In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know about the Google Grant Program, Google’s AdWords program for nonprofit organizations, from how to qualify to ad guidelines.
What Is Google Ad Grants?
The Google Ad Grants Program  gives nonprofits the chance to advertise on Google AdWords at no cost to the nonprofit. This program gives qualified organizations $10,000 per month in AdWords spend to be used to promote their missions and initiatives on Google.com. To qualify, companies must go through the application process, and to keep the grant they must follow the program details.
If you work at a non-profit, you like the sound of this. Before you apply, check to ensure your nonprofile is eligible. Here are the qualifications:
To be eligible for Google Grants an organization must:
- Hold current and valid charity status (for example, in the US you must have a current 501(c)(3) status)
- Acknowledge and agree to Google Grant’s required certifications regarding how to receive and use donations obtained from the grant (we will go into more detail)
- Have a website that is both functioning and provides adequate detail on your nonprofit
The following organizations are not eligible for Google Grants:
- Governmental entities and organizations
- Hospitals and medical groups
- Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible).
Please note, Google does have a similar program for educational institutions (http://www.google.com/edu/ ).
How to Maintain Eligibility for Your Google Ad Grant
Once you’ve scored a Google grant, the tricky part is maintaining it. So, how do you maintain eligibility?
- All the ads in your account must link to the nonprofit URL that was approved in your application process.
- Be proactive in your AdWords management by logging in to the account monthly. If a nonprofit advertiser who has a Google Grant does not log into their AdWords account, the account is subject to being paused without notification.
- The ads you are promoting must reflect the mission of your nonprofit. You can advertise to sell products as long as 100% of the proceeds are going to support your program.
- The ads you create cannot point to pages that are used to primarily send visitors to other websites.
- Your ads cannot offer financial products, such as mortgages or credit cards. Your ads also cannot be asking for donations in the form of large goods such as cars, boats or property donations. Keywords related to this activity are also not allowed.
- Your website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or other affiliate advertising links while participating in Google Grants.
Google states that any violation of these guidelines are subject to removal from the program. They also reserve the right to supplement or amend these eligibility guidelines at any time.
Google Grant Program Details
Now that we’ve gotten through the nitty-gritty of what your status needs to be and what you can and cannot do, let’s dive into the details.
Google Grant recipients receive free AdWords advertising, but only to display their ads on Google.com. If you have been selected to receive a Google Grant you will build and manage your own AdWords account similar to paying advertisers. What this means is that you will have control over your AdWords account and Google will not be managing it for you.
There are some restrictions …
First, your daily budget will need to be set at $329 ($10,000 per month) and you cannot have keywords with a Max CPC over $2.00. Plus, your ads can only appear on Google.com – you cannot use Search Partners and since you can only be on Google.com with text ads, you are not eligible for the Display Network  either.
So, with these restrictions it might be a little more difficult to manage a PPC account. The biggest part of Google Grants is the money, and if you don’t use it, you lose it. Because of this, some of you will have a hard time finding a way to spend the $10,000 per month. If you’re struggling to spend your dough, here are some basic optimization recommendations.
Don’t go overboard with negative keywords ; you need to spend this money. Yes, you’re going to want to block traffic that is nowhere near relevant to your site/organization, but you’re not measuring on ROI or even ROAS in the same manner as you would for an account where you are putting in your own marketing dollars. You’re still going to want to set negatives to block out completely irrelevant traffic; for example if you were looking for musical instrument donations and had a “Flute” ad group, you would want to set “Champagne” as a negative. You should also be looking at your query information to see not only what queries are triggering your ads, but to monitor for irrelevant traffic. I would also say that if you’re a nonprofit looking for monetary donations, you should also be including keywords looking for volunteers, making people aware of your services, and asking for non-monetary donations as well. While I understand the purpose and point of a campaign to be collecting monetary donations, you are going to need to find more keywords to get more traffic and find ways to spend the money. Since you aren’t measuring your ROI as strictly, you can do this. Remember, this is free ad spend!
In terms of keywords selection, be sure to pick relevant terms and match types (we’ll get into in a little bit). I know you are going to be anxious to not only spend the money, but make sure you stay competitive. While it is hard to compete using a keyword that is usually a $6 CPC when you can only have a $2 Max CPC, this means you’re going to have to get creative, using longer tail keywords  and going a little outside of the box to find searchers. Again, even go for other keywords associated with your business to help bring in more traffic. (Think about the example above, instead of just monetary donations talk about volunteer opportunities as well.)
Keyword Match Types
Be sure you don’t restrict your match types too much. Again, you need to spend this budget, and in a way that is going to benefit your organization. Broad match types are going to bring you a lot of impressions and potential clicks. This will also allow for you to be open to more searches. If for instance you’re a nonprofit looking to only receive donations though your paid search efforts you might find that you are receiving traffic of people who are looking for assistance from your nonprofit. Is this a bad thing? No, it might not be exactly who you are marketing to, but it is also spreading awareness of the organization. You are still going to find keywords that you’re going to want to be on phrase and exact match on, use them, but make sure they are keywords that can handle the max CPC of $2 limit and still be competitive.
Don’t Abandon Best Practices
Working with clients who are using Google Grants is interesting because you need to take a pretty different approach to managing the account compared to one with actual marketing dollars. I know I spoke a lot about making sure you are spending the budget , but I have seen clients who need to cut back, so please remember that you still want to be smart and have a solid account structure. As always, keep PPC best practices in mind when structuring your ad groups and ads.
Good luck getting your Google Grant!