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What is the Google AdWords Grant for Nonprofits?

Posted by Early Growth

June 17, 2016    |     5-minute read (1005 words)

This guest post is from the team over at Whole Whale.

Picture this: you’re dressed in your Las Vegas best, you walk into a casino, and the bouncer hands you a shiny briefcase. Inside sits $10,000. Cash. The bouncer peeks at you over his sunglasses and whispers that the cash is yours to spend however you wish- and any money you make is yours to keep – as long as you use it in the casino.

How could you say no?


Sadly, there is a lot of “the house’s money” that gets passed up each month, and that is in the form of the Google AdWords Grant for nonprofits. This little-known, underutilized resource has huge potential value, and can be a massive driver of traffic to your website if used correctly.

What is AdWords?

You know those yellow ads that pop up at the top of the screen when you do a search on Google? That’s Google AdWords, Google’s main moneymaker. Companies and organizations bid for those spots and in return get a lot of people clicking through to their site.

adwords screenshot

As a part of its social outreach, Google offers a grant to nonprofits that meet its qualifications for $10,000 a month in free AdWords spending. This can be a huge source of extra traffic to your site to augment your other digital strategies, and we think EVERY nonprofit should use it.

Get the Grant

Before you can apply for the grant, you’ll have to make sure your organization is registered with Google for Nonprofits. You might already have this status if you use Google Apps or YouTube for nonprofits. Almost any organization that has 501(c)3 status is eligible, with the exception of governments, hospitals and schools. You can find more detailed criteria and follow the guide to apply for the Google AdWords Grant.

Once you’re registered, you can submit an application through the Google Ad Grants program. It will entail submitting some basic information about your organization and how you will use the in-kind digital advertising to further your impact.

After that: wait. It may take a few weeks or even months for your application to be approved before you can start using AdWords.

Don’t be shy

Max that $#&+! Google gives you $10k every month to spend – use it or lose it. Any money left on the table at the end of the month is gone forever, so you should bust your butt to make sure you’re maxing that budget. This is going to take some serious effort at the beginning- $10k is a lot of money to spend! But keep in mind that you’re setting up a system that will pay off in dividends for months, or even years, to come.

Here are a few strategies we’ve found helpful in maxing that budget and getting the best performance from your ads:

  • Careful Capitalization.

    People’s eyes are drawn to capital letters. Capitalize the most important words in your ad, even if it doesn’t make the most grammatical sense.
  • Close “Scent Match.”

    Just like a dog latches on to a scent and tracks it, Googlers are closely following their keyword scent. They have something in mind they’re looking for, and the search terms they chose to enter are their best shot at encompassing that idea. So think of your ads as a scent trail that leads the user directly to your website.
  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion.

    If a Googler sees their exact search term in your ad, that’s about the closest scent match you can get. So careful use of Keyword insertion — a tool that allows you to insert their search term directly into your ad — can increase click-throughs. Learn all of the rules here – just use discretion so you don’t end up with a competitor in your headline.
  • Deliberate Destinations.

    If you could choose any page on your site that people would gravitate to, which would you choose? Your home page? Your About section? More likely, it’s your donation page or newsletter signup page. With AdWords, you get to choose exactly where people land when they come to your site – so choose wisely, and you’ll see more traffic exactly where you want it.

Keep in mind that general SEO strategies extend to AdWords as well – creating relevant ads that take people where they want to go is the ultimate goal.

There are a number of other resources with great tips for creating awesome ads and maxing out that $10k budget. We love Perry Marshall’s “Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords” as a start. Google also has a number of great online resources to learn about how AdWords works. And be sure to stay up to date on any changes Google makes to its policies — they can be quite sneaky.

AdWords is like your Thanksgiving Turkey

AdWords is not a TV dinner. You have to open up that oven and baste it every once in awhile or it’ll burn. Your ad performance may change depending on the auction, trending topics, your site performance, and a million other factors. Set aside an hour or two every week to check on your ads, make updates, and develop new copy to test. Your ad positions will thank you.

If you’re really short on time, Google just launched a new product called AdWords Express, which allows Google to manage your ads for you. If you’re happy to relinquish control this may be something to consider – but it will still take some time to set up and occasional maintenance.

Need Proof?

Whole Whale has managed over a 3 million dollars worth of AdWords to date, and we’ve seen incredible boosts in web traffic because of AdWords. One client’s traffic tripled once their grant was utilized to 95%. For another client, AdWords traffic through the Google Grant now comprises half of their new magazine subscriptions each month.

You can totally do this on your own.

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