How does the prospect of $120,000 (approx. £95,000 – £100,000) of free Google advertising every year grab you? Thought so. If you’re a charity or similar not-for-profit organisation, Google wants to offer a helping hand, for free. And we’d like to help you access it.
Table Of Contents
What Are Google Ad Grants?
Google ad grants (you might see them described as Google charity grants or Google ad grants for non-profit organisations) enable charities to access free advertising that helps more people find their way to you via Google’s search engine.
How much is the Google charity grant worth?
A lot! It’s worth £288 per day. That equates to £8,750 a month, or £105,000 a year. Or the equivalent of $120,000 a year.
So Google is donating £105,000 a year to us?
Not quite. Google is offering not-for-profits the opportunity to get £105,000 worth of free advertising on Google search results pages. It’s not cash in your charity’s coffers, but if you use all the grant available to you it’s as good as a donation, albeit one that can only be used for search advertising.
It’s entirely possible that the effect of your free advertising could be to bring in far more than £105,000 a year.
What are Google Ads?
You’ll have seen grant-funded Google Ads before, even if you didn’t recognise them. When you type a search into Google the first results you’ll see will usually be paid ads. These are ads paid for by companies advertising their products or services.
Charitable ads funded by a Google grant will appear directly below these, so they’ll usually sit quite high up the first page of search results (the place where every organisation wants to be).
Finally, regular ‘organic’ searches will form the third tier of results. You don’t have to pay for these results but the consequence of that, unless you’ve invested in search engine optimisation (SEO), is that you’ll likely sit further down the search rankings.
For any charity, the higher in the search rankings you appear, the greater the chance someone will click or tap on your organisation, and that increases the chances of them donating or engaging with you in some other way.
Google grants for charities, therefore, help bring more people to your organisation for free.
How Do Google Ad Grants Work?
Your application has been successful. Google has allocated your grant and you’ve set up your ads (you can find out more about how to apply and set up your ads below). But what practical benefit does a Google Ads nonprofit grant confer, and what difference can that benefit make to your organisation?
How to use Google ad grants
Someone’s searching online for a charity like yours. For the sake of argument, let’s say your charity helps people with learning disabilities access training and work. Yours isn’t the only organisation to offer this sort of service locally, but it is one of the few that uses ad grants in your area.
Because of this, when the person searches for your services, your ad appears at or near the top of Google’s results page. The person clicks on the result. As it’s a Google ad, not an organic result, Google charges for that click (which is where the phrase ‘pay-per-click’ comes from). How much the click costs depends on a wide range of factors, from the time of day the search is made to the competitiveness of that particular phrase. Some searches will cost a few pence. Some competitive phrases can cost much more.
For a ‘regular’ company, Google will charge them the going rate for that particular click. In your organisation’s case, however, Google will simply knock the cost of that particular click off the outstanding balance of your Google charity grant.
How can you use a Google grant for your UK charity?
There are lots of ways Google grants for charities in the UK could help your organisation:
Attract more donations: Perhaps the most obvious application of the Google grant for non-profits, you could use the ad to direct visitors to a page which explores the good work you do and the ways in which donors can support you.
Promote specific campaigns or events: Your organic SEO may be working just fine to meet day-to-day needs, but you’re gearing up for a major fundraising event and you need the short sharp hit of ‘paid’ advertising to give it the boost you need. With Google charity grants, UK not for profits can make their one-off events instant hits.
Find new patrons or volunteers: Not every charity or non-profit has the budget to cover SEO, and often those that do will want to use it to help drive donations. That may not leave much room for other essentials, like drumming up interest among those who might like to join your cause. With Google ads, nonprofit organisations can use their grant to cover a broader range of goals.
Raise awareness of your work: Unless your charity is one of the ones everybody knows about, simply getting exposure can be a huge challenge. A Google grant can help ensure more people know about you.
Provide free resources: You want to help the people you support connect with the help you offer. With Google ads, your nonprofit gets a greater opportunity to make an impact.
Are you limited to the value of your Google Ads not for profit grant?
Your free ads are. Once you’ve exhausted your £8,750 for the month you won’t be able to run any more grant-funded ads until the following month, but there’s nothing to stop you continuing to run paid Google ads if you have the budget for it.
It’s important to note that there’s nothing underhand going on here. If you want to use just the value of the Google grant and then ensure that ads stop once the limit is reached, you can. It’s easy to set a limit so that your organisation can never overspend. Google automatically limits daily spend to £288 per day so it’s easy to stay in control and the system won’t let you ‘blow’ the budget within just a few days.
Eligibility for Google Ad Grants for Nonprofits
Are you eligible for free Google Ads for charities?
Cards on the table time: the rules surrounding setting up and managing your Google Ads and remaining compliant with Google’s T&Cs and long, messy and, frankly, a bit of a faff (although we can make life an awful lot easier – see below).
Still, at least the eligibility rules for organisations wanting to take advantage of Google Ads for charities are reasonably simple.
- In the UK, you need to be a be charity registered with the charity regulator in England and Wales (Charity Commission), Northern Ireland (NICC), or Scotland (OSCR); or HMRC as charitable tax-exempt charities or churches.
- You must also be verified as a non-profit organisation by Charity Digital, who validate your status on behalf of Google. They’re part of the global TechSoup organisation who manage the process in lots of countries.
- You need to accept Google’s T&Cs for not-for-profits (obviously)
- Your website can’t be running Google AdSense ads (although you can run discreet ads relevant to your cause), and the primary purpose of your website most be charitable, not commercial
There are a few other technical hurdles to jump and we explore those at 5, 6 and 7 below. There are also limits on the organisations that can apply. You can’t apply for a Google nonprofit grant if you are:
- A government body
- A hospital or healthcare organisation
- A school, college, university or other academic institution (because there’s a separate programme for you to take part in – find out more about Google for Education here)
Not sure whether you’re eligible? Talk to us
How To Apply For Google Ad Grants
You’ve established that you’re eligible for free Google Ads for charity, so now what?
a) Set up your Google Analytics account
You’ve probably already set this up when your website was built (or your web developer did). Analytics is the tool that enables you to find out how your site is performing in terms of visitor numbers, the pages they visit, the length of time they browse your site and the point at which they leave (among much else). If you haven’t set Analytics up, do it now.
b) Register as a nonprofit on the Charity Digital Exchange
The Charity Digital Exchange is a portal that enables you to access not just Google Ads. Charities can find lots more free support too.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be able to get a validation token, which Google will ask for in the next step. To get the token, follow the onscreen guidance until you reach a message saying ‘view your validation token’. Copy the token.
Update 24/12/2022: Google has now changed the Google Ads Grant verification method they use for UK applicants. It is no longer the Charity Digital Exchange, instead it’s a new platform called Percent.
c) Log into your Google account
Head to the nonprofits account signup page. You’ll need to complete the eligibility form, then select the ‘Activate’ option. Google will then ask you to tell it more about your organisation and confirm your entitlement to a grant. You’ll also be asked to enter the validation token you just got from Charity Digital. Once complete, you should then receive a congratulations and welcome message.
How to Make Your Website Compliant For Google ad Grants for Non Profits
In addition to the eligibility and application process, there are plenty of technical hoops to jump though to access the grant. These include:
- Your organisation will need to own its own website. If you’ve bought a ‘website in a box’-type service from a company that retains ownership of the site, you’ll need to create a new site under your own ownership before you can take advantage of the grants.
- You’ll need a https-secure site. If you don’t know what that means talk to your web developer or us.
- The site must offer a quality user experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a website that would put Amazon to shame, but it must be simple and clear to navigate, work properly (e.g. no broken links) and clearly connect users with actions such as donating, subscribing, contacting etc.
- The site must demonstrate that the organisation has a mission. It should also describe its activities. It’s hard to imagine a charitable site not doing that, but this might at least help weed out fraudulent applications.
- You’ll need to keep your content live and updated. If you’re considering applying for a grant but haven’t posted a new blog or hosted a new event (and talked about it on site) since last year you’d best start generating some regular content.
- You can sell items on your site. If your organisation sells t-shirts and pins to raise awareness of its mission, Google won’t see that as a problem, but commercial activity must be incidental to the main purpose of your site. If Google feels commercial activity is the main purpose of your site, you won’t qualify for a grant.
All of this can seem daunting, especially when you aren’t a tech person and you don’t know anyone who is. We believe the Google nonprofit grant is more than worth the hassle of ensuring you have the right building blocks in place to take advantage of it.
How to Set Up Google Charity Ads
With set up complete, you’ll be able to put your ads together. Here’s some help to create a more effective ad.
Google Ads: charity best practices
Drive action: The worst possible thing your ad could do is leave a potential donor or user of your service hanging. If they’re interested, they’ll want to know what to do next and you do that via a ‘call to action’ (a CTA). It might be a ‘donate now’ message. It might be a chance to watch a video or read a message from the people your charity helps, but always ensure that your ad directs the reader to two locations deeper into your engagement funnel (that is, two different pages on your site).
Select keywords carefully: Keyphrases can be tricky creatures to get right, but it’s worth investing time in them to ensure they’re delivering maximum bang for minimum buck. From your charity’s perspective, a great keyphrase to build your ad around is one that lots of people are searching for (so it generates plenty of traffic) but isn’t especially competitive (so each tap/click doesn’t cost a fortune and use up your budget in minutes).
As we explore at 7 below, there are plenty of rules to follow in terms of ensuring your choice of keywords keeps Google happy, so that the monthly grants keep coming.
The Google Keyword Planner tool in the Google Ads interface can help you with finding quality keywords—and its free—BUT it’s a process that can be time consuming. Enlisting some help can make a big and positive difference to this process (see 9 below).
Group related phrases together: You run a cat protection charity. You want to run a series of ads, and your chosen phrases include cat-specific terms like ‘cat charity’, ‘cat protection charity’ and ‘cat rescue charity’, together with some more general phrases like ‘animal rights charity’, ‘charities near me’ and ‘animal charity LOCATION’.
Ideally, you’d want to run at least two separate ads here, one for the cat-specific terms and one for the more general terms. This enables you to better target and tailor your ads, increasing the chances of a reader clicking on them.
Track results: If you want to ensure your free ads deliver results you’ll need to track them all to find which ones work and which ones don’t. Again, this can be time consuming but it’s essential to ensuring your ads drive the right actions.
Further Reading: 6 Google Ads Grants Best Practices
How to Keep Google Ads Grant Results Coming
This is where things can get challenging, especially if your organisation is managing the Google Ads account without lots of experience.
To keep your grants coming, you’ll need to continue to meet a range of criteria you’ll find in Google’s Ad Grant Policy Compliance Guide. These rules (and there are lots of them) include:
- Keywords: Google requires a minimum keyword quality score of 2. Effectively, that’s a measure of relevance, which means the keyphrases you choose can’t be really broad or really generic.
- Ad group requirements: Remember the rule of two: two ad groups per campaign, two ads per group, at least two relevant links to your site from the ad
- Performance: Your ads need to hit a 5% click-through rate. That means for every 100 people who see your ad five of them must click on it. If you’re on top of your account and optimising your ads as you get data about what works and what doesn’t, that shouldn’t be too difficult. If you’d rather just set it up once and forget about it, you’ll probably run into problems. Spend two consecutive months posting returns of under 5% and your account may be deactivated temporarily. As you might imagine, there’s a significant amount of faff in getting it reactivated.
- Activity: You need to log into your account every month and make changes at least every 90 days. Again, that’s almost an inevitability if you keep on top of things; it may be a problem if you don’t.
Need help in keeping the results coming? Talk to us.
Do Google Ads Work?
All of this generosity by Google would be for nought if its ads generated nothing for the charities taking advantage of the grants. Right now, however, there are about 35,000 charities globally using Google not for profit grants to help them raise funds, awareness and engagement.
It’s fair to say that, generally speaking, most of these are US based. For all of Google’s generosity in creating the scheme, there’s not a lot of UK awareness about Google Ad grants for nonprofits (and yes, we’re aware how ironic that sounds), which is why we’re working to help more organisations take advantage of them.
How to Make It Easier To Unlock Google Ads for Nonprofits
We want to help as many organisations as possible take advantage of free Google ads. As we’ve demonstrated above, almost any non profit can take advantage of Google ad grants for charities, but it’s fair to say that most charitable organisations have more than enough on their plates. Even if charities have the relevant in-house expertise, few will likely have time to apply and manage this process in addition to the ‘day job’ of carrying out the charity’s aims and raising funds. In our experience, most not-for-profits lack expertise in this area.
Web Presence can help. We’ve created the FAR Programme, designed to help you achieve the key goals of using Google Ads grants (fundraising, awareness, recruitment). It’s a simple-to-use programme that takes all of the effort out of the process of applying for and managing Google Ads grants for nonprofits. Here’s how it works:
- We have an initial discussion with your charity so that we understand what you do and how you operate
- We complete eligibility checks and apply for the Google Ads charity grant on your behalf
- We research the optimal keyphrases on which to base your ad campaign, so you achieve the best possible results for the lowest possible ‘ad spend’
- We set up the ad campaigns, track and analyse results and adjust strategy accordingly to ensure your ads continue to deliver the best possible results each month
- Although the process needs minimal input from you, you still enjoy full visibility of how we are managing your ad campaigns via a live dashboard that lets you monitor results.
The Web presence FAR programme really is a win-win for the charities and not-for-profits. It’s generating headlines too.