SXSW 2015: New to Google Grants? 3 tips for getting started

photo (6)Surely your nonprofit has heard about Google Grants. The program offers 501c3 organizations $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords advertising, which could really help nonprofits build awareness, recruit volunteers, promote an event, or increase donations. AdWords are those first few “sponsored” listings that appear at the top of a Google search: strictly words, no images.

In their “How to Maximize the Google Grant” panel, Dave Martin and Ryan Joneson, co-founders of online advertising agency Nettra, said that the program is something that every nonprofit organization needs to take advantage of.

They explained that AdWords is Google’s online advertising tool in which an organization’s ad appears among the top results in relevant online searches. For example, if your organization is an animal shelter in Austin, you would probably want your ad to appear at the top of the page when people are searching to adopt a cat in Austin or donate pet supplies.

Eligibility for the Google Ad Grants program is simple: the organization must be a 501(c)3, agree to certain conditions regarding nondiscrimination and donations, and have a functioning website. However, certain groups, such as governmental entities and organizations, hospitals and medical groups, and schools, are not eligible.

Martin and Joneson said that they have had every single one of their nonprofit clients that has applied for the Google Ad Grant receive it, and they have all seen very positive results, such as increased brand awareness, web traffic, and reaching new supporters from outside the local area.

How to make the most of the $10,000

Here’s the big problem: Martin and Joneson said most nonprofits don’t know how to maximize all of the $10,000 in free online marketing, spending only 10 to 20 percent of the grant monthly. To help spend the money, they shared a few tips that they use with their nonprofit clients.


Since grantees are limited to a $2 maximum for keyword bids, it makes it hard to buy popular search keywords. Therefore, nonprofits could still benefit by buying secondary keywords that may not be exactly in line with a nonprofit’s primary goal, but will still bring people to the website.

Martin and Joneson gave the example of a relief organization that wanted to increase donations by buying the term “donate to ebola,” but that was priced at $4.54, more than twice the $2 maximum. However, since the organization had an ebola breakout map on their website, they bought the term “ebola breakout map” for $.70, and then put a call to action to donate to ebola at the bottom of the page.

They also suggested that nonprofits purchase branded terms, such as the name of the organization and variations of it.


Regardless of what terms you use to attract people to your website, Martin and Joneson said to make sure that you never take them simply to your homepage, and that the page the ad takes them to includes the information the person is searching for because Google cares about relevance.


Finally, if your organization plans to manage Google AdWords on its own, keep in mind that the cost is time, and that depends on the manager’s skill level with Google AdWords and the organization’s goals.

Remember that Google AdWords is as much art as it is science, and every organization will benefit differently. Constantly tracking what works and what doesn’t, and reacting to this information in a productive way can help your free advertising go much further.

For more details about the program and to apply, visit the Google Ad Grants website, which includes an informative program guide for nonprofits. Or learn more about how to use Google Grants from Nettra here.

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