AdWords for Nonprofits – How to Get Half a Million Dollars in Free Ads

In the non-profit space, internet marketing and modern tooling can be a hard sell, especially with limited resources. Fortunately, Google has a great suite of free apps,grants, and Adwords for nonprofits, offering them a unique chance to take advantage of Google’s top-class services and advertising network.

For this article, we’re going to dive a little deeper into Ad Grants and Ad GrantsPro, but I encourage you to take a look at the full list of benefits available with Google for Nonprofits. Also, I can only speak from experience working within the U.S., but I encourage you to refer to their offerings for other countries as well.

Nonprofit Eligibility and the Adwords Application

The eligibility requirements are pretty clear:

  • You must be a registered non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
  • You must comply with Google’s non-discrimination policies.
  • You can’t be a government, health, or educational organization. There are other options, however, for educational organizations that you can look into.
  • You must have a website with ‘substantial content’. For now, Google Adwords cannot link to mobile apps or landing pages on websites that you don’t own.

If your website is not fleshed out, not optimized to convert new visitors to your email list or a donate page, then this isn’t the time to get Adwords. Spend some time focusing on your digital media, then come back and apply. There’s no point in bringing in visitors if there’s no end game in play.

It is important to note that Google can turn down requests at their discretion. However, in my experience the Google Grants support team is extremely responsive and friendly and may be able to help if needed.

Once you’ve determined your eligibility, apply to the overall Google for Nonprofits program, which will give you access to Ad Grants, as well as other benefits for services such as YouTube, Google Earth and Google Apps (Gmail, Drive, Docs, and more).

After being approved for Google for Nonprofits, you can proceed with activating Ad Grants. There are two options, the regular AdWords Account or a managed option (AdWords Express). I recommend taking the time to learn how to manage your own AdWords account, or hiring an employee or part-time freelancer who can. The benefits will become even more clear as we look into GrantsPro below.

Managing Adwords for Nonprofit Growth

Assuming that you plan on managing your own Adwords account, there are some rules to how you manage it over time. Here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Adwords can only link to one domain (your main website, such as You can link to as many different pages ( and subdomains ( as long as they are part of the same domain.
  • Ads need to be in line with your program goals/mission statement.
  • Ads can’t be for commercial services or financial products.
  • The landing pages should have value, not just lists of links, ads, or affiliate links.

As long as you plan on providing valuable content and using the opportunity to share the story of your organization honestly, these shouldn’t be issues.

On the other hand, while the ads themselves are free, you should still expect to be investing either time or money (for someone else’s time) managing your AdWords account. Google expects you to log in to your account every few months and make changes.

These changes are relatively easy thanks to the Opportunities tab on the top of the screen. Make it a habit to log in and check the Opportunities. The Opportunities feature provides simple automated tasks that add suggested keywords and re-organize campaigns to improve the amount of clicks you’re getting. Often, they recommend some great long-tail keywords that can help you find more quality clicks.

To get the most out of the program, however, you need to take it up a notch.

Setting Course for GrantsPro

The basic AdGrants level of Adwords for nonprofits gives you $10,000 a month in free ads. Of course, there are limits:

  • Ad bids (the amount you pay per ad) are limited to $2.00
  • Ads are text-based only
  • Ads show up in search results only (not in other Google ad networks like display and mobile)

Within these limits, you can still get a lot of traction and see some great returns on your time invested. But there’s a bigger opportunity, and it’s name is GrantsPro. If you can successfully manage your Adwords account, they’ll increase  your monthly budget 4x to $40k. That’s roughly $1300 in ads every day and a jump in your yearly ad budget from $120k to $480k. Even if you need to hire a part-timer to spend a few hours a month working on your AdWords account, the rewards are well worth it.

In order to get to that level, it’s important to start working towards GrantsPro from the beginning. They expect to see consistency and growth, and are interesting in your performance over the last six months. This means you can’t wait six months to start thinking about GrantsPro, you need to prepare from the beginning.

Be sure to review the full eligibility requirements, but here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Spend Your Whole Budget

If you’re not spending all of the $10k a month, you’re not getting more. Make sure you have enough ad groups with different keywords to utilize your whole budget.

Improve Your Click Through Rate

You need to break a 1% CTR to qualify. Honestly, if you’re not breaking 1%, you need to hit the drawing board anyway. Having one user click on your ad out of every one hundred is pretty reasonable. If this is an area you’re struggling with, look at your extreme ads – your best and your worst- and compare. Check the Opportunities tab for some optimization support and get an outside opinion.

Schedule Bi-Weekly Maintenance

Google expects your organization to be logging in to your account on a bi-weekly basis, or two to three times a month. On average, you can probably accomplish what you need within a few hours, once things are running smoothly. Make sure this is an expectation from the outset, something you are willing and able to invest in.

Tracking Conversions

Conversions are a little trackers that ping Google every time an action is completed on your website. The action could be clicking on a link, signing up for a newsletter, or submitting a donation. You need proof that users who click on your ads are actually doing these things.

The first step is to make sure you’re using Google Analytics and your accounts are synced. After that you’ll need to specify and enable a few ‘goals’ in Google Analytics and then import those goals into AdWords. Overall, tracking conversions is not easy, you’ll need a web developer to help you out.


I recommend reading the full documentation and browse around the Google Grants website to learn more about adwords for nonprofits. As I said earlier, if you’re a non-profit with a decently fleshed-out website, some form of a conversion strategy in place, and the ability to invest a little time/money, AdGrants is a no-brainer. If needed, look into hiring a freelancer like myself (warning: shameless plug) to help create and manage your future growth through adwords for nonprofits.

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