In a wonderfully generous move, Google gives charities up to $10,000* per month to spend on its Google Google Ads program. There are some hoops to jump through, and some restrictions, but most charities are able to get this money.
And even though it’s only available to use on Google Ads, it can be amazing for a charity to gain such a large advertising budget. This is doubly true of smaller charities that don’t have any marketing budget at all.
This step-by-step guide will explain to you how to apply for this grant, as well as how to manage it once you have it.
*Note: It’s $10,000 per month no matter where in the world you are. It’s just easier for Google to administer if it’s all in US dollars.
What is Google Google Ads?
Google Google Ads is what makes ads appear above search results in the Google search engine. If you search for “coffee makers” for example, then the first few results you will see will be ads for Coffee Makers, before the actual search results.
Google Ads Ads for Coffee Makers
Google Ads can let people advertise in other places too, but recipients of the Google Ads Grant are only allowed to advertise on Google Search.
How does Google Google Ads work?
How it works from an advertiser’s point of view, is that first, you choose some keywords to target – these are the things people are searching for. So in the above example if you were selling coffee makers you would choose the keyword “coffee makers” as well as related terms (e.g. “Coffee machine”, “coffee pot”, “best coffee maker”, etc.)
Next, you make some ads – these ads come in a format you will be familiar with if you’ve ever Googled anything. You choose the page on your site the ad should point to, write a headline and subtitle for the ad, then a small amount of text. For Google Ads grants, you need to have at least two ads running, so once you’ve made one, make another!
Finally, you decide where and how the ad should run. You’ve already decided what Google searches to target (e.g. “Coffee makers”), and what Google will show (your ad). Now you tell Google where geographically you want to target (e.g. if you can only ship coffee makers to Spain, then target Spain). You also tell it how much money to spend per day, which languages to target and other picky stuff like that.
Once you’ve done all this, Google checks your ads and they go live! Now when someone searches for your keywords (e.g. “Coffee Maker”), and they are in your target location (e.g. Spain), then your ad might* appear! You pay every time someone clicks on your ad out of your Google Ads grant.
*your ad only might appear as other people have ads too, and Google chooses the one it thinks it will be most likely to be clicked on.
How do I get a Google Ads Grant from Google?
There are a few steps you need to go through before you can get your Google Ads Grant, and then a few more ongoing things you need to do once you have it, in order to keep it.
The steps you need to go through to get your Google Ads Grant are as follows:
1. Check your eligibility
Unfortunately, some charities are not eligible for Google Ads Grants. They are only available in some countries, and there are a few other restrictions. Check your eligibility here.
2. Validate your status as an eligible charity
To check whether a charity is in fact a charity (and meets Google’s other criteria for a Google Ads Grant), they have to validate what you say about yourself. Google has outsourced this process to TechSoup. TechSoup provides cheap technology tools to charities, so it’s good to be registered with them anyway. To validate your charity as being eligible, sign up here.
You can choose your own language and location, then on the next page choose to register as a new member. You’ll have to fill in some details about your charity and may need some other documents. Once this process is finished, TechSoup will check on what you’ve said and will send you a ‘validation token’ which is basically an odd string of letters and numbers. This is what you need for the next step.
3. Register for the Google NonProfit Program
Now that you have proof you are a charity that is eligible for free Google stuff, it’s time to register for the Google program that administers the grant. Google does other nice things for charities too, and these can all be found under the Google NonProfit Program here.
Just click “Start Now” in the top right-hand corner, and fill in your details. Make sure you have the TechSoup validation token to hand and register away.
Once you’ve been approved (you’ll get an email telling you) in a couple of days log back into the Google NonProfit Program, and apply for the Ad Grant program. It shouldn’t take long to confirm you are in.
4. Register for Google Ads
The link below should make you skip the part of the sign-up process which involves setting up billing information.
This is vital: Do not set up your billing information. If you set up billing information in your account, then you will have to start all over again.
So don’t add your credit card details no matter what it says – an account without any payment details is necessary to run an Ad Grant campaign.
5. Set up and run campaigns
Your first campaign should be a simple one just to get you used to the system. There are infinite guides on how to run a Google Ads account best, but you should start by quickly reading this one here from Google itself.
In this particular guide, there are rules about what you, as a charity on a Google Ads Grant, can and can’t do with your account. So read this guide to put your mind at ease.
What are the rules for a Google Ads Grant?
Getting your Google Ads Grant is, in a lot of ways, the easy bit. Now you have to run it!
Not only is it quite difficult to spend the whole grant (which you really should try to do – it’s free money!) but because of the restrictions, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to keep your ad grant.
Here are the 10 things you have to do to keep your Google Ads Grant from being shut down. (These may change over time – the full Google Ad Grants Policy is here.)
- You can ONLY use the Google Search Network. Don’t set up any Campaigns which target the Display network, or Google Search Partners.
- You MUST geo-target campaigns. Don’t target the whole world. Local advertising actually works better anyway.
- You MUST run at least two ad groups per campaign, and each ad group must have at least two ads, and each ad must have at least two sitelink extensions running with them. It might sound like a weird children’s rhyme, but if you don’t have these, your grant will be taken away. Having all of these things will give Google an opportunity to optimise your account automatically, and will improve performance.
- Your maximum CPC is $2. If you use either Maximise Clicks or Enhanced CPC bidding on a campaign, ALWAYS set the limit as $2. Don’t be tempted to use a lower limit, as it won’t help you ($2 is already low enough). Don’t set a higher limit, or you’ll get in trouble! You may however use the Maximise Conversions option now, but that is only useful if you have set up conversions in Google Ads.
- DON’T use single-word keywords (e.g. “Coffee”) or overly generic ones (e.g. “Coffee”). Both of these things will get your account banned – and will in fact likely give you bad results anyway. The more specific your keywords, the better the results usually. Find out more about Google’s keyword restrictions for charities here.
- DON’T use low quality keywords (keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2). This is slightly annoying as you won’t know what this is without adding keywords then seeing what Google scores it as quality-wise. You do this by going to the Keywords page, clicking the three vertical bars, then modify columns. Then on the next page, scroll down to Quality Score and click it, then tick the Quality Score box, then the Apply button. This will make a Quality Score column appear on your page.
- DO only target ads to your own website. If you use an external site for something (such a specific appeal or event), then either make a page on your site that links to it and advertise that, or just don’t use your Google Ads Grant on it.
- DON’T have a terrible website. You shouldn’t want this anyway to be fair. Google’s rules on website quality can be found here.
- DON’T let your account fall below 5% CTR. If this happens for two consecutive months, then your grant will be suspended.
- DO fill in the survey that Google sends out yearly to check on how your account is doing.
11. DO log in to your account fortnightly (at least once every two weeks). This isn’t actually mentioned in the restrictions Google have published. However if your account has ever been shut down they might place this restriction on your account specifically. So it’s best practise to do this anyway, as you should be continuously working towards improving what you are doing.
Just because it’s free money, doesn’t mean you should waste it.
Why are there this many rules?
This might all seem a bit intense. Unfortunately, Google’s generosity to charities caused a weird situation for them which they are now trying to rectify. Google Ads Grant accounts were the worst managed accounts out there and were dragging the overall quality of Google Search down.
Some accounts were literally setup and forgotten about for years and years.
So, to fix this problem, they started to tighten requirements this year. Everything on the list above (apart from number 1) is intended to improve the quality of your ads. Not only will it improve their search results, but it will also make your advertising more worthwhile. Win-win.
Can I get someone else to manage my Google Ads account for me?
If it’s all a bit much for you, then you can either hire a Google Ads professional or try the Google Ads express version (which is much easier to run). If you hire a Google Ads person/agency, just make sure that you have a good donate page to advertise. That way, your Google Ads professional will very likely be able to pay for themselves.
In a way, it’s a perfect system – Google gives you $10k per month, you pay someone £100(ish) per month to run it. In return, they earn you back far more than £100 in donations. This way you can turn the Ad Grant into actual money, while also advertising what your charity is all about.
To find a good Google Ads person/company, a good place to start is simply asking other charities. Perhaps they have someone they like working with.
Google also has a scheme called Google Partners. This accredits companies for passing Google Ads tests (amongst other things). If you’re stuck, a simple test of whether an agency is good or not is whether they are a Google Partner.
You’ve got ten grand of free money for a good cause! PER MONTH!
Good times. Don’t waste it. A well-managed Google Ads account can do amazing things for your charity.
Note: More resources on how to run a Google Ads account are coming soon, but if you can’t wait, then Google it. There is loads of great advice already out there. Good luck!