Non-Profit Advertising Secrets – Google Grants for Nonprofits

Ever wonder how other non-profits get incredible results with tiny advertising budgets? Discover how you can get free advertising with Google Grants for Nonprofits!


Most nonprofit organizations think they have to pay for all of their advertising, but that’s not true. The Google Ad Grants program offers up to $10,000 per month in free advertising on Google for 501(c)3 non-profit organizations.

You’re probably thinking that Google only gives out a few of these per year, right? Actually, not one of my applications for non-profit clients has ever been rejected. I have represented dozens of clients applying for Google Ad Grants over the last few years. Each time, Google has awarded us the Ad Grant and activated the campaigns within about 2-4 weeks.


How to Get a Google Ad Grant in 5 Easy Steps

Just follow these 5 easy steps to get free advertising on Google for non-profit organizations.

Step 1:  See if you meet the eligibility criteria for the Google for Nonprofits program.

Step 2:  Get a Techsoup Token.

Step 3:  Sign up for Google for Nonprofits.

Step 4:  Set up a Google AdWords account with correct configuration for the Google Ad Grant program.

Step 5:  Apply for Google Ad Grant.

Important Notes:

  • Your Google for Nonprofits and AdWords administrators must match in order to be approved.
  • Do not enter billing information for your AdWords account, or you will have to start over.
  • Be sure to include some kind of note about your 501(c)3 nonprofit status in the footer of your website before enrolling in Google for Nonprofits. See example below from my client Easterseals Arkansas.
  • You must actively manage your ad grant, or you could lose it. You must at least make one tiny change every 3 months, but I recommend optimizing it weekly or bi-weekly.

Easterseals Arkansas 501(c)(3)


How to Configure Your AdWords Campaign for Google Ad Grants

Here are Google’s requirements for configuring your AdWords campaign before you apply for a Google Ad Grant. Pay close attention. If you fail to follow one of the steps, you may have to start over.

  • You must use US dollar as currency.
  • You must not enter billing information. Very important.
  • Your account must have at least 1 active Search Network campaign.
  • Your total daily budget for campaigns under account must not exceed $329.
  • Your keyword bids must not exceed $2.00.
  • Your campaign must target only Google Search — not search partners.
  • Your account must have at least 2 active ad groups, each containing a set of closely related keywords.
  • Your account must have at least 2 active ads per ad group.
  • For ad extensions, you must create at least 2 sitelinks for each campaign or ad group.
  • Campaigns must use relevant geo-targeting.
  • Ads must link to a relevant landing page.
  • The landing page must be on a high-quality website.

Google search network

Google networks

Google Ad Grant Rules & Guidelines

Here are Google’s Ad Grant rules and guidelines. You must follow these rules at all times, or you could lose your ad grant.

  • All Ads Are 100% Text-Based (No Videos or Images).
  • Ads Only Appear in Google Search – Not in Google Display or on Google’s Other Search Partners’ Sites.
  • Ads Appear Below the Ads of Paying Advertisers.
  • All Campaigns Must be Keyword Targeted.
  • Maximum Cost-Per-Click will be $2.00 USD.
  • Maximum Advertising Spend is $10,000 USD Per Month.
  • You can only promote one domain with your Ad Grant, which is the domain you used in your Google for Nonprofits application.

It is true that Google Ad Grant setup and management can be tricky. Many organizations and advertisers have been disappointed when they could only spend a few hundred dollars per month. I have developed a proven method to maximize Google Ad Grant utilization.


Best Google Ad Grant Results

Here are some of the results I have gotten for our Google Ad Grant clients over the last few years. Please note that the clients with lower spend levels also had more limited geo-targeting. This will be important when you get to Step #1 of How to Maximize your Google Ad Grant.

Bikes, Blues & BBQ:  $178,000 in Free Google Advertising (Apr 2015 – Dec 2017) bikesbluesandbbq.org – Read the Full Case Study!

North Carolina Transportation Museum:  $139,000 in Free Google Advertising (Jun 2016 – Feb 2018) nctrans.org

Walton Arts Center:  $113,000 in Free Google Advertising (Feb 2016 – Feb 2017) waltonartscenter.org

Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund:  $41,000 in Free Google Advertising (Mar 2016 – Dec 2017) aspsf.org

Easterseals Arkansas:  $3,000 in Free Google Advertising (Oct 2017 – Feb 2018) easterseals.com/arkansas

Get Help with Google Ad Grants


How to Maximize Your Google Ad Grant

These are just the basic tips you need to get your Google Ad Grant rolling, but keep reading for the insider secrets below

Step 1:  Set your geo-targeting as broadly as possible. If you can, target the entire United States or wherever your audience might be. This is the main factor that can limit an Ad Grant campaign’s spend level, but it is important to only target the area where your audience might be.

geotargeting country

If your audience is really only limited to a certain state or drive radius, go ahead and limit your geo-targeting to that area. Just know that your ad impressions, clicks and potential spend will also be limited.

geotargeting state

Step 2:  Start with one campaign with multiple ad groups to promote a variety of landing pages throughout your site. Make sure each ad group contains a set of ads and keywords that are closely themed.

If you don’t get enough traffic with one campaign, try setting up additional campaigns to reach new audiences or promote different topics on your site.

Remember that you can only promote one domain with your entire Google Ad Grant. (Your ad grant can be revoked if you fail to follow Google’s rules and guidelines.)

Step 3:  Add all possible ad extensions to your campaigns:  sitelinks, callouts, call extensions, structured data, and location extensions. Ad extensions expand your ad footprint and increase click-through rates.


Step 4:  Always keep at least 3 active ad variations per ad group. The ads don’t have to be significantly different. Even testing a change in one or two words is fine.

Google ads

Step 5:  Optimize your campaigns frequently — weekly or at least monthly.


Insider Secrets to Google Ad Grant Success

Now that you have mastered the basic tips for Google Ad Grants, you’re ready for the insider secrets.

Secret #1:  Be sure to use keyword replacement text in your ad headlines to increase click-through rates (CTRs). This replaces the headline with the search term used. Example: {KeyWord:North Carolina Train Rides}

ad example

Secret #2:  Remember your goal is to use as much of Google’s free advertising as possible. Every time you open your account, if Google suggests new keyword “opportunities,” you will probably want to accept all of them. These will help expand your visibility and gain more ad impressions.

google notifications

keyword opportunities

Secret #3:  You will want to optimize your campaign by pausing any ads or keywords with low CTRs, because these will reduce your quality scores and cause Google to show your ads less frequently.

As a general rule of thumb, you should never be happy with a 1% or lower click-through rate for any keyword or ad in the Search Network.

Even if your results are much better (which they should be), you should keep optimizing to increase the CTRs.

Just remember to add a new ad variation each time you pause one because Google always wants to see at least 3 variations per ad group.

In the below ad group, you would pause the two ads with 0 clicks and replace them with variations more similar to the one that has received all of the clicks.

ad group

Secret #4:  Try the Maximize Clicks Bid Strategy.

This may seem counter-intuitive because it seems like you would want to always bid the maximum allowed $2.00 per click. At first, I always used the manual bid strategy with all bids at $2.00, but I found that my results were disappointing.

My Google rep told me that often bidding too high for a certain keyword can actually hurt your campaign performance. Using the Maximize Clicks bid strategy will automatically set your bids to the optimal level to receive the most traffic possible.

bid strategy

bid limit


Need Help with Your Google Ad Grant?

I know all of these Google Ad Nonprofit and Ad Grant rules and tips may seem overwhelming. No worries! Aristotle is here to help in any way we can. Feel free to reach out for assistance with your Google Ad Grant setup and management!

Get a Free Consultation


Helpful Links:

Here are a few helpful links to help guide you along the way to acquiring your Google Ad Grant.

#1:  Google for Nonprofits Help Center

#2:  Google for Nonprofits Eligibility Criteria

#3:  AdWords Account Creation Guide for Google Ad Grants

#4:  Techsoup Signup



Here are some of the nonprofit organizations Aristotle Interactive has obtained and managed Google ad grants for. These are some great organizations we are proud to have been able to help.

Easterseals Arkansas
Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund
Bikes, Blues & BBQ
North Carolina Transportation Museum
Walton Arts Center
Sarah Stashuk
--Sarah leads a team of experts who are knowledgeable in all aspects of organic and paid search marketing. With more than 17 years of experience, Sarah has built a wealth of knowledge regarding online marketing and the ever-changing rules of search engine optimization and online media buying. Her work with Albuquerque CVB, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Huntington Beach, Kentucky Tourism, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Silver Dollar City and South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism is award-winning and has generated significant ROI for our tourism partners. Most recently, Sarah’s work for the state of Utah won US Search Awards 2017 for “Best Use of Search – Travel/Leisure” and the gold Davey Award in 2017, "Best Brand Strategy" for the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism.
Unlock the Secret to Free Google Advertising for Nonprofits