How to make the most of Google Ad Grants for a Nonprofit


Google Ad Grants is a global program offering a monthly budget to nonprofits to use on in-kind advertising. It is a very welcomed initiative for many non-profit organisations that struggle to raise awareness for their cause and attract donations and volunteers.

Google created Google Ad Grants, as part of their Nonprofits Program, offering just that. Free ads that spread the message. The program provides access to $10.000 each month for text ads that appear in Google Search.

Qualification criteria

In order to qualify for Google for Nonprofit the organisations need to meet certain criteria:

  • Holding a valid charity status in their country. In the US that would mean holding a current 501(c)(3) status. For other countries that criteria can be found here. Acknowledging and agreeing to Google’s required certifications regarding non-discrimination and receipt and use of donations
  • Having a website with substantial content, unique to their mission

 Government entities and organisations, hospitals and medical groups, schools, academic institutions and universities are not eligible, but philanthropic arms of educational institutions are.

Program Guidelines

Each Google Ad Grants account is built and managed in the same way as paying accounts, as long as the nonprofit abides by the program policies.

The main guidelines for nonprofits as stipulated by Google are:

  • The ads are text based only, without images or videos
  • Ads appear only on Google search result pages, below the ads of paying advertisers
  • Campaigns are keyword based
  • The nonprofit receives $10.000 USD of in-kind Google Ads advertising each month
  • The maximum Cost Per Click CPC is $2.00 USD

It is possible for nonprofits to bid over the $2.00 USD limit by employing Smart Bidding Strategies. Maximise conversions is such a strategy which automatically chooses keywords that are more likely to result in conversions, and favours bidding on those. In this case the bid can go over the $2.00 USD limit provided that the overall performance of the account justifies this.

The organisations that are eligible may only use website domains that have been approved through the Google Grants enrolment process and meet the following criteria:

  • The organisation must own the URL that users land on when they click the ad.
  • The website must be of high quality with clear description of the mission and the activities of the organisation. The content must be unique, and all claims must cite references to ensure transparency.
  • Commercial activity is generally not permitted. Any limited commercial activity must support the overall mission and the use of funds must be disclosed in annual report.
  • The ads must be relevant to the mission and not obtrusive to users.
  • AdSense ads or other affiliate advertising is not permitted.

Maintaining eligibility

After the Google Ad Grant account is set, it is important for the nonprofits to maintain eligibility. To that effect Google published in January 2018 an Ad Grants Policy Compliance Guide which includes the following guidelines:

  • Do not use overly generic keywords
  • Do not use single-word keywords
  • Do not use keywords with a quality score of 1 or 2
  • A 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month must be maintained
  • Conversion tracking is necessary, if applicable
  • Use at least 2 ads per ad group
  • Use at least 2 ad groups per campaign
  • Use at least 2 sitelink ad extensions
  • Responding to program survey is mandatory

Following these guidelines is making it more challenging to manage the account, but it is important to employ the right strategy that will enable the non-profit to make the most of the $10.000 USD per month. The following tips will help every nonprofit to manage their account in a more efficient way.

1. Choose keywords creatively

Considering that there is a standard limitation at $2.00 USD CPC staying competitive is a challenge. It is important to think creatively, use longer tail keywords and come up with fresh ideas about how to reach more visitors. An expanded set of keywords associated with the work of the non-profit may drive more traffic and raise awareness or bring in more volunteers. Activating an automated Maximise conversions bidding strategy will help identify the keywords that actually lead to conversions, and might also enable bidding in excess of the $2.00 USD limit.

2. Use broad match keywords

It is advisable to opt for broad match keywords that will show the ad to a wider audience. Broad match types will bring more impressions and potential clicks. They can also reach more searches from potential volunteers or people in need of the assistance of the non-profit. Broad match keywords may not only attract donors but also raise awareness for the cause of the organisation. The use of exact match keywords can get optimised by employing Smart Bidding Strategies (such as Maximise conversions).

3. Limit the use of negative keywords

As there is a budget of $10.000 to use each month there is no need to overuse negative keywords. ROI and ROAS are not measured as they would be for a paying account. Negative keywords are only needed to exclude completely irrelevant searches. There is also Query that can monitor irrelevant traffic and provide information about the searches that trigger the ads. A non-profit is not only aiming to attract donors but also to attract volunteers and raise awareness. Since ROI is not measured as strictly as in other accounts the campaign can have a broader spectrum.

4. Employ Google Ads best strategy

Google Ad Grants are managed differently compared to the privately funded campaigns, but they still need a solid strategy in order to maintain eligibility AND deliver results. PPC best practices are not to be overlooked when planning the campaign, the ad groups and the ads.


Google Ad Grants are a brilliant way to support and promote the work of non-profit charity organisations. Let’s make sure we make the most of all the tools at our disposal in order to spread their message, while adhering to Google policies.