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“Don’t be evil”: Using Google Ad Grants to tackle societal problems

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Google has emerged as one of the most influential and powerful organizations of our time. Its product is so ubiquitous it’s commonly used as a verb. Starting out as one of many search engines, Google has since branched out into software, mobile devices, and other technology ventures. 

Early in Google’s history, employees had to agree to a simple statement in the company’s code of conduct: “Don’t Be Evil.” In line with this signature clause, Google offers nonprofits an exclusive resource that can help them make the world a better place: the Google Ad Grant.

Eligible charitable organizations apply to Google to receive $10,000 a month to use on Google Ads. Google Ads are the sponsored links that appear within many Google searches. Google Ad Grants are considered in-kind contributions. Once an organization receives an Ad Grant, it gets to keep it indefinitely, as long as it meets basic compliance standards.

As experts in Google Ad Grants, Nonprofit Megaphone recommends the program to nonprofits of any size and many types of mission. Managed correctly, a grant can have a great impact for a nonprofit, at a very minimal compliance cost. In this post we’ll discuss three ways organizations use their Google Ad Grants:

  • Gather more donations
  • Increase volunteer participation
  • Increase awareness of their missions

Gather more donations for your cause 

Whether your organization relies on donations for general support or to fund specific programs, a Google Ad Grant can help you bring in more contributions. With quality web content and focused calls to action, you can use the grant to increase your web traffic, then convert that traffic into donations.

In the language of Google Ads, donations are one of the most valuable conversions an organization can measure. A conversion is any measurable action that a visitor takes on your website. Common conversions include newsletter sign-ups, navigating through multiple pages, and of course, making donations. You have complete control over which conversions you encourage on your site. Keep in mind, however, that you should measure meaningful conversions. After all, conversions are only valuable if they actually create value for your organization.

A donation, however, is one of the most costly actions a visitor can take. They’re more likely to sign up for a newsletter, read an article, or purchase merchandise after engaging with your site. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use your grant to increase donations. You’ll just need to develop a strategy to inspire visitors who click on your Google ad to donate to your organization.

Other nonprofits have pulled it off. The Greater New York chapter of Volunteers of America used its grant to increase its monthly giving program to more than 25 donors. You’re ahead of the game if your organization addresses a problem affecting communities across the country. Even if your mission has a narrower focus, you can use your Google Ad Grant to promote your message to a brand-new audience, the first step in increasing contributions.

Increase volunteer participation

Your ad grant can help you develop a steady supply of reliable, trustworthy, and hardworking volunteers to support your programming. Instead of driving visitors to a donation page, you’ll direct them to a volunteer page.

There are a couple of ways you can use your grant to achieve this goal. First, you could run ads that specifically target the keywords relevant to your volunteer program. This strategy may garner fewer clicks than a more indirect, general approach, but the quality of traffic will be much higher.

For example, let’s say you run a food pantry that routinely needs volunteers. Using this strategy, you’d want to include keywords such as “volunteer opportunities,” “community building,” or “community service” in your ads. These action-based keywords will attract people who are looking to use their time to make a difference. This audience will be more likely to click on your ads and interact with your volunteer page.

Second, you could try to cultivate new volunteers with a specific call to action (CTA). CTAs are designed to guide a visitor to take an important next step. They’re often flashy, visually appealing buttons, but any important link that entices a reader to stay on your website can be a CTA. In this case, you’ll use keywords that appeal to those who share your socially conscious mission. 

Our food pantry in the example above might use keywords such as “food pantries in my area,” “how do food pantries help people,” or “food insecurity.” In addition, a food pantry could design landing pages that discuss various aspects of its mission or food insecurity in general. These pages would include a CTA that asks the reader to volunteer and links to the volunteer page. Although this strategy requires potential volunteers to take multiple actions in order to achieve the desired result, it allows you to use broader keywords in your Google Ads and potentially bring a wider audience to your website.

Increase awareness of your mission 

Even if the strategies above don’t result in either donations or volunteers, they can still increase awareness about your organization and your mission. In fact, you can design your entire Google Ad campaign to this end, creating ads and landing pages that share your organization with the world. Although this approach may not lead to results quickly, it can create a foundation for long-term growth and success.

Successfully increasing awareness requires that you have high-quality content users want to engage with. The fun part is that you can experiment with different ads, pages, and keywords to find what works best. If you’re employing this strategy, you’ll want to pay close attention to the analytics data that Google Ads provides. In addition, employing other analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager gives you a full suite of information with which to hone your campaigns over time.

You’ll also want to focus on a broader range of metrics to evaluate the success of your awareness campaigns. Common measurements include:

  • Time spent on your site. People probably aren’t learning anything about your mission or organization if they leave your site as soon as they arrive. You could therefore designate and track “Spend 5+ minutes on the site” as a conversion.
  • Impressions. Impressions are simply the number of times your ad appears in someone’s Google search. People can’t engage with your ads if they don’t see them. A large number of impressions is positive, however, only if clicks and the click-through rate are also high (see next bullet).
  • Clicks and click-through rate (CTR). Clicks represent the number of people who click on the ad. Click-through rate is the percentage of clicks relative to the ad’s total impressions. High clicks and CTRs suggest your ads are effective and that searchers see something valuable in your organization. Low clicks and CTRs indicate you’re not engaging your target audience.

Responding to this data and making appropriate changes are necessary for long-term Google Ad Grant success. Although relatively simple, managing a Google Ad Grant takes work and expertise, causing many organizations to outsource it to experts.


Google Ad Grants give socially conscious nonprofits the chance to achieve goals at minimal cost to them. Nonprofits can use several strategies with their Ad Grants. With a clear strategy, analytic approach, and willingness to learn best practices, you can use the grant to increase your nonprofit’s impact on the world.


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