Google Ad Grants has been in existence since 2003. It’s hardly an announcement to tell you that your 501c3 organization can access $10,000 in monthly free ads through Google.
However, when nonprofit leaders consider the program, they usually approach it with a mindset as if it is a traditional grant. They hear the number $10,000 and think “it’s a lot of free money so we need it,” and immediately ask:
- How do we get it?
- If we get it, what do we need to do to avoid losing it?
While these are helpful questions, they can actually lead your organization down the wrong marketing path. The first question above ignores the fact that it might not help your organization at all! Instead, a far more valuable question is, “Can Google Grants help us right now (is it worth the investment of time or money)?”
If you just want to know the specific answer to your organization, before understanding the reasons behind it, take this Ad Grants quiz!
In this blog article we’ll briefly answer how you can get the grant. Then, later in this article and in the next we’ll spend a lot more time learning how to see whether Google Ad Grants will be a good fit for your organization.
The hidden cost of any strategy is that if it’s not a good fit to begin with, any resources you use to pursue it will be wasted!
Are We Eligible?
If you’ve never looked into the program, “are we eligible?” is the first question to ask. After all, if you’re not eligible, you can move on and pursue other marketing strategies and platforms.
Google Ad Grants is one of the most widely available grants available for nonprofits, and yet it is unique. If your organization is eligible and completes the basic requirements, you are almost guaranteed to get in.
Eligibility for U.S.-based nonprofits comes from two things:
- You are a 501c3: your organization is recognized by the IRS as 501c3, formed for charitable, educational, religious, scientific, or other tax-exempt purposes. Finally, you cannot be fiscally sponsored, unless you fall under a group exemption.
- Your organization is not a Government entity, hospital or medical group, school, academic institution, or university.
That’s more or less all you need to be eligible to get into the program. When running the ad campaign you do have to follow other guidelines set by Google. Among other things, this means you have have high-quality content on your website and maintain a 5% click through rate.
If you are based in another country, you can access your local requirements from Google here.
How to Evaluate Any Marketing Strategy (Is Google Ad Grants a Good Fit For You?)
There are many variables that affect whether Google Ad Grants is a good fit for your organization. In the next article we will look at 5 of them. However, there are two characteristics in particular that help you evaluate any marketing strategy:
- Is the strategy quickly testable?
- Is the strategy evergreen?
Quickly testable means you can test with a low investment of resources to see if it will be effective.
Evergreen means that once it’s working, it continues to work and requires low or no maintenance.
Below is a framework you can use to evaluate most marketing strategies. It shows if they possess these two characteristics (quickly testable and evergreen). The framework also includes some general pros/cons of each strategy (or platform), and appropriate goals to set for each.
To better understand these two characteristics, let’s compare and contrast four of these strategies:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
Helping your website appear at the top of Google results is not a quickly testable strategy. Generally, SEO requires a mindset of running a marathon. The payoff is that if you can achieve content that ranks high with Google, and continue to build on it, that content will be evergreen and a long-term asset for your organization.
If you already have an email list with at least several thousand (or more) engaged subscribers (meaning, people who open and click on your emails), email marketing can be strategy that is very quick and easy to test. The kinds of questions you can answer include:
- How effective is our subject line?
- How are people responding (opening? clicking? replying? unsubscribing?)
- Is the email helping us meet our goals?
And of course, if you build autoresponder sequences, email marketing can be a very evergreen strategy, as well. Multiple studies show that email marketing has the highest ROI (returning about $40 for every $1 spent), so it is a strategy every nonprofit needs to make use of.
Social Media Posts & Ads:
Social media organic posts or even running groups can be quickly testable if you have a large audience (or group). You will quickly learn if your posts get a response. Unfortunately, most social media platforms nowadays are pay-to-play, so it doesn’t matter how many likes or followers you have, if you want to reach the majority of your audience in the platform, you have to pay to do so.
Ad campaigns can also be quickly testable, and like email marketing you can easily learn if your ad copy or call to action is working well.
The biggest downside to social media is that, unless you get lucky with a piece of content that goes viral, it is anything but evergreen. The very nature of social media means you always have to create new content. Because of this, it is not a platform that generally (or easily) creates long-term marketing assets.
In the same study about the ROI for email marketing, search ads (keyword ads) had the second highest return on investment: companies received $17 for every $1 they spent on these types of ads. This means that Google search ads are a compelling type of campaign to look into, but how do Google ads do using those two variables?
While search ads are not the fastest kind of marketing strategy you can test, you can still get a good idea within 30-60 days if this type of campaign has potential for your nonprofit. Furthermore, once your campaigns are working well, they can be very evergreen, working year after year with some proper maintenance.
Unlike social media ads, which can tire out the audiences who are seeing them with the same images and copy, your text-based search ads can work without a lot of changes over a much longer period of time. Search based ads aren’t effective for everyone, however, so take our Ad Grants quiz to know for sure.
Regardless of which marketing strategies you try, it’s helpful to use these two variables when evaluating your options for growing your donor base or expanding the reach of your mission.
In the next article we will look at 5 questions or variables (specific to Google Ad Grants) to help you understand whether the program will be valuable for your nonprofit right now.