The one secret every nonprofit marketer should know

adwords (1)


By Scott Swanson 

If you’re a nonprofit, you should be using Google Grants.

I can’t think of a single reason not to.

Google Grants is a program that provides $10,000 in free advertising to 501(c)(3)s through Google’s AdWords platform. You know when you search for something on Google and you see a promoted link at the top of the search page? That’s an AdWords ad.

Here’s an example of an ad we just placed for a client:

summer camp

Even if you’re a paying customer, AdWords are very cost-effective, because you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. But if you’re a nonprofit signed up for the Google Grants program, you’re basically playing with house money. Too good to be true, right?

Nope! Of course, there are a few catches – but they’re minor catches. First, you’re capped at how much you can bid for a keyword. Here’s how AdWords works: all advertisers who want their ads to show for a certain search term (like “journalism summer camp” above) are put into an auction. Google determines which ads get priority based on several factors, including relevancy, the quality of your landing page, and your maximum bid. Because of the bid cap, Google Grant participants will never be able to compete with the high-rollers – the paying clients with big budgets — on certain keywords in certain markets.

One other drawback – you can only advertise on what Google calls its Search Network, which is basically and partnering search sites like AOL. Paying customers can have their ads shown on the Google Display Network – thousands of news sites, blogs and other niche sites across the internet.

AdWords also require a lot of upkeep and maintenance – you have to pay close attention to how well your ads and keywords are performing. But really, these are small quibbles for a program that empowers nonprofits to spread their mission and message on the most visited website in the universe. Of course, your results will depend on a lot of factors – your industry, your timing, the quality of your website, and so on – but we’ve seen clients get thousands of hits every month without having to implement a paid digital campaign. That’s impressive.

I’m certified in Google AdWords, but you don’t have to be if you’d like to give it a shot for your own nonprofit. Google Grants is a very powerful – and very under-appreciated – tool in the mission-based online marketer’s arsenal.

March 18, 2015