The Top 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Google Ad Grants

Marketing February 26, 2020

Sayana Izmailova

By Sayana Izmailova

This is a guest post from Simon Choy, Founder of ConnectAd

Did you know that nonprofits are eligible for $10,000 a month in free advertising space from Google?

The Google Ad Grants program is a game changer. Adding $120,000 a year to your nonprofit’s advertising budget can give outreach a whole new meaning and cast your marketing net wider than ever.

A lot has changed since Google Ad Grants started in 2003, which has led to some common misconceptions about the process  — from how long the application really takes to how the Grant works behind the scenes. 

We want to share the knowledge we’ve gained as Google Ad Grant account managers to make the process more approachable and transparent for your nonprofit, whether you’re thinking about applying, are knee deep in the application, or are already a grantee. (You can also check out this quiz to determine if you're eligible.) 

Read on for 20 things you may not have known about the Google Ad Grants program! 


1. You’re Not Competing With Other Nonprofits

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Google Ad Grant is that there’s competition to get into the program, which can discourage smaller nonprofits from applying.

Don’t worry about the size or scope of your organization — applicants are evaluated based on a standard set of requirements and are never measured up against each other.


2. There’s No Deadline To Apply

If you’re interested in the Grant but don’t have the bandwidth to apply just yet, we have great news: there are no deadlines. The Google Ad Grants team reviews applications on a rolling basis.

Once you start the application, you can move through it at your own pace. If you need to pause the process for any reason, you can pick up where you left off whenever you’re ready.


3. You Must Have Google For Nonprofits

The Ad Grant application is accessed through Google for Nonprofits, so having an account is a mandatory prerequisite. To sign up:

  • Get verified by Techsoup: Once you’re verified as a registered nonprofit, Techsoup will give you a token number that you can use to access products and services intended exclusively for nonprofits.

  • Activate Google for Nonprofits: Your Techsoup token will allow you to set up a Google for Nonprofits account, which gives you free access to expensive Google products and unlocks the Google Ad Grant application.

4. Website Quality Is More Important Than You Might Think

Your nonprofit’s website is the backbone of your Google Ad Grant. 

Since the goal of Google Search Ads is to send users to your website, the Google Ad Grants team takes the quality and usability of your site into consideration when reviewing your application. Once you have the Grant, the quality of your site affects if and when your ads show — and more importantly, whether users are driven to take meaningful action once they’re there.

If you’re wondering where to start, check out our backend tips and web design and experience tips for how your site relates to Google Ad Grants.


5. The Application Timeline Varies — A Lot

Depending on what prerequisites you already have, the amount of time it takes to complete the two-part application can vary from a couple of weeks to several months or more. Remember not to rush: It’s important to complete every step of the application properly, since a rejection can be a major timeline setback.

Based on our experience, here’s the average amount of time it takes to complete each step:

  1. Techsoup validation: 7 to 11 business days

  2. Google for Nonprofits account setup: 0 to 14 business days

  3. Google Ad Grants Pre-Qualification (Part 1): 2 to 9 business days

  4. Google Ad Grants Account Setup (Part 2): 6 to 29 business days

  5. Application review: Approximately 10 business days

6. The Grant Covers Text-Based Ads Only

If you type anything into the Google search bar, the first few results that appear are usually ads (you’ll see a small ‘AD’ sticker at the top left corner). These are called Google Search Ads, and are the text-based ads that nonprofits can create with the Ad Grant.

Display Ads, or visual banner ads with graphics, cannot be displayed using the Ad Grant, but don’t let that deter you. Text-based Google Search Ads can send really high quality traffic to your website — and you won’t need a graphic designer to create them.

 google ads

7. It’s Not Technically $10,000 Per Month

Google Ads budgets are set daily rather than monthly, so the $10,000 is actually dolled out in $330 allotments for each day of the month. Keep in mind that if you don’t spend the full $330, it doesn’t roll over to the next day. It’s common for nonprofits to underuse the grant because daily allotments aren’t spent.


8. You Won’t Spend The $10,000 Immediately

To set realistic expectations for your first few months as a grantee, keep in mind that it’s difficult to spend the full $10,000 in the first month (or few). Google’s machine learning algorithm decides when to show your ads, and it needs time to gather data and learn about your account. This means it can take some time to increase spend and reach more of the right users.


9. You Aren’t Penalized For Using Less

A large number of grantees don’t ever use the full $10,000, and that’s completely normal — especially if your nonprofit serves a very specific or highly local population. You will never be penalized for using less. The most important thing is to make sure you’re reaching the right users rather than just focusing on the amount you spend each month.


10. You Aren’t Penalized For Using More, Either

On the flip side, accounts that consistently max out the Grant budget will sometimes spend slightly over $10,000 in a single month. If your account starts to break through the upper limit of the budget, don’t panic! Grant accounts are never billed (ever), so bask in the glory of the extra budget.


11. You Pay For Clicks, Not Ad Space

Google uses a “pay-per-click” model, which means you don’t pay for space like you would in traditional marketing — you only pay when a user clicks an ad. With Google Ad Grant accounts, that payment is deducted from your monthly allowance.

How much does each click cost? It varies a lot, but in our experience the average cost per click hovers around $2.73. Every time a user completes a search, Google’s algorithm determines how much their click will cost based on a handful of factors that you can read more about here.


12. There’s A Learning Curve

Be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. Google Ads is designed for professional marketers, so it can take time to learn how to navigate the interface, create new campaigns, optimize your account — and stay compliant with Google Ad Grant policy.

We recommend using Google’s Skillshop courses to learn how to use Google Ads effectively, or investing in a professional account management service.


13. The Grant Has No Cut-Off…

If your account stays compliant with Google Ad Grant policies, you’ll keep receiving the free advertising space every month. There’s no time limit on how long you stay in the program.


14. ...But Google Can Suspend Your Account

Google reserves the right to suspend your account and pause your ads if you fall out of compliance with Google Ads and Google Ad Grant policies.

If your account is suspended, correct the reason for suspension as soon as possible and submit a reactivation request.


15. Google Ads Works Best With Other Google Products

It can come as a surprise that Google Ads isn’t the only tool needed to run your Google Ad Grant account. To get the most out of the Grant, you should use it alongside other Google products, including:

  • Google Analytics, which gives you insight into how users arrived at the site and what they interacted with once there.

  • Google Tag Manager, which lets you track meaningful interactions users have on the site, such as newsletter signups, contact form submissions, and event signups.

16. Paid Ads and Grant Ads Don’t Compete (And You Can Use Both!)

While Paid Ads always show before Grant Ads by default, they don’t actually compete with each other. That means you can bid on the same keywords in your Paid account and Grant account at the same time.

Using both at once can be a great way to expand your reach. If you have a Paid account and keep hitting the limit of your daily budget, your Grant account can step in and pick up the rest of the traffic (or vice versa). 


17. Clicks Don’t Go To The Highest Bidder

“Why should I try to compete if big companies with millions to spend will always outrank me?”


We hear variations on this theme a lot.

But Google designed its search engine to make sure ads don’t just show for the highest bidding advertiser. Their priority is helping users find the most relevant and useful information available. Your Grant Ads will show if they are high quality and relevant to a user’s search, so don’t let the thought of those big companies deter you.


18. Conversion Tracking Is Key

A conversion is a marketing term for an action you define as meaningful that users can take on your website (like signing up for a newsletter, calling your office, registering for an event, or donating).

Tracking meaningful conversions is now mandatory for all grantees. Make sure your account is compliant by tracking as many of these actions as you can and making sure you’ve set up your conversion goals properly.

But it’s not just a policy: knowing which conversions resulted after a user clicked your ads gives both you and Google a concrete idea of the value the Ad Grant brings to your organization.


19. The Program Is Always Evolving

Google is always tweaking its policies and best practices, and they’ll continue to evolve as technology and markets change. It’s important to stay on top of policy changes to make sure your account is compliant and successfully driving the right users to your website.

In December 2019, Google rolled out a new Account Review Dashboard that lets grantees keep track of account compliance in a single interface. We recommend reviewing it at least once a week and using our Account Review Dashboard guide to understand the results.


20. Google Is Really Passionate About The Program

Google really cares about this program, and it shows in the numbers: Since 2003, more than 115,000 grantees have received over $9 billion in free advertising.

But beyond the statistics, Google has a team dedicated exclusively to Google Ad Grants that’s always finding ways to improve the program and help nonprofits grow. As Certified Google Ad Grant Professionals, we interact with the team and see first hand how committed they are to providing this incredible resource for nonprofits across the globe.

We’re huge believers in helping nonprofits find and use available resources to improve their marketing efforts and grow their impact. By busting some myths and clarifying the grey areas, we hope your nonprofit will have the expectations, understanding, and confidence to apply for the Google Ad Grant and make the most of all that the program has to offer.

Simon ChoyConnectAd has been exclusively helping nonprofits with the Google Ad Grants program since 2010. Based out of a world-leading hub for social innovation in Toronto, they are one of forty-five companies worldwide that have earned the Google Ad Grants Certified Professionals designation from Google.

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