Unlocking Free Advertising: A Guide to Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits

Google Search and search bar with Google Ads Grant Program in the search bar

Is your business a nonprofit organization?

If so, would you like $120,000 free dollars a year to spend towards advertising?

Well, good news! The Google Ad Grant Program gives qualified nonprofit organizations $10,000 per month to spend on Search ads. This means your organization can target keywords and construct ads that will show up in Google’s search results page when a user types those keywords into their search bar.

This grant program is helpful for any nonprofit, but can be especially useful for smaller organizations whose advertising budgets may be smaller than their larger competitors (or non-existent).

A grant of $10,000 per month may sound like something that’s difficult to get, but the eligibility requirements, application process, and usage guidelines are simple and user friendly. We'll explore those here today.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility requirements for the Google Ad Grant Program are straightforward and easy to follow. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll review the eligibility requirements for the United States, but folks around the world can find country specific guidelines here.

To qualify for the Google Ad Grant Program, organizations must be registered as a nonprofit charitable organization in good standing. You must either have a current 501(c)(3) status or a group exempt organization with proven affiliation to a nonprofit that has a 501(c)(3) status.

You’ll also need a high quality website that meets Google’s guidelines described in their website policy.

Government entities and organizations, hospital and healthcare organizations, schools, universities, and academic institutions are not eligible.

Application Process

The application process to obtain a Google Grant is quite simple. Go to the Google for Nonprofits home page and click Get Started. You’ll want to have your organization’s physical address, the online contact information, and your nonprofit registration number (your EIN).

This part of the process usually takes about 10 minutes. Once this step has been completed, it takes about 2-14 days for Google to verify and approve your organization for a Google Ads Grant.

Getting Started

Congratulations! Your Google Ads Grant has been approved. You’re now free to start setting up your ad campaigns.

Google has numerous resources for nonprofits to help get you started. This video tutorial walks you through everything from campaign design and implementation to ongoing Google Ads management tips.

Account Structure Guidelines

There are some grant-specific account structure requirements to keep in mind when designing your campaigns.

Each campaign must have at least two ad groups, each with a highly relevant set of keywords. And each ad group must have at least two ads that link to high quality, relevant landing pages.

Keyword Guidelines

To stay in compliance with Google Ads Grants, there are some rules around keywords you must keep in mind.

Google does not allow grant accounts to use single-word keywords. For example, “volunteering” would not be permitted, but “volunteering for Green Up Day” would work.

Grant accounts are also not allowed to use overly generic keywords. Google considers an overly generic keyword to be one that doesn’t reflect the user’s intent. A good way to tell if your keywords are overly generic is by looking at the Percentage of Engaged Sessions column on the Search keywords dashboard. Higher percentages of engaged sessions means that users found your site to be relevant for those keywords. Lower percentages of engaged sessions could indicate that your keywords are too generic or not relevant to your audience and should be paused.

Similarly, keywords with a low quality score (1 or 2) are not permitted and must be paused or removed. You can track this manually by keeping an eye on the Quality Score column of your Search keywords dashboard, or create an automated rule so that the system regularly checks for and pauses keywords with a low quality score.

Finally, your enabled keywords need to have an average of at least a 5% click-through rate (CTR) every month. This is easily monitored in the Search keywords dashboard, as seen in the graphic below. If you’re not meeting the minimum 5% CTR, you’ll want to pause the lower performing keywords until the “Total: Ad group” is 5% or higher.

Grant Usage Guidelines

Google Ad Grants can be used for Search ads only. You can’t use it to create Display ads or YouTube ads.

That being said, many nonprofit organizations can and do have separate paid accounts for their Display and YouTube ads.

Ready to Boost Your Nonprofit?

The Google Ads Grant Program is a powerful tool that nonprofits can use to boost their impact without straining their budget. If you’re ready to take advantage of this grant and would like some guidance or support, we’re here to help make sure your campaigns are successful. Here at Eternity, we've worked with nonprofits since we started back in 2000 out of our Founder’s college dorm. Check out our portfolio here to learn more about the types of nonprofits we've worked with so far and get in touch today to start making a bigger difference with your digital presence.