Google Grant accounts present a fantastic opportunity for charities and not-for-profit organisations to leverage the power of online search to help grow the organisation and increase supporter numbers. However, we are currently seeing a lot of interest from charities keen to explore their options when it comes to maximising their Grants – so we’ve compiled our top tips for not-for-profits when it comes to accessing and managing the programme.

In a nutshell, the Google Ad Grant Program (part of Google for non-profits) is available to charitable organisations and gives advertisers free spend on AdWords. There are criteria and conditions that must be met, but if eligible, you can spend up to $10,000 a month on paid search.

One thing to consider is that any unused spend does not rollover, therefore any day that the daily allowance isn’t fully invested is a lost opportunity.

Use all match types – including the old school broad match

Anyone who is accustomed to paid search will understand why the use of the traditional broad match type is becoming extinct. Broad terms are notorious for being inefficient, expensive and irrelevant. The modified broad match option in AdWords gives you far greater control of which queries to match to. However, the classic version of broad match does have merits, especially in the context of grant accounts that are not fully utilising the daily allowance.. This gives you the best opportunity to not only ensure you are showing for all searches, but the broad match plays a key role in unearthing new search terms for your account, which you can apply on exact and phrase match too. This is all designed to ensure your keyword set is ever-growing along with spend. Regular optimisations, including search query reports, are still required to maintain relevance and wastage, but adding the broad match keywords can have a really positive effect on spend and reveal some potential new keywords for your account.

Maximise your bids

Unless you are already hitting your daily/monthly allowance, this strategy is a no-brainer. Grant accounts have a maximum CPC bid limit of $2, so it makes sense to set your bids to the maximum to ensure you are showing in the highest position. A higher bid leads to a higher ad rank, which determines your position on the search engine response page; the higher the bids, the better. If you’re struggling to utilise all of the available spend, the higher bid will increase your average CPC and, in theory, improve your position. This will result in more clicks and, in turn, lead to more donations and sign ups!

If a Grant account begins to spend the daily allowance consistently, it is wise to tweak your CPCs. As with any account, some keywords will be more efficient than others, and so the bidding strategy needs to reflect this, once the focus of the account has shifted from maximising daily spend to driving conversions or other KPIs.

Uncap your campaigns

The monthly allowance of $10,000 per month equates to roughly £330 per day, and this is where Google caps daily spend. Monitoring the overall daily cap to check this isn’t lower than your organisation’s daily allowance is an important habit. Best practice, when it comes to a Grant account, is to set campaign daily caps to an elevated level, allowing a gauge on potential for each campaign and how much search volume there is available.

Obviously, when an account is fully investing, it will be necessary to reduce the caps to ensure you are spending in the most efficient areas, or the areas of focus for the advertiser. In this case, it needs to be optimised it in the same way as any PPC account.

Focus on awareness, not conversions

In the early life of a Grant account, the focus tends to be on utilising the spend. There is a temptation to restrict the account to brand and acquisition-based terms, but impressive results can be delivered when the scope of keywords for Grant accounts is broadened. Awareness-based terms do a fantastic job of driving more visitors to a charity’s site, which you can then use for retargeting in other activity. Consider entering auctions for broader generic terms and don’t rule out keywords which have been, or are likely to be, inefficient against specific KPIs. The media spend through AdWords is free, and there are more KPIs and benefits which can be delivered such as site visitors, RLSA and retargeting through other channels

Cover all types of engagement

All charities will have a range of online KPIs they will be measured by, typically: donations; membership sign up, volunteer sign up, or newsletter registration.

There are many other conversion types thought, and accounts shouldn’t be limited to just these. When organisations look at broader deliverables, such as encouraging informational and visitation traffic, it opens up the potential of Grants and that charity’s message beyond simple fundraising. Directing to educational content linked to your charity also means that traffic reaches more areas of your site, growing brand awareness and site visits which could evolve into memberships or donations at a later date.

Aim high!

Whilst the Grantspro application process is currently closed, it could become available again at any time. Google have closed and re-opened the application process in the past. So, it’s important to keep aiming for a Grantspro account. If you are meeting the eligibility criteria, then you will be able to apply for an account instantly if the process opens again. The benefits from being quick on the draw are clear – quadrupling the AdWords spend per month to $40,000. To be eligible, a charity must have: CTR greater than 1%; AdWords Conversion Tracking applied to the account, and fully utilisation of the standard monthly allowance (at least $9,900) for at least 2 months running.

It should go without saying that every charity should be maximising the full potential from Grants – if they aren’t, they are literally leaving potential donations sitting on the table. However, as we have seen, it’s not all about the cash – Grants can do so much more to improve awareness, standing and education for a charity’s main goals. If an organisation is not sure if it’s maximising its full potential, or if it’s unsure how to even start, just taking the first steps to learn more or asking specialists how to optimise a Grants programme is a very good start.

Darren Kyle

Darren Kyle


Darren Kyle, Head of Paid Search, equimedia.