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The following piece is a guest post written by Grant Hensel, CEO of Nonprofit Megaphone.

The Google Ad Grant is a powerful and flexible tool that should be part of any nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy, but there are still many organizations that haven’t even heard of it.

Since its creation in 2003, the Google Ad Grant has been supporting nonprofits by allowing them to post targeted ads in Google’s search results. Today, nonprofits can receive up to $10,000 in ad credits, which helps great organizations reach their supporters online. And with the potential for multiple ad campaigns, nonprofits can design targeted conversions to drive supporters to their highest engagement priority, whether it’s donations or signing up to volunteer.  

Although the Google Ad Grant is a fantastic resource for nonprofits, the application process is tricky and might dissuade nonprofits from applying. However, breaking down the Grant and really taking the time to understand it can help you get the most out of this resource once your nonprofit receives it. So, here’s what you need to know about the Google Grant: 

  • Multiple nonprofits can use the Grant. 
  • You need the right tools to apply. 
  • Your website design matters. 
  • You should experiment with your ad campaigns. 

Obtaining the Google Ad Grant for nonprofits is free, but applying can take a little time if your organization’s online presence isn’t set up for it. However, once the Google Ad Grant has been obtained, it will renew automatically each month so long as you stay in compliance with Google’s specifications. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to learn how to get set up for the Google Ad Grant and how to make the most of it once you are accepted. Let’s get started!

Multiple nonprofits can use the Grant.

Here’s some good news: the Google Ad Grant is not a traditional grant and Google is not your ordinary funding source, so you won’t have to worry about hiring a grant writer or competing with other nonprofits.

As mentioned, the Google Ad Grant awards ad credits that allow your nonprofit to place targeted ads on their search results pages. Ordinarily, you would have to pay out of pocket, like many for-profit companies do, but because the Grant offers these ad credits instead of funding, Google can award the Grant to as many nonprofits as it deems eligible. 

What does that mean? The Google Ad Grant is not a competition, so tell your friends! When you apply, your application is judged solely on the factors that Google has set, which are largely based on making sure that your nonprofit is ready to make use of the Google Ad Grant in the first place.

In other words, by following Google’s guidelines, any nonprofit can win the Grant and get great results!

You need the right tools to apply.

Applying for the Google Ad Grant is not too difficult, but there’s a few things you need to check off your list to ensure you’re eligible. While some of these steps might take a little extra time or thought, you will find that each of these tools will benefit your nonprofit outside of the application process. Think of them as four small improvements that can open you up for even greater benefits in the future. Here’s what you need to apply: 

  • You must be a member of Google for Nonprofits. In addition to qualifying you for the Google Ad Grant, membership in Google for Nonprofits will also give your nonprofit access to resources like Google Drive, Gmail, and shared Google Calendars, making these tools even more useful for your needs.
  • You must have your nonprofit status verified by TechSoup. Techsoup is a nonprofit that provides software discounts to other nonprofits. Google uses TechSoup’s verification process to determine the validity of your nonprofit status.
  • You must have Google Analytics installed on your website. Integrating Google Analytics into your nonprofit’s website is easy, and will give you access to a wealth of data on how your site is performing. Google Analytics also allows you to set trackable goals for meaningful conversions, making it possible to see where website visitors enter your site and when they take the actions that matter most to you.
  • Your website must be secure. While most modern website design or hosting sites include SSL certification by default, you still need to ensure that your site is secure, especially if it’s a little older. If you look up your URL and it begins with “https” you have everything you need. Otherwise, you can easily obtain your own SSL certification through other services for free or at a small cost.

With these tools in place, you will have the resources that you need to apply for the Google Ad Grant. That is not the only step, however. Google also requires nonprofits to have a high-quality website before being accepted for the Google Grant.

Your website design matters. 

While having an effective website design is part of Google’s qualifications for the Ad Grant, your website’s quality also affects how well your nonprofit does with the Grant. Regardless of whether you’re using the Grant or not, Google values well-designed websites.  For this reason, improving your website is one of the most valuable steps you can take to strengthen your digital marketing strategy and chances of success with the Grant. 

Your website serves as the home base for everything related to your nonprofit and gives you the opportunity to share your story with the world. That said, what constitutes a high-quality website for Google? 

  • Your website should be easy to navigate. You want your visitors to be able to find what they are looking for with ease. Make sure that your website has navigation bars that are easy-to-find and clearly labeled. Key pages on your website should be easy to access and simple to locate, especially if you’re hoping to drive visitors to these pages to complete an action like donating.
  • Your website should feature strong content. An effective website should feature at least 3 to 5 “promotable pages.” These pages are favored by Google and feature a single topic that is core to your mission or goals, contain 300 or more words, and end with a call-to-action that inspires your reader to get involved with a clear next step.
  • Your website should be user-friendly. No supporter wants to explore a site that’s difficult to use, which is why user-friendliness should be a top priority for your website. This means that your site should be usable on mobile devices, since that’s how most people access the web nowadays. Avoid auto-playing videos or large obtrusive images that can slow down your site.  Lastly, be sure that all of your links work and connect to the right pages. 
  • Your website should have an aesthetically pleasing design. Design is subjective, but having a visually appealing website is important. Ensure that your branding is featured prominently and that your images and color palettes do not conflict with one another. In many cases, simple and streamlined is preferable to cluttered and confusing.

With your tools and website design in order, you should be able to obtain the Google Ad Grant without a problem!  Acceptance into the program typically takes between 2 to 14 days, and once you are approved you can begin creating your first ad groups.

Experiment with your ad campaigns. 

Once you have your Google Ad Grant, it’s time to put it to use and create your first ads. While it is possible to strike gold on your first attempt, you’re more likely to find success after you get the chance to place some ads and see what messaging is most effectiveand you don’t need a big staff to get your campaigns righteven a small team can make a big impact by paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.

Through a process of experimentation and improvement, your ads will become more effective at accomplishing your goals. Here’s how you can experiment with intention rather than trial and error: 

  • Use keyword research to target your ideal audience. One significant aspect of improving your ads will be finding the right keywords and phrases. Before launching your campaigns, explore popular searches and pick your keywords accordingly. Targeting the right keywords will allow you to place your ads where your ideal audience can find them.
  • Identify what you hope to accomplish. The goals you aim to meet are the basis that you build your ad groupings around. Clearly identifying your goals ensures your ads align with your priorities. But remember, these goals will shift over time based on what your organization needs, so be sure your ads also remain flexible.
  • Respond to the needs of the present. When your organization starts a new fundraising campaign or  drive for volunteers, you can build a Google Ad campaign around it. For example, if your nonprofit runs a big event for Giving Tuesday, consider creating a campaign to promote it a few months in advance. 

The ads that you create should always focus on the types of conversions you want visitors to undertake. Identify the action that you want your audience to take in the present moment, research how to reach audiences most likely to get involved, and then build your ad with the goal in mind with plans to experiment and improve over time. 

Few tools available to nonprofits have as many potential uses as the Google Ad Grant. A skilled application of Google Ads will allow you to increase your website traffic and direct attention toward what matters, but reaching that point takes experience and time. With the right tools and commitment, you can achieve your goals and take your digital marketing strategy to the next level. 

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