Google Ad Grants for Non Profits: 2018 Update

Did you know, for eligible applicants, Google will donate up to $10,000 in paid search spend per month (around £7,500)? That could mean hundreds of additional visitors to your site, discovering your services, volunteering more time, or making more donations. More and more charities are increasing investment in their online digital presence – the latest report from M+R indicates that digital ad spending was up 69% year on year. Online revenue grew by 14% year on year last year, as the non-profit sector pushed to take advantage of online marketing tactics and behavioural trends.

** If you’ve landed here looking for help following the 2018 ad grants quality update – please get in touch at **

Eligibility to receive ad grants

Naturally, there are a few caveats to receiving these ad grants. Governmental entities, universities and hospitals are excluded from the program. You also must be registered as tax exempt from HMRC, or have registered charity status with the relevant local body, which means being registered either with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) or in Northern Ireland, with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI).

You must also register with tt-exchange, the UK-relevant arm of TechSoup. For those who don’t know, TechSoup connects non-profits with the technical services they need to run their organisations at highly discounted rates. Services include webservers, Microsoft Office, or PhotoShop. Whether you proceed with an ad grant or not, TechSoup is a fantastic service.

Finally, a live website is also a stipulation of receiving the ad grant (as the searchers needs somewhere to click on to).  This can’t be a Facebook page or a third-party blog, it must be an actual website, such as

Campaign considerations

At the end of 2017, Google announced new quality criteria for AdWords accounts using ad grants.

  1. Average click through rate of 5%

This is the most significant part of the update. Click through rate is a sign of quality, and advertisers that had previously employed a reach strategy, interrupting user journeys to generate awareness rather than seeking engaged users are now being penalised. Bigger charities will be less affected, as by bidding on your own brand keywords (e.g. “Cancer Research UK“) you can guarantee a certain number of clicks at a high click through rate, and improve the average for your whole account. Smaller charities without high levels of brand search to prop up their average will need to spend more time analysing their account to make improvements.

This 5% click through rate target is very high – it’s estimated that click through rates across all industries average at around 2%. Ad grant recipients who miss this target for two consecutive months will likely find their accounts paused. If you can demonstrate you’ve made improvements to the account that are likely to increase your click through rate, you can apply for the grant to be reinstated.


2. Geo location targeting

This one is fairly easy. Presumably your charity’s work targets users in specific countries or cities. Your targeting needs to reflect this.


3. Rule of two: Two ad groups, two ads, two sitelinks

This relates to good account structure, and is a signal that someone is actively working on an account and isn’t just “letting it run” (i.e. potentially wasting Google’s grant). Campaigns that don’t meet these requirements will potentially stop running.

So each campaign needs at least two ad groups, each ad group needs at least two ads, and each ad needs at least two sitelinks. Ads and sitelinks can still be duplicated between different ad groups if this makes the most sense for your organisation – they don’t need to be unique.


4. No single word keyword targeting

Again, this is a strike against advertisers employing wide reach and interruptive strategies. Google wants you to use your ad grant to target relevant traffic, not use its search platform as a billboard. Using multi word keywords (e.g. animal welfare vs. animals) means you are more likely to be targeting traffic that is relevant to you.

There is a single word keyword “whitelist” which includes terms such as “ngo“. However, I can’t imagine many charities would find that bidding on the term NGO would be beneficial to them.

Finally, a small piece of good news – the $2 maximum CPC has been removed. So although single word keywords are out, charities can now compete in more competitive auctions where previously commercial advertisers would have held all the space, such as “mental health support london” (estimated CPC £2.16).


Quality above all

With these new quality guidelines, employing best practise is more important than ever. Making sure your keywords, ad copy text and landing page match as closely as possible will reduce the amount you have to pay for each click. Google rewards highly relevant advertising campaigns with higher Quality Scores, and lower click costs. For example, if you offer different services for homeless families compared to what you offer homeless single adults, or young people, ensuring these keywords are in separate campaigns in your account, with unique ad text and clicking through to different pages on your website will keep your costs down, and allow you to reach more people for the same ad spend.

The page that you send your users to should be highly specific to the keyword that they searched on, with a clear next step. Generally, avoid directing these users to the homepage if you can help it, as homepages tend to be very broad, appealing to service users, donors, trustees and volunteers alike. Have a clear headline, lots of quality, informational content, and a call to action such as get in touch, or register for emails, or find out more. Think about who is likely to have searched for that keyword and what content they would like to see – will it be a service user, or a potential donor? These two audiences will have very different requirements on your website, and making sure they go to the right page will not only improve the satisfaction of your website visitors, but also bring your advertising costs down.

Critically, the assessment criteria for the quality of your ads is higher for non-profits than for paid advertisers – so if your ads are too loosely connected to your keyword, or your landing page is poor quality, you may not show up at all.

Success Stories

But does it work? If you have a clear goal in mind, it’s highly likely that ad grants will be able to help you meet it. Barnardos in Ireland used ad grants to increase the amount of users signing up for emails, as well as making donations. They increased their website traffic by 370%.

How do I get started?

If you’re working for a non profit and have found your account put on hold this year – get in touch and we can help you get it up to scratch. Whenever you choose an agency, make sure they’re as passionate as you are about your cause, and that they understand your goals and objectives – or can help you to clarify them if you aren’t sure. Finally, ensure they will be proactive in managing your campaigns, giving you regular updates about how they’re doing, and showing you where you can view the latest campaign performance yourself.

For additional support, Google has a community forum, where you can view frequently asked questions, or pose your own question if you’re struggling with the process.  We’ve also created our own troubleshooting guide.



One Comment on “Google Ad Grants for Non Profits: 2018 Update

  1. Pingback: AdWords Ad Grants Cheat Sheet | Seedling Digital

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