Five Tips on Managing Nonprofit Google Grants

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So let's start at a very hypothetical question. Say you're at some nonprofit conference, and a huge magical fairy (we'll call the fairy "Google") comes up to you and says "I'll grant you a $120,000 a year for your nonprofit marketing efforts for 2015." And presto - you have an additional $120K all for your marketing budget to do some extraordinary things.

Well, you'd probably say I'm crazy. And while reading the above paragraph, maybe the 'huge magical fairy' is a bit much, but I digress.

The point is this: Google grants $120,000 a year for eligible 501c3s for their nonprofit AdWords program. Yes, that's pretty amazing, but managing and actually utilizing that grant is a monumental challenge. The vast majority of non-profits using Google Grants only use a small fraction of the overall budget of $10,000 month.

Here are 6 challenges, and a few tips to overcome those challenges.

1) It's all about ad relevancy.
There's a key score in AdWords, and that's ad relevancy. If your score isn't high enough, then your ad doesn't show. While there are many key contributing factors in this score, one of the main ones is that there must be a strong correlation in what the user is searching for (the search term) the ad that you've created, and the content on the landing page (the page the user goes to after clicking on the ad.

2) Keep your keywords focused.
Sure - you're given $120,000 of Google Grants, which at first may feel like Monopoly money to you. It fell out of the sky and into your lap. Your first inclination would be to add as many keywords as possible. However, the more contained, the more focused you make it; the better. This will also help your ad relevancy score (see above).

3) Conversion, conversion, conversion.
Drawing users to your site is almost always a plus. This helps explain to the masses what you do, and how they may get involved. However, raising awareness is often trumped by inspiring action. How do you turn site users into volunteers, donors or constituents? That's why custom landing pages for each ad campaign is imperative.

For example, a user Googles "animal shelters". A nonprofit organization that is a local animal shelter displays at the top of the Google search results. User clicks on ad. User is taken to a page that's relevant to that search term, and then there's an opportunity for the user to either sign-up for a mailing list or maybe even volunteer. After they sign-up, he or she is placed on a marketing drip campaign with communications sent. Eventually, these users are converted into donors.

4) Reporting
If you can't measure something, it can't be improved upon. That's why weekly benchmarked reporting should always be provided. What's working? What's not working? What's converting into volunteers or donors, and what can be tweaked to improve these key metrics?

5) Constant tweaking
Adwords for nonprofits is an intersection of art and science. Constant tweaking is required to ensure optimal usage of the Google Grant.

6) Have your team assembled
Getting a Google Grant is fairly straightforward. Managing it and doing it correctly is a different story. We'd recommend the following team infrastructure.

  • SEM Expert. Or, at least someone with a passable knowledge of SEM (Search Engine Marketing). This can be hired out, but make certain that you have someone who understands key-words, landing pages, client conversion, CPC and CPI, and other SEM lingo to help your organization.
  • Copywriter. Search engine advertisements have to be pithy and attention-grabbing with little graphics. Understanding the in's and out's of what works in advertisements (without getting Google mad at you) is necessary to make full use of Google Grants.
  • Client Conversion Specialist. In less technical terms, this is a sales person. Specifically, this is a sales person who understands how to turn a browser of your website/ads/social media into a constituent.
We've helped nonprofits double their site traffic, all the way to increasing it 10x, and then convert that traffic into donors, volunteers and constituents. Contact us if you'd like to schedule a chat with us to learn more.

Kevin graduated from Miami University studying information systems and piano performance. After graduating, Kevin worked at General Electric working on banking systems in Thailand, India, U.K., Singapore and Denmark. After spending a few years overseas, Kevin spent four years leading technology projects at Merrill Lynch in Chicago. After this, Kevin spent two years at Roundarch consulting for Nystrom, United States Air Force and Northern Trust.


Kevin's first product was Duple Meter, which is a platform for music and arts organizations. In the summer of 2010, SocialRaise emerged, which concentrates on ways to combine social media with ways to increase revenue (online fundraising, e-commerce, event ticket sales, and advertising). This past summer, a new product called GroupHelix launched, which is a social intranet and workflow management web application. In his spare time, Kevin enjoys keeping active with triathlons, playing piano, and enjoying the great city of Chicago.

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