If you are a nonprofit looking to grow your impact through advertising, Microsoft’s Ads for Social Impact grant should be on your radar.
In 2022, Microsoft unveiled a program for eligible nonprofits to receive up to $3,000 of free monthly ad credits to spend across the company’s owned and operated platforms (most notably Bing).
As a marketing agency for nonprofits, Beeline has seen the benefits search advertising can provide to organizations large and small to grow their donor base and garner new support to advance their mission.
We created this guide to help nonprofits understand five main objectives when it comes to the Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant.
- What is the program?
- What are the benefits for nonprofits that make use of the grant?
- Simple steps to apply to receive grant dollars
- Key differences between Google’s Ad Grant program and Microsoft’s program
- Our favorite tips for making the most out of your advertising spend
To the extent your nonprofit can take advantage of free advertising dollars granted by Microsoft, there is no reason not to.
This article should answer all your questions and make advertising for your nonprofit straightforward.
Important Note: At the time of publishing this guide, Microsoft is not accepting new entrants but is eager to expand grants to more nonprofits in the near future. If you’d like to stay up to date and take advantage of the Ads for Social Impact program when it is open or you have questions regarding your nonprofit’s advertising strategy, we are happy to help.
What is Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Grant?
The Ads for Social Impact grant is a program offered by Microsoft that provides $3,000 of monthly advertising credits to eligible nonprofits to spend on the company’s search networks (Bing, Yahoo, and AOL) and audience networks (Outlook, MSN, and Microsoft Edge).
Once accepted, nonprofits can spend up to the allotted credit similar to paid advertising dollars through their Microsoft ad account.
One of the most effective ways we see nonprofits take advantage of the program is to create targeted search advertising campaigns like the example seen below.
In this case, when Bing users search for a phrase related to your nonprofit’s mission, an ad is displayed at the top of the search results ahead of organic pages.
This form of advertising can help nonprofits achieve various goals, from fundraising to recruiting, all while using free advertising dollars granted by Microsoft.
The Benefits for Nonprofits Using Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Grant
Nonprofits that make use of Microsoft’s Ads for Social Impact grant are setting their organization up to benefit in a few different ways.
Digital advertising helps nonprofits expand the reach of their message and attract support in the form of donations, volunteers, or sales.
While the exact goal of your nonprofit advertising campaigns may differ, we commonly see organizations that want to accomplish three things:
- Increase awareness
- Generate leads
- Drive donations or revenue
Let’s take a look at each of these goals in more detail and explain how Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant can help your nonprofit achieve them.
Grow Awareness of Your Nonprofit
Making sure more people hear about your organization and its mission is a critical part of success for any nonprofit.
Digital advertising on Microsoft’s platform can help increase awareness for your nonprofit by driving users to:
- Visit your website homepage to learn more about your mission
- Watch a video relevant to your nonprofit’s purpose
- Engage with social media posts created by your nonprofit
Although awareness is considered a top-of-funnel marketing strategy that might not immediately result in donations, it is important to make these investments if you want supporters to learn about who you are and what you do.
Note: Beeline is an expert at turning visitors into subscribers and ultimately supporters of your organization through high-converting landing pages, digital resources, email marketing, and ad campaigns. If your nonprofit is looking for help achieving its marketing goals set up a free consultation to learn about our customized plans.
Generate Leads for Your Nonprofit
Advertising with Microsoft through their Social Impact grant can also help your nonprofit generate leads for specific objectives.
For example, your organization may want to engage with visitors to:
- Join as a newsletter subscriber
- Sign up for an upcoming event
- Register as a volunteer
- Submit a form or petition for a relevant cause
Regardless of the exact situation, advertising on Microsoft’s search and audience platforms can help you accomplish these goals.
Drive Donations or Revenue for Your Nonprofit
Finally, the Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant can also help your nonprofit accomplish the ultimate goal of collecting money to support your cause.
With digital advertising, your organization can encourage support in the form of:
- Direct donations from new and existing benefactors
- Ticket or product sales that bring in new revenue
- Actions like making an adoption or pledging funds
Donations are the lifeblood of many nonprofits and advertising with Microsoft can be an effective way to fund support (especially if the ad spend is free!).
3 Simple Steps to Apply for Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Grant
Now that we’ve covered what the Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant is and why your organization should care about taking advantage of the program, you’re probably wondering – How do I apply?
Follow these three simple steps to get started.
Step #1: Make Sure Your Nonprofit is Eligible and Register
Eligibility is the first step in the process.
Generally, US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofits that are not governmental, healthcare, financial, or academic institutions are eligible to apply. However, the full details of Microsoft’s requirements are available on their website.
Organizations must also meet a non-discrimination requirement when it comes to their internal policies and mission.
After determining eligibility, nonprofits can start the registration process by submitting the necessary details about their organization and its individuals.
Microsoft will then take a number of days (normally within two weeks) to evaluate your nonprofit and approve or reject your application.
Step #2: Apply for Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Grant
After Microsoft’s verification process, your nonprofit can apply directly to the Ads for Social Impact program.
This extra step is necessary because Microsoft offers a variety of discounts and benefits on other software and services that nonprofits can take advantage of in addition to the advertising grant.
Step #3: Set Up Your Microsoft Ad Account
The final step is to set up a Microsoft ad account for your nonprofit.
Following approval, you will be invited to schedule a call with a Microsoft representative to learn how to properly manage your account and grant so you can run ad campaigns yourself.
This is the stage where some organizations struggle with the complexity of setting up a new system.
We’re going to cover some of our best tips for managing Microsoft ads effectively in the last section of this guide, but if you do find you need additional help reach out to us for a free consultation.
Google Ad Grants vs. Microsoft Ads for Social Impact Grant – What’s the Difference?
Similar to Microsoft, Google has a longstanding ad grant program that provides $10,000 per month in spend for eligible nonprofits to advertise on Google’s search platform.
Both Microsoft’s and Google’s programs are fantastic ways for nonprofits to grow their impact and advance their mission with free advertising dollars.
Each partner also gives nonprofits powerful insights into their audience with conversion tracking that shows what actions users take following an ad.
However, we consistently hear the question from clients: “Why bother with Bing when Google is so much bigger?”
Apart from our simple answer – Why not use both!? – Microsoft’s program actually has some unique benefits that are often overlooked.
A Better Search Audience for Nonprofits
Microsoft reaches a generally older, wealthier, and more desktop-centric search audience than Google.
We find this to be a potential benefit for nonprofits because Microsoft’s audience may be more likely to donate.
Mobile users are normally in a different frame of mind, searching for quick answers and entertainment, while desktop users are more ready to consume information about your organization and are more willing to provide their payment details.
Be A Bigger Fish In a Smaller Pond
Billions of searches are made on Bing every year and this number is growing.
While it is true that Google has almost 85% market share of global search compared to less than 9% for Bing, there is still an enormous opportunity for nonprofits to reach supporters through Microsoft.
Face Less Competition
Microsoft advertising is less competitive than Google advertising.
Less competition on Bing is a huge benefit for those nonprofits that care enough to show up on search results.
From personal experience with clients, a typical cost-per-click on Google might be around $2.00 whereas the same search term only costs $0.50c on Bing. In this example, a nonprofit could achieve 4x the reach on Bing for the same level of spend compared to Google.
Unlike Microsoft, Google also gives paid advertisers priority over grant advertisers. However, on Microsoft’s platform, there is no secondary auction, meaning your nonprofit ads compete directly with paid bids.
While we cannot guarantee specific results, less competition on Microsoft means your nonprofit is more likely to rank for valuable search terms.
Fewer Requirements for Nonprofits to Worry About
The Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant program has fewer restrictions for nonprofits to worry about than Google’s grant program.
Google has a long list of compliance policies that nonprofits must adhere to including:
- Not using single-keywords or overly generic keywords
- Pausing and removing low-quality keywords
- Maintaining a 5% click-through-rate on ads each month
- Implementing valid conversion tracking
Less strict policies under Microsoft’s program means more nonprofits can stay compliant and test out advertising campaigns without fear of violating the rules.
This also allows us to target broader search terms for clients that may convert at a lower rate but are able to reach a wider audience.
Benefit From Microsoft’s Ecosystem
Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grants can be spent outside of Bing across Microsoft’s owned and operated platforms including AOL, Yahoo, Outlook and MSN.
Nonprofits can reach different audiences through other Microsoft properties with the same grant dollars if they desire.
Furthermore, since LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft, nonprofits can also target their ads with unique profile data based on company, industry, and job function. This is a unique benefit that Google’s platform does not offer.
5 Tips For Making the Most Out of Nonprofit Ad Grants
With grant dollars in hand, now your nonprofit is ready to start advertising.
But the difference between an effective marketing campaign and a poorly designed one might mean record-breaking donations or wasted opportunity.
At Beeline, we’ve managed advertising budgets successfully for nonprofits regardless of their mission, audience, or geographical focus.
Even organizations that serve small areas can get national reach with digital advertising (for example, we helped a food bank in Chicago start conversations with supporters across the country).
Here are some of our best tips for making the most out of your Social Impact grant.
1. Set Clear Goals for Your Campaigns
As your nonprofit tests multiple ad campaigns, it’s important to keep things organized and set clear goals for each investment.
Some campaigns may be intended to drive awareness and traffic while others might be designed to attract volunteer signups or generate ticket sales for an upcoming event.
Each goal requires entirely different keyword strategies, investment expectations, and audience analysis. So it’s important to set a clear direction upfront to have success later on.
2. Pick Effective Keywords
Keyword selection is at the heart of effective search advertising. Unfortunately, we see nonprofits make mistakes during this phase all the time.
A simple example is bidding for keywords related to your organization’s name.
The problem here is twofold: 1) unless you have a nationally recognized nonprofit, the number of people searching for your name directly is likely to be small, and 2) people searching directly already know what they want – bidding for space on a search like this wastes resources.
Instead, we encourage nonprofits to organize keywords and campaigns around three broad topics:
- Questions people have that your organization is well-positioned to answer
- Solutions to problems people have that relate to your organization’s mission
- Providing entertainment for people in ways that are relevant to how your nonprofit supports the community
This way, you meet donors and supporters where they are and match their search intent in a way that is highly relevant to your nonprofit’s core mission.
Note: If you’d like to see how we create effective advertising campaigns for nonprofits of all types, check out some videos of real client case studies.
3. Create High-Converting Digital Assets
Your nonprofit doesn’t just want impressions, it wants conversions (whether that is defined as donations, volunteers, or otherwise).
The key to getting people to take action after they view an ad is to make sure to have valuable digital assets when people click through.
This might take the form of:
- An effective website
- A focused landing page or donation page
- A digital resource like a quiz or e-Book
Whichever choice best suits your campaign goal, the important thing to remember is that a supporter’s journey starts with the ad rather than ending with it.
4. Create Lifelong Supporters With Email
Speaking of a donor’s journey, your advertising investments are going to bring new people into your nonprofit’s ecosystem.
But even those who click on your ads may not yet be ready to support your mission financially.
Turning new subscribers into long-term benefactors is difficult to accomplish with one ad. That’s why we emphasize email marketing as an important addition to search advertising.
Automated email welcome series and ongoing relationship-building campaigns can convert passive interest into lifelong support while keeping new and existing donors engaged well after an initial impression.
5. Consider Professional Management of Your Ad Grants
We created this guide to help you successfully apply for the Microsoft Ads for Social Impact grant and start building effective campaigns on your own. This aligns with Beeline’s ethos to teach clients to have ownership over their marketing.
However, your nonprofit may find that it lacks the time or expertise to manage ad grants in-house and may want to look for professional help.
If you do consider an outside agency, make sure they are transparent and results-oriented and can handle all of the following components of a successful marketing strategy:
- Grant program eligibility and application help
- Keyword and audience research
- Grant management and campaign improvements
- Paid advertising experience to boost results
- Reporting and analytics on results
- Website and landing page optimization
- Digital resource and lead magnet creation
- Email campaigns to nurture ongoing relationships
We’d of course love to hear from your nonprofit ourselves. If you think we are a good fit for your organization don’t hesitate to reach out.
Attract Donors and Advance Your Mission With Microsoft Ads for Social Impact
Microsoft’s Social Impact program is an incredible opportunity for eligible nonprofits to receive $3,000 of free advertising credits to grow their network and advance their cause.
Use our guide to make the application process simple and create effective campaigns so your nonprofit can find like-minded supporters, donors, and volunteers and have a bigger impact in the world.
If you’re interested take our free Ad Grants Quiz to figure out if Microsoft’s program is right for your organization!