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Google AdWords For Nonprofits 101


Google AdWords Grants gives eligible nonprofits $10,000 per month in free Google AdWords advertising to promote themselves at the top of Google search results pages. That is a potential annual ad budget of $120,000 that nonprofits can use to attract donors, recruit volunteers and connect with clients. Sounds too good to be true? The good news is that it’s true, and many nonprofits are already benefitting from this donation.

We invited Simon Choy from ConnectAd to lead a three-part webinar series on how nonprofits should use Google AdWords. This blog post summarizes Part One of the webinar series, including:

  • What are Google AdWords Grants?
  • How does it work?
  • Why use the service?
  • When to use Google AdWords Grants?
  • Where to apply?

So what are Google AdWord Grants?

Google provides up to $10,000/month in free AdWords advertising for eligible nonprofits. Some of the most common misconceptions around this service are:

  • The donation amount is $10,000 per month not year (i.e. $120,000 annually)
  • There is no end date on the donation
  • You receive credit towards AdWords and not $10,000 in cash

How does it work?

Google AdWords utilizes keyword-based advertising and pay-per-click:

Keyword-based advertising are ads that are linked to specific words or phrases specified by the advertiser (in this case, you), so when a search term matches the specific word or phrase, the ad will appear

Pay-per-click is an advertising model where you pay the publisher (in this case, Google) when a visitor clicks on your ad

For example, if you are a cancer charity, your keywords should be words or search terms that people would most likely use to search for your organization (e.g. “cancer charity”, “cancer organization”, “cancer nonprofit”). If your keyword matches someone’s Google search terms, your ad may appear at the top or right side of the page (see screenshot). If someone clicks on the ad, they will be taken to your website.

Why use the service?

Every eligible nonprofit should use this service because most people search for information through the internet (e.g., 75% of donors use online resources to look for information). By using Google AdGrants, you can reach people in an easy and accessible manner with Google AdWords - there are 3 billion Google searches/day and 300 million clicks/day on AdWord Ads!

When to use Google AdWords Grants?

While it can have many or even multiple uses, a key thing to remember is that you need a website in order to use it. You want to send people to a landing page, whether that be your home page or a special page you’d like to highlight on your website. Wherever you are sending people, it should have the key information you want people to find immediately.

Nonprofits most commonly use Google AdWords to:

  • increase awareness
  • raise money
  • grow your email list
  • increase event attendance
  • sell goods and services

To demonstrate this, Simon surveyed a few nonprofits during the webinar:

How to use Google AdWords to achieve these goals

Using Google AdWords to Increase Awareness - Case Study #1
Goal: Turn free advertising into awareness for a women’s shelter.

Redwood Shelter’s Google AdWords campaign is set so that it takes visitors directly to their page with their crisis line number and info so that anyone can call them for help right away. As a result, they have experienced a 630% increase in crisis calls, making it a great way to raise awareness for people who needed their services.  

Note: Use the Keyword Planner tool (free in Google AdWords) to “test” your keywords. If you enter the keyword(s) you would like to use, the Keyword Planner will show you how many people are searching for each word or phrase, making it easier for you to pick the most popular search terms (e.g. “women’s shelter” is searched much more frequently than “shelter for women” or “help from abuse”).

Using Google AdWords to Raise Money - Case Study #2
Goal: Turning free advertising into donations for an autism nonprofit.

Autism Canada intentionally uses keywords that are less popular, but are so specific in their nature, that it actually results in better quality donors. For example, “autism donation” is less frequently used in searches than the word “autism”, however the people searching with “autism donation” are more likely to donate than people searching with the word “autism”. Even if only 110 people search using the phrase “autism donation” each month, that’s still 110 possible donors. This strategy has led to a 26% increase in online donations for Autism Canada with their landing page focusing on donations.

Disclaimer: Fundraising through Google AdGrants is generally difficult, but this depends on your cause. Some causes may already have people who are searching online for ways to donate (e.g. autism, cancer), whereas others may not (causes that are very specific, such as local initiatives or very rare medical conditions). If your cause doesn’t lend itself for people to search for it offline, let alone online, it might be less successful. Success is possible with a fine-tuned campaign and a good landing page, but it’s best to manage your expectations.

Using Google AdWords to Grow Your Email List - Case Study #3
Goal: Turning free advertising into emails for a credit counseling nonprofit.

Credit Canada wanted to build their email list so that they could grow the contact list of people who were interested in the services that they provided. They used Google AdWords to promote a free money management seminar by directing visitors who clicked on their ads to the seminar’s landing page and to register, visitors needed to provide their email address. This Google AdWords campaign lead to an increase of $5,000/month value of emails (based on what they calculated as the value of an email is to them) for Credit Canada.


Using Google AdWords to Increase Event Attendance - Case Study #4
Goal: Turning free advertising into event registrations for an education nonprofit.

Ladies Learning Code, for their National Learn to Code Day, used a landing page and the key term “learn to code” that was specific to the event. By creating a specific Google AdWords campaign to advertise for their event, Ladies Learning Code experienced a 183% increase in event page visits.

Simon has also seen this strategy work well for increasing attendance at walks/runs for charity.  This strategy is effective because while people might not know about your specific charity, they may learn about your organization by  searching for a type of event your charity may be hosting (e.g. a marathon, walk-a-thon, gala).

Note: It is really key to pick a good landing page that provides well-thought out info and allows people to take the follow-up action.

Using Google AdWords to Sell Goods and Services - Case Study #5
Goal: Turning free advertising into ticket sales for a nonprofit playhouse theatre.

Tarragon Theatre used Google AdWords to sell tickets for their plays. This of course may not apply to all nonprofits, but for those who have goods or services to sell, it can be extremely useful. Tarragon Theatre’s Google AdWords campaign resulted in an $7,510 increase in ticket sale leads per month.

Other ideas for potential uses are finding volunteers, getting subscriptions, and getting app downloads

Where to apply?

The steps are:

Things to keep in mind

You must meet G4NP’s eligibility and have a website. 

You must maintain your eligibility in order to keep your grant (or Google will revoke it):

  • Actively manage your account which means, at a minimum, make a change at least once every 90 days
  • Simon suggests more frequent updates (ideally monthly)
  • Can only link to the one domain that you registered with
  • If you sell products/services, 100% of the proceeds must go to your nonprofit. Cannot have any affiliate marketing where some of the profits go to another company
  • Don’t promote financial products (e.g. mortgages or credit cards), or request donations of cars/boats/property
  • You can’t use AdSense ads on your website
    • Google AdSense is a free service that allows website publishers to earn money by displaying targeted Google ads on their websites

Interested in learning more? Watch the full webinar here.

More resources


Account Suspended

Hello We had the Ad Grants setup and working. When they did the change of their policy we tried to test method worked the best. However, our account got suspended. How can we reactivate it?

Contact us please!

Hi there,
We apologize for the late reply but we'd love to help. So please contact us at 1.855.281.5499 (toll free) (Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10am-4pm, EST) and one of our Account Managers will be happy to talk with you and see what next steps can be taken. 
Take care,Yasmine, Communications Coordinator

Where to enroll for AdGrants


We fallowed every steps recomanded. But when you say at step 4: " Once you have a Google AdWords account, enroll for AdGrants ", you don't say how to enroll? No link, no email, no phone number, no formula.

Please, tell us with precision how to enroll to AdGrants.

Groupe Écosphère

Check the Google For Nonprofits Support Website

Hi Eric!

Google AdGrants is a product in the Google for Nonprofits Program, so for information on how to enroll, you will need to check the Google for Nonprofits Program website. Here is the support page to help answer your question

At TechSoup Canada we can provide support with validating your nonprofit so that you can apply for Google for Nonprofits, so get in touch with our customer service team if you need help with registering your nonprofit.

All the best,
TechSoup Canada Communications Coordinator

Domain Links

If I have a current domain setup for Google Ad Words Grants and I want to change that domain to a new subdomain can I do that?

Check the Google For Nonprofits Support Website

Hi there!
Google AdGrants is a product in the Google for Nonprofits Program, so for information on how to update or change your website domain, you will need to check the Google for Nonprofits Program website. Here is a link to their support page that could be helpful!

At TechSoup Canada we can provide support with validating your nonprofit so that you can apply for Google for Nonprofits, so get in touch with our customer service team if you need help with registering your nonprofit.

Good luck!
TechSoup Canada Communications Coordinator

Adwords grant

Hi, we are organizing Quebec most important environmental fairs in 4 cities for 2018, we would love to receive this grant. How can we confirm our eligibility?

Great! Here are the steps

Great! Here are the steps toward receiving the grant:

1. Register with TechSoup Canada
2. Register with Google for Nonprofits(G4NP)
3. After you’re approved for G4NP, you need to create a Google AdWords account
4. Once you have a Google AdWords account, enroll for AdGrants
5. Google will check that you have things set up, you are following the rules of the program, and generally understand what you are doing (to ensure you’re not a spam account) before activating your AdGrants account

All the best,
Ben Losman
TechSoup Canada Communications Coordinator

Ad Budget, $10,000/month?

Hello TechSoup,

We (the National Magazine Awards Foundation) are getting started on setting up our first Google Ad campaign. I see here that there is $10,000/month available through the Google Ad Words Grant for each organization. This number seems a little high to us. Is there anything to confirm that this is the total $ amount we would have to work with?

We're very new at this and just want to make sure we have the proper information leading into our first ad campaign. Thank you!

Hello and sorry for the late

Hello and sorry for the late reply!

The upward limit of the Google grant is indeed $10,000 per month. :)

Hope this helps!
Ben Losman
TechSoup Canada, communications coordinator