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10 Ways To Maximize Your Google Ad Grant

According to Google, the average Google Ad Grant account spends just $300 of the $10,000 available each month.

That means they’re leaving $116,400 in free grant money on the table every year.

Unfortunately, most non-profit organizations don’t know how to really maximize the Google Ad Grant. Today, we’re going to change that.

I’m going to cover 10 strategies you can use to get the most out of your Google Ad Grant. We’re not going to get stuck in the details of where to click or how to write an ad (that’s for another time). Instead, we’re focusing on the strategies you can use to maximize your monthly grant budget.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:list of ways to maximize google ads grant

Before We Get Started

We are going to focus on higher level strategy, and not so much on tactics within the Google Ads account, but you will absolutely need conversion-based bidding (which will require Google Analytics 4) to make these strategies work.  Without that, you’ll be stuck bidding just $2 per click and your account will be quite limited when it comes to some of the more advanced strategies on this list.

1. Branded Campaigns

A branded campaign simply means running ads for your own brand name and close variations of it. It’s first on our list because I can’t think of a single organization that shouldn’t be running a branded campaign.

While branded campaigns are hotly debated in paid accounts (understandably, some people have a problem paying Google to show up for their own brand name) it makes perfect sense in grant accounts. Especially if you’re not already utilizing the entire 10k per month.

Here’s an example of a branded search for the Cat Care Society in Lakewood, Colorado:

cat care society branded campaign example

Notice how Cat Care’s website takes up almost the entire screen between paid and organic results. Thanks to the Google Ads sitelink extensions, they also get even more control over how they appear in search results and are able to show their best pages when someone searches for their brand.

Controlling the search results is a critical part of reputation management.

Unfortunately, someone will have something negative to say about your organization at some point but the more you can control your own search results the more you can keep the focus on the good work you’re doing.

Branded campaigns also have a very high click-through-rate (CTR) which can help you achieve the required 5% account minimum if you’re having trouble.  This particular branded campaign for Cat Care Society has a CTR of 51.25% which is typical for these types of campaigns. That can make a big difference in your account if you’re hovering around single digit click-through-rates.

If you’ve been studying Google’s Ad Grant requirements then you also know that you’re not allowed to bid on keywords that are a single word. However, if your brand name is a single word you get a pass and Google explains that, “Single-word keywords that are too broad to reflect the mission of nonprofits are restricted, except in cases of owned brand terms, medical conditions, basic keywords relating directly to supporting a charity, or due to the sensitive nature of the causes that charities support.”

2. Promoting Your Content

We started with the straightforward branded campaign and now it’s time to get a little more advanced with content.

Content is the starting point to a relationship with your organization- after all, people have to know you before they can support you and your best content should make for the perfect introduction! Content will make sense for just about every non-profit, especially those with a national presence or aspirations to go national.

Here’s an example of a content campaign from Cat Care Society that shows up for the search term “black cat myths”:

black cat math content google ad grant result

Content like this does several things:

  • It helps promote Cat Care Society’s mission of helping cats by challenging the often negative perception of black cats.
  • It can help someone decide to adopt a black cat, possibly turning to Cat Care Society to do it.
  • It can help create brand awareness- if the Cat Care Society keeps showing up whenever you ask a cat-related question you’ll take notice.
  • It can help build a list by collecting an email address before the reader leaves (more on why this is so important in the next section).

Then there’s this article on supporting feral cats through the winter:

black cat math content google ad grant result

While this piece of content may be less likely to turn into an adoption, it still very clearly supports the Cat Care Society’s mission of helping cats- in this case through education. They also get the benefits of awareness and potential list building.

Your content can be the starting point that leads to a much longer, or even lifetime, relationship with someone where they move from reading your content for a few minutes to donating, advocating for your cause, using your services, and much more.

But there are two common problems I typically see people run into when it comes to creating content for Google Ad Grants. First, is not fully understanding awareness and second is feeling lost on the process of content creation.

Understand Awareness To Maximize Content

If everyone already knew about your organization then marketing would be easy.

Heck, in that scenario you could stop at a branded campaign since everyone already knows you and will be typing your non-profit’s name into Google search.

But the reality is, most people are likely unaware of your organization, your mission, and you. Content can help us change that but we need to meet people where they are, instead of waiting for them to only come to us. 

Let’s look at an example.

Project MEGSSS offers math education to gifted middle school students beyond what’s available to them at their school. However, a lot of parents may not be aware of Project MEGSSS or that programs like this exist. Instead, they’re much further up the awareness funnel searching for phrases like “how to help my gifted middle schooler” or “how to prepare my student for STEM career”, etc.

Creating content that answers these questions will not only help people understand that Project MEGSSS exists, but also make them aware of the solution they offer and how it connects to what they’re looking for.

Here’s this idea represented visually:

When maximizing your Google ad grant, you should absolutely be targeting people at the bottom of this funnel. But you should also think about how people find your organization and how you can meet them where they’re at.

What If I Don’t Have Any Content?

Creating and promoting content can seem intimidating but you don’t need 100s of articles to pull this strategy off. Instead, start with what you have:

  • Is there any existing literature you share with the public that you could turn into an article or post? You could start with something like a list of resources but anything that would be helpful to a wider audience will help.
  • You know your organization- are there frequently asked questions that you could easily turn into an article? These questions will be quick for you or someone on your team to answer and you can target these questions directly as keywords in your Google Ads account.
  • Are you already getting traffic for any article? Check what you’re already ranking for in Google search console and add those as keywords to your Google Ad Grant account.

However, we’re trying to maximize our Google Ad Grant account which means we’re not stopping at just getting traffic to our content.  We want to bring these new people into our non-profit’s ecosystem and we can do that by capturing their email address or some other way of staying in contact.

So to make the most out of a content strategy, we should have a meaningful conversion connected to it (like email subscriptions, click to share on social, etc) which also leads us to our next strategy: list building.

3. List Building

Most people get to a website and bounce.

Poof! They’re gone.

You’ll likely never see them again and they’ll unfortunately forget about you and your organization.

But if you can collect their email address before they go or find another way to connect with them, that all changes and then you’re building an audience.

Here’s an example of an email opt-in from Search Engine Journal but you’ve seen these kind of opt-ins before:

email opt in grant account

It’s simple, doesn’t have the strongest call-to-action but it is visible enough to get collect emails. The important part here is to have something that allows you to reconnect with your audience.

Start with an in-content call to action or something in the sidebar and give the visitors a reason to share their email. If you’re just getting started, don’t overthink this and you can optimize it later but ask yourself “would I sign up for this?” Then track email sign ups as a conversion in Google Analytics and Google Ads. The important part is to get started! An email list will make all your marketing more effective and allow you to promote events, services, collect donations and much more.

email opt in sequence google ad grant

What If I Don’t Have An Email List?

That’s okay! Add that to your list of priorities (and put it near the top).

But for now you can track clicks to social, joining a group or anything else that lets you reconnect with visitors in some way!

Using something other than email is not perfect, but it’s one step closer to maximizing your grant compared to not doing anything at all with your traffic! Whatever you choose, make sure you’re tracking it as a conversion so you understand what’s working and so you can give Google Ads the data it needs.

4. Donations

I don’t need to tell you why donations are important and it’s one of the first things people think about when it comes to new Google Ad Grant accounts.

However, it’s not always so easy and because of the way grant accounts work (you’re bidding after paid ads), you’re unlikely to ever show up for search terms like “donate my car” or “donate to non-profit”.

Instead, you’re going to find much more success targeting phrases that are specific to your organization. Here’s an example from a campaign for The Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research and they’re showing an ad for the very specific search term “donate for sickle cell”:

donate for sickle cell grant example

But this direct approach is often not the best way to get donations for your organization and donation requests should be built into your content, emails, and just about everything else you do. While these campaigns will bring in some donations, most people will need 3 to 7 positive interactions with your non-profit before they donate.

Every email, social media post, text, and site visit is an opportunity for them to learn more about your mission and eventually take action to support it. So make sure you’re working donations into every part of strategy.

5. Volunteers

Finding volunteers locally can be relatively straight forward- especially for organizations like animal shelters or food banks where it’s well known that they need volunteers. People are searching for phrases like “volunteer for animal shelter” or “volunteer at food bank”.

But in other cases, we may need to turn back to our awareness funnel to reach more people. This is can especially be true if you’re non-profit provides support to a large group of people or a specific regions. In these cases, people may want to volunteer but not know how.

For example, someone searching “how to volunteer to help homeless” may not know all their options or they’re looking for ways to volunteer beyond what’s typical. Here’s what that progression would look like in our awareness funnel:

awareness funnel for volunteers

Again, if you’re looking for local volunteers this approach isn’t necessary, but if you’re national or have a unique way to utilize volunteers using content to move up the funnel can be a great strategy.

Give yourself plenty of time for results. Google Ad Grants accounts (and Google Ads in general) are not good for quick launch, short term campaigns so focus on positions that you need regularly rather than on positions that you need only once.

6. Jobs

You can target specific job positions in your organization, but as I just noted with volunteers, this is best for positions that are frequently open and that you need several of like frontline staff compared to executive roles.

You’ll also want to target specific job positions in your organization and not general targeting like “non profit jobs” which won’t work as well and aren’t likely to show in results.

job strategy for google ad grant

Here’s an example and while this isn’t focused on non-profits, it does highlight that ads can appear above the jobs widget which is a huge benefit and one of the main reasons to use Google Ads for finding applicants at all:

job search google ads

These are tougher campaigns to get right but for larger organizations with a lot of turnover, it can be a huge help.

7. Events

If you have events, you can use your Google Ad Grant to get more attendees.

However, your event needs to have some search demand behind it for this to work. For example the Cat Care Society has an event called “Tails of the Painted Cats” where cat sculptures (and some dogs) are painted in amazing ways and then auctioned off. You can see what I’m talking about here:

painted cats from cat care society

This type of event isn’t going to have search volume and the closest you’ll get is something like “charity auction” or similar. Which will be tough to show up for in a grant account.

Instead, you can promote this event via your email list, on your website, on your social media accounts, or with display advertising. And promoting events is just one of the many reasons we want to be building our lists and growing our audience!

On the other hand, The Foundation For Sickle Cell Disease Research has an annual medical conference where they share the latest information on treatments, genetic advances and more:

18th annual sickle cell disease conference example

This type of event will have some search volume in the form of “medical conference” and similar. It will do especially well locally and focusing on additional benefits to attendees like continuing education credits and similar can make it even more effective.

Events are a great way to maximize your Google Ad Grant but just ask yourself what someone would search to find it before building a new campaign.

8. Petitions and Issues

In some cases, there will be people actively searching for petitions to sign. These could be things like “petition against animal cruelty” or “petition to stop animal testing”. In other cases, you could promote your petition as the solution for the search.

For example, when I search for “how to stop puppy mills” I end up with search results like this:

petition for google ad grant example search results

We can see that Lady Freethinker (the second result) is telling us right in the ad that signing a petition is a good way to take action.

When we get to her website, we’re told what the petition is, we’re given the option to sign it and shown a bit of social proof. You can see that in the image below but if you want a closer look you can also check out the page here.

petition landing page example

This is a great example of understanding the intent of the search and sending the user to the right page. It’s also a great example of a scenario when there can be more than one right way to match intent of the search.

Best Friends Animal Society has another ad in the same search results but instead of going straight for a petition, their page focuses on education and gives the reader several different actions to take including supporting legislation, learning even more about puppy mills and also signing a petition.

Is one approach better than the other?

Nope! As long as you’re matching the action you want users to take to the intent of their search, you’ll find success.

9. Sales

You can use the Google Ad Grant to promote your products as long as you’re sending people to your own domain or subdomain (that means no Amazon or Tee Spring shops).

Of course, e-commerce shouldn’t be the only thing you’re using your ad grant for (and you’ll run into compliance issues if that’s the case) but if you have a shop, this a great technique for maximizing your grant and gives you the opportunity see a return on investment faster than you would with a long term list building or content campaign.

However, if you’re only selling branded products, you might have a harder time getting sales. But if your non-profit is selling items that people would buy on their own (like funny t-shirts) this can be a great option.

10. Services

Services are last on our list because it’s probably the first thing most organizations think about when they consider a Google Ad Grant (that and donations). If you’re operating nationally, this is pretty straightforward and you want to show your service offer to as many people as possible.

However, if your services are local (like cat adoptions or a medical facility) I recommend expanding your location targeting beyond what you might expect.

When it comes to organic (non-paid) search and local services, proximity to the person searching is the most important factor. In the extreme sense, this is obvious and if your animal shelter is in Delaware it’s not going to show up when someone in California searches Google for “animal shelter”. But this also applies at a smaller scale too.

In the image below, we can see the Google rankings for Cat Care Society when someone searches for “cat adoption”. They’re located in the center of the map (where they arrow is) and you can see that they’re in position 3 or 4 in areas close to their location. But when you start looking at rankings further out from their location, you can see that they show up in position 20+ which means no one is going to find them.

organic search results for cat care society compared to ads

But would someone drive 25 minutes across Denver to find the perfect cat?

Yes! Absolutely!

This is a flaw (one of many) with how Google’s organic search results work.  This system works great if you’re looking for a coffee shop since you probably don’t want to drive 25 minutes for a latte. But doesn’t work as well for more unique or specialized services.

However, you can use the Google Ad Grant to fix this flaw by expanding your location targeting much further than what you would rank for with organic Google search alone.

Exactly how far you expand your reach will depend on your specific non-profit’s mission, but in this case, we’ve set the location targeting up to 100 miles for Cat Care Society and while that could be on the high end, there are plenty of people who would drive 100 miles for the cat they fell in love with.

Okay…Now What?

We’ve covered a lot of information here and now you have plenty of ideas on how you can start maximizing your Google Ad Grant.

But where do you start? Here’s the order I’d start in for most non-profits:

Brand and Services

Starting here makes sense because you likely know these areas the best and it’s a great foundation for your Google Ad Grant account. If you have any branded searches, it will also help you start strong with some easy impressions and clicks.

Volunteers

If your organization uses volunteers, this is another great place to start. You’re unlikely to compete with as many paid Google ads accounts (compared to something like donations) and finding more volunteers can make a huge impact on many non-profits.

Content and List Building

This can be more difficult for many non-profits which is why we didn’t start here. However, this is where you can really start to scale your daily ad spend but just make sure you’re building your list at the same time.

Donations

You can add a campaign for generating donations directly but these campaigns can be tricky to get right (which is why we didn’t start here) and you may have a hard time getting any traction depending on your niche due to competition.

Events, Petitions, and Sales

These three don’t make sense for every organization, so they’re further down the list.

Jobs

Jobs are another strategy that can be difficult to perfect. It’s also not the best for every organization and usually other channels like job aggregators do a better job. But if you’re maxing out all your other strategies and have openings then it can be worth exploring!

That’s It!

These are far from the only strategies you can use, but they are the ones that will apply to most non-profit organizations.

If you have a question, feel free to leave a comment below. And if you want to work with me directly, I offer a 6-week live training program where you can learn to manage your own grant account or I can handle it all for you. You can book a call and learn more here.

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