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A Guide To Google Ads For Charities and Nonprofits

June 5, 2020
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written by Rob Wass

Are you a charity or nonprofit organisation looking to increase donations or increase brand awareness? Why not try Google Ads?

Most companies use PPC (pay-per-click) advertising to increase website traffic and ultimately generate sales for their business. But online revenue is not the only objective. Charities and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are finding PPC marketing to be an extremely lucrative source of donations.

Charities are struggling to get out on the streets and appeal for face-to-face donations in light of the coronavirus pandemic. To survive, they must be able to market themselves effectively online. Charities and nonprofits rarely have money to burn on careless marketing strategies, so they have to be careful about how they spend their marketing budget. Google Ads can be a highly effective revenue stream if used well, but if improperly implemented can be very costly with little to no return.

The difference between a charity and a nonprofit

The terms charity and nonprofit are often used interchangeably, but there are crucial differences. Before making clear how Google Ads can be used for these types of organizations, it’s necessary to explain the difference in terminology.

  • A nonprofit is any business that does not operate to make money for itself or its shareholders. It usually exists to benefit a particular community or cause but will reinvest its profits to do so.
  • Charities fall under the broad umbrella of nonprofit organizations or NPOs, but the money they receive through donations is given directly to the communities or individuals they support.

For this reason, charities receive tax exemptions, while nonprofits generally do not. Despite these differences in how they operate, both types of organizations rely on donations to benefit charitable causes. Google Ads, if used correctly, can equally help both types to increase brand awareness and receive more donations.

The benefits of Google Ads for charities

You may be unsure whether Google Ads is worth spending the time and money on, but there are many benefits for charities using Google Ads.

1. Simplicity

If you’re a charity or nonprofit, you may have little experience with PPC advertising and limited resources to spend on it. But it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or costly process. Google Ads, compared to some other PPC formats, is relatively simple and straightforward, and it can be quickly learned by anyone, no matter their level of expertise. So even if your charity doesn’t have a dedicated digital marketing specialist, it won’t stop you from using it. Google also offers training videos and courses to help you pick it up.

2. Goals

When setting up your Google Ads campaign, you can customize it to exactly the specifications you desire. Whatever your goals may be, Google helps you create your campaign to maximize this objective. For charities, it is usually to maximize donations, but it could also be brand awareness, sign-ups, or website traffic.

3. Google Ads Grants

One of the most significant benefits of Google Ads for charities is that you can get free money to use it. The Google Ads Grant Program allows nonprofit organizations to advertise with Google at no cost, as the grant gives them $10,000 a month to advertise. You may be skeptical at the idea of free money, but as long as your organization meets the eligibility criteria and follows the program guidelines, you can benefit from the grant.

To be eligible, an organization must:

  • Hold valid charity status
  • Agree to Google’s guidelines
  • Have a functioning website

Government entities or medical and educational providers are ineligible.

Once you have received your grant and your ads are up and running, you must follow a set of guidelines to maintain eligibility. You must be regularly active in your Ads portal, and all of your ads must promote the mission of your charity and link to your website.

The application process for a Google Ads Grant is simple and doesn’t require you to write pages and pages of supporting information. Simply upload proof that you meet the eligibility criteria, and off you go.

Someone holding their hands out and holding coins with a piece of paper that says "make a change"
Make that change.

Dos and don’ts for charities using Google Ads

Do your keyword research

Your charity may be involved in a vast range of different areas and causes, but that doesn’t mean you should scatter your ads in all directions to reach more people. A more targeted approach is best. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to research the keywords that users are searching concerning your services and set up your campaigns accordingly. A few best-performing campaigns is a much better strategy than lots of poorly-performing ones.

Don’t bid on competitor brand names

One PPC tactic lots of businesses use is to bid on their competitor brand names, meaning that they will show up in Google listings when someone performs a search on their competitor. Although a sound strategy for profit-turning organizations, it is not advisable for charities and nonprofits to steer traffic away from competing charities. Not only are the ethics questionable, but bidding on competitor keywords will actually revoke your eligibility for the Google Ads Grant.

Do create compelling ad copy

Having your ads appear in Google searches is one thing, but enticing people to click on them is another. Make your ad copy as captivating as possible and ensure it contains the keywords used in the search so that it appears relevant to the user’s query.

Don’t mislead users

Google looks disapprovingly on any misleading content, so always ensure that your ads are genuine and honest, always with an aim to drive traffic to your website and increase donations. If your ads aren’t in line with your charity’s mission, you may be denied eligibility for the grant.

Do explore all the targeting options

There are several ways to use Google Ads to target your ideal audiences, so it’s wise to explore all the options. Target by specific criteria if you know what your customer persona looks like, or use remarketing to target previous donors or site visitors. If you want to reach particular countries or regions, use geotargeting so your ad only shows up in searches performed in these areas. The possibilities are endless.

Summary: is Google Ads worth it for charities and nonprofits?

To sum up, charities and nonprofit organizations should take Google Ads seriously as an opportunity to drive donations. With the Google Ads Grant program, any eligible organization can enjoy great success for no cost at all.

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