourself, please feel free to reach out and ask questions. A contact email is available below. If you’re having trouble with your account and looking for help, you can email us there as well. 

 

We hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or feedback about anything, please email anthony@tower33.com

 

Thanks for reading.