Google Ads Grants are not magic but they are still pretty stinking awesome. For those who don't already know what a Google Ad Grant is, this is your lucky day. I’m here with Grant Hensel, CEO of Nonprofit Megaphone, who is going to tell you all about what a Google Grant is (yes, Grant is here to talk about grants… the irony is not lost on me). He also explains who is a good candidate for a Google Grant, how much money and what results a nonprofit organization can expect, what the approval process is like and so much more!

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Google Ad Grants with Grant Hensel

Google Ads Grants are not magic but they are still pretty stinking awesome. If you who don’t already know what a Google Ad Grant is or want to know more about them, this is your lucky day. I recently had the opportunity to interview Grant Hensel, CEO of Nonprofit Megaphone, who told me all about what a Google Grant is (yes, Grant told me about grants… the irony is not lost on me).

He also explained who is a good candidate for a Google Grant, how much money they’re worth and what results a nonprofit organization can expect and so much more! 

Podcast Summary Notes:

Monica:  What is a Google Ad Grant?

Grant: The Google Grant in a nutshell gives any 501C3 that isn’t a hospital or a school $10,000 a month to spend on ads in Google search.

And this goes on forever as long as you continue following the rules. It’s $10,000 over and over again, until you know, the heat death of the universe, which is great. And it allows you to then take that money and use it to run ads in Google search. 

So the example I always use is that if you’re a humane society, someone Google’s “adopt a dog”, your ad can show up right at the top of the Google search results page, people can click on the ad, come to the adopted dog page on your website and then, hopefully, adopt a dog. And so it lets you reach people in the moment that they’re expressing interest in what you do and taking them to your website.

Monica:  So the Google Ad Grant is like this magical thing that puts you at the top?

Grant: Exactly. It’s like the magic cheat code for SEO, basically. It isn’t SEO, it’s paid – but you’re not paying for it, so that’s wonderful.

Monica:  What can organizations expect from using the grant to run Google ads? Are they going to be spending $10,000 every single month?What kind of results do they usually see?

Grant: That’s such a good question. It depends on two main things. One is the geographic area that your organization serves.

So if you serve one relatively small town, you will not spend the whole amount. I will just tell you, you are guaranteed to not spend all $10,000. Because you can reach every single person in the town who Googles anything related to what you do every single time. Maybe that only costs $2,000 a month. That’s wonderful; you’re reaching 100% of your audience. And it doesn’t matter. It’s just Monopoly money at the end of the day. 

If you’re global, you probably will get much closer to spending it because there’s so many people looking for what you do. 

So the first component is geography, the second component is content. 

So Google is really smart. And it knows if what the person searched for and what you are advertising on your website is a match. So if someone Google’s “benefits of adopting a dog”, and you send them to your homepage, Google can tell that you’re not answering the question. And it will suppress your ad. And so you will not show your ad as much. And so that’s the big thing we work through with nonprofits and why we love it when they have folks like you who are helping with their websites. There’s lots of content that can be created that relates to the things people are searching for, which is perfect to advertise with the ad grant. So those are the two main components.

Monica:  Who is a good candidate for a Google Ads Grant? Are there certain types of organizations that it works better for?

Grant: Absolutely. So if you’re a hospital or school, you’re out of luck, unfortunately, because you’re not eligible unless you have a 501C3 Foundation, which is another story.

If you are an advocacy organization and you’re trying to get a message out to a lot of people, this is fantastic. So basically, every animal nonprofit we’ve ever worked with does really well because just a lot of people care about animals. Anything environmental does really well. Anything where you’re international does really well; there are just a lot of people if you’re targeting multiple countries. Anything where more people are learning about you also drives the nonprofit’s economic engine. 

So if you’re a YMCA, you know more people knowing about you will eventually drive your economic engine. If you’re a zoo, if you are a performing arts organization, anything like that. It’s a perfect fit. And I mean, we have like 50 case studies on our website. So there’s lots of other organizations that it works really well for. But those are two big examples.

Monica:  If, say, an advocacy organization has a thrift store, even if that store is not directly tied to the mission, can they run ads for that store as well?

Grant: Totally. You absolutely can if it’s part of your nonprofit entity and it’s generating funds to support your mission. 

If it’s a separate for-profit, you can’t. Google asks that you have – and most nonprofits have this anyway – some kind of annual report or something that shares about how the money made at the thrift store supports these nonprofit programs that they offer. But we have a client that is like a Fairtrade e-commerce nonprofit. And so they have artisans in a variety of countries who make really cool stuff. It’s called The Little Market. And that’s all they use the ad grant for: to bring people to the website to buy these products, which directly support their mission. It’s very cool and absolutely allowable with the Google grant.

Monica:  How long does it take to get approved for a grant? Is it hard and time-consuming to fill out the application?

Grant: I will give you our experience. So we’ve helped 500 or so organizations over the years do it. It takes us on average, three weeks to fully go through the process.  

We have a full time person, she’s awesome. Her name is Laura and her whole job is just ushering people through the process. She’s a saint. The things that delay the process are usually some kind of weird issue. 

So the process is, if you’re a 501C3, you get a Google for nonprofits account, which is free. To do that, you have to have a TechSoup validation token. TechSoup is an organization that verifies your nonprofit status. Most organizations have that, but they may have forgotten who created the account back in the day. And that can sometimes lead to delays as that’s figured out. 

Once you have a Google for nonprofits account, you just get your website ready. 

You install Google Analytics, you set up conversion tracking, you make sure everything’s ready to go. And then you submit that account to Google for approval for the ad grant. Then it typically gets approved, and you’re off to the races. 

So it’s not a terribly complicated process. And if people have all the permissions they need, we’ve been able to get it done in two days. But I would plan for a month just to be conservative.

Monica:  In your opinion, do you suggest that people just try it on their own? What happens if you try it on your own and fail?

Grant: Yeah, so it’s interesting. Back in 2018, the rules multiplied for what are called the compliance guidelines that you have to follow to maintain the Google grant.  

So you have to maintain a 5% click through rate, you have to follow all these different rules, mission based keywords, which we’re kind of talking about before. As a result of that, the Google Grant has become more effective, because it forces you to follow best practices, but also more difficult to keep up with. The rules periodically change. And it can be frustrating. 

I’d say that at this point, probably 60% of our new clients are organizations that have the grant, have been managing it themselves and now are pulling their hair out and want us to “take it away”. The other 40% haven’t had it before and are starting new. 

So it’s certainly doable. It’s just time consuming. 

When we hire people to manage the Google grant for clients, we train them full time for three months – nothing but training just on how to do it. And then they have ongoing training forever. So it’s definitely doable, it just requires a lot of time figuring it all out. We would highly recommend not giving it to an intern, because what will happen is the intern will get it approved right at the end of the summer, or the period, and then nothing will happen. And then you’ll forget who the login is tied to and the grant will get suspended because you have to be doing things with it. It’ll get deactivated if you don’t do anything.

Monica:  What’s a good parameter for people to think about cost if they want to do this and have someone manage it for them?

Grant: I don’t know what others charge, but we charge $600 per month, or $500 per month if you sign up for a year.  

And that includes everything – all the setup, all the conversion tracking, all management of the grant. It’s designed for people who say, “This Google grant thing is really cool. I have these goals, I want to accomplish x, make that happen. And I want to talk to you every other month on a phone call to hear how it’s going. And I want to get email updates. But I don’t want to be digging through the depths of Google ads”. 

Monica:  What types of results do you see initially?

Grant: I’d say that you have a really good sense of how things are going within the first three to six months.  

It takes some time to build up. Typically the things that people see are obviously increased web traffic. But then what I would look at if I was in a nonprofit’s shoes are what are those people actually doing once they arrive at the website? I would suspect that they’re probably not donating yet, because they just learned about you. So are they signing up for an email newsletter? Are they filling out forms? Are they watching videos? Figure out how you can drive more of those actions. 

It’s different for each organization. If you’re a performing arts organization in a post COVID world, you’re probably most interested in ticket sales. So that would be the main focus. We have membership organizations focused on getting new members, animal organizations focused on driving adoptions or volunteers and so forth. 

When we set things up for an organization, we set up conversion tracking that tracks meaningful actions that people can take on the website so an organization knows what visitors are doing.  That includes the ability to see when people click on a phone number and whether it was in an ad or on the website.

Monica:  What benchmarks do you think an organization should be looking at in the Google Ad tracking data?

Grant: I would first look at the click through rate, which is often abbreviated as CTR.

It’s the percentage of people that click on an ad, as opposed to the percentage of people that saw it. So if 100 people see it, and five people click, you’d have a CTR 5%. You have to maintain a CTR of at least 5%. You don’t want it to go below 5%. So that would be potentially an issue. Whereas if you’re at like 12%, then you’re doing great in terms of serving really relevant ads, and really relevant keywords. So that’s the quality piece. 

The next thing I look at is how many people are clicking on your ads, and coming to your website? If it’s like 10 a month, then you’re probably under utilizing the capacity that the Google grant offers. But maybe you only serve 10 people, in which case that would be fine. 

Then I would look at the conversions. I would look at whether we are tracking the things that we actually care about. 99% of the clients that we start working with are not yet tracking, which is fine. But that’s really important. And then if the tracking is in place, I’d look at how many people are filling out the forms or downloading the things we want them to download.

Monica:  If there’s not enough activity on the account, if you don’t have conversions set up, or maybe conversions stop working, what happens to your account?

Grant: Typically, you should get a warning. Sometimes they don’t and then your account will get suspended or deactivated.

There’ll be an ugly red bar over the top and you’ll get an email. It’ll say “Your account was deactivated for not being in compliance with the Google Ad grants policies.” Actually, sometimes this happens for no reason. The Google Ad grants team is so nice, and this is very rare, but sometimes that’s happened. You then have to get in contact with them. You have to figure out what the problem was. You have to fix the problem. You have to promise not to do it again. And then typically, it takes a little while and then your account can be reactivated, which is good. It’s just time consuming.

Monica:  If they work with a company like yours, you do those steps for them?

Grant: 100%, yeah.

And it’s so funny. So we’re what’s called “Google Ad grants certified professionals”. So we talk to Google all the time. In theory, our accounts should never get suspended. Because they know that we’re following all the rules, but sometimes there are system errors, one of which we dealt with recently. But it got resolved very quickly, and all as well. And yes, we totally take care of it. And it’s great. And we love the Google Grants team. They’re so talented, and it’s fantastic.

Monica:  If Google calls me, that’s not Google, right?  They only call people like you who are Google Ad Grant certified professionals, correct?

Grant: So true.

And if you get an email from, say, “Greg at AdWords”, it’s some guy who has an email at AdWords help.com, which is the old name. It used to be called AdWords like five years ago. Now it’s Google ads. So if you see someone using the word “AdWords”, they’re not actually from Google because that’s not what it’s called anymore.

Monica:  Does the Google Ad Grant work for ads you see on other websites, such as the Display Network ads?

Grant: It does not, unfortunately. Only the ads in Google search itself, not on any other websites.

Monica:  Where can people go to find more information about Google Ad Grants?

Grant: We have a lot on our website, which is nonprofitmegaphone.com.

There’s around 50 case studies, which could be helpful for finding that organization that’s similar to yours and getting a sense of what they do. We also have a resource at nonprofitmegaphone.com/guide. You can download a Word doc that is about 20 pages long with detailed information about the Google Ad grant. It’s a great resource. And then we have a blog on the website at nonprofitmegaphone.com/blog. We do have an email newsletter as well.

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