Google Grants for Non-Profits. What’s their True Value?

If you work for a non-profit organization in any marketing, fundraising or PR related capacity, you’ve probably tried or at least considered using Google’s Ad Grants. For those not familiar with this program, it’s basically a free credit provided by Google to eligible non-profit organizations for them to spend towards Google advertising. The standard credit is $10,000/month, but some accounts can receive up to $40,000/month.

Those hearing about Google Grants for the first time usually think it’s too good to be true. Then once they sign up, they usually find out they were right. Many, if not most, grant campaigns struggle to spend anything near the $10,000/month that they are allotted. Even if they do manage to get some traffic out of it, they rarely get any results. The primary reason most non-profits find themselves disappointed from these campaigns is that the limitations set by Google on these accounts make it very difficult to squeeze any value from this credit.


Google lists the following limitations for advertisers running campaigns funded by the Grants program:

  • Ads will be entirely text-based (no videos or images)
  • They’ll appear only on Google search results pages
  • All campaigns must be keyword-targeted
  • Maximum cost-per-click (CPC) will be $2.00

Any one of these restrictions on their own would make it difficult to manage a successful campaign. But, having to work with all four make it an extremely complicated endeavor. Here’s why:


By limiting campaigns to text ads, non-profits selling merchandise are unable to use Shopping Ads or Dynamic Re-targeting features. These features tend to outperform regular text ads in search, making it more difficult to convert your users.

Google Search

Since ads may only appear in Google, advertisers cannot access the broader audiences and low cost traffic that are available via Google Search Partners and Google’s Display Network.

 Keyword Targeted

This restriction is basically the same as the search restriction listed above, except that it also prevents advertisers from bidding on re-targeted traffic via Retargeting Lists for Search.

Maximum CPC Limit

CPCs on grant campaigns are capped at $2/click. Effectively, this means that highly competitive, valuable keywords will be out of reach, as competing advertisers will drive up bids to the point where your $2/click bid will leave you out of the auction.

Most Grants campaigns I’ve seen have struggled to spend even a few hundred dollars a month, much less 10 or 40 thousand dollars. Though this program is certainly a very generous initiative on Google’s part, many non-profits need to bring in PPC experts to help them make the campaigns successful. The result is that organizations often choose to not take full advantage of Google’s “free money” rather than doing what it takes to make them work.

After running several successful Google Grants campaigns, I thought I’d share some tips on how to make the most of them.

 1. Go Big

Since you’re limited to a CPC of $2, chances are your ads will appear in low positions on Google’s results for every ad, resulting in very few clicks. To combat this, you’ll need to target hundreds, if not thousands, of keywords from day 1. Any keyword that seams remotely relevant should be included in your campaigns.

2. Go Broad

It’s usually not a good practice to use lots of broad match keywords in campaigns with a limited budget. But in the case of a Grant campaign, we recommend having a broad match version of every single keyword. This will allow you to identify all the long tail keywords you may have overlooked. It will also help you drive lower cost traffic and expand the reach of your message. So go nuts!

3. Develop a Strategy

The ultimate goal of all campaigns is increased revenue, which in the case of most non-profits comes in the form of donations. But, getting users to sign up to your email list, download an ebook about your mission, or sign up for a podcast can also lead to donations, without turning off the majority of your site’s visitors by asking for money from day 1.

4. Create Several Landing Pages

As with every campaign, different intent requires different messages. If you have different groups of keywords targeting completely different types of searches and user intents, you’ll need to direct each group to a landing page that addresses each subject.  Now, building out landing pages is a pain for non-profits with limited resources, but it’s a must if you want your campaigns to bring value.

5. Optimize

Once you launch your large, broad campaigns, you’ll be flooded with traffic, a large portion of which is of low value. Though all relevant traffic will help you raise awareness for your cause, some users are better than others. You need to filter out and pause or exclude all the keywords, search terms and conversion funnels that are not achieving your goals. This process takes a lot of work and requires patience, but the more you put into it, the better your results will be.

Despite the challenges faced by many non-profits in running successful Google Grants campaigns, employing the tips above can help extract significant value from this program. Organizations we work with are typically able to exhaust the entire credit provided by Google and drive consistent donation revenue, as well as site subscribers each month. So if you haven’t done so already, I suggest you give it try. Good Luck!


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