What Google Ad Grants Is Not

It’s Not

We all know what an online ad is, particularly one via Google. We’re inundated with them daily.

Hence, many nonprofit executives approach Google Ad Grants with the notion that they can use their free $10K/mo ad grants to plaster their nonprofit message all over the internet.

That’s where the assumed understanding of Google Ad Grants falls apart.

It’s not like that. At all.


For some nonprofits, Google Ad Grants is the most effective way to get their message out to the world on a relentless and ongoing basis.

For other nonprofits, it’s a waste of time and resources.

The difference boils down to understanding what it is and especially what it isn’t.

More importantly, knowing enough about what it is and what it isn’t can help you tailor a campaign that will work productively for your nonprofit.


Google Ad Grants are not display ads (more on that in a moment).

Although Google Ad Grants is a scaled-down version of Google Ads, it does not include video ads, or ads with pictures. They are simple text ads. These simple text ads can be quite powerful when used appropriately.

But the vast majority of text ads are ‘not’ Google Ad Grants.

In other words, although Google Ad Grants are text ads, they are a special kind of text ads.

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to separate ALL of Google Ads into two general classifications of online ads.


Display ads are what most people are familiar with, since they can be displayed in front of online viewers at any time. When you visit online news, you’ll see ads. If you check the weather online, you’ll see ads. When you read articles online, many times you’ll see ads. These display ads represent the majority of online ads you see every day and they can be targeted to people who may have very little or even no interest in what is being promoted.

Display ads can be:

  • video ads
  • ads with pictures or
  • text ads.

However, search ads are only shown to people actively searching for a specific topic at this instant.

There’s only one place where you see search ads: on search results pages.

For example, if you are selling red shoes, your search ad would only appear at the instant someone was searching for red shoes. Search ads are more expensive because they are more targeted and generate better results for the advertisers. However, there are only so many people searching for a given topic at a given moment, so there are limits to the amounts of search ads that can be shown.

Display ads are less expensive but you can show them to a seemingly limitless amount of people every day. In other words, you could spend a lot of money on these ads and if Google Ad Grants included display ads it would be quite easy to spend that $10K per month in free advertising.

As noted above, display ads include video ads (comparable to TV ads) or ads with photos (comparable to magazine ads) or text ads (comparable to classified ads).

Display ads represent the majority of online ads you see every day. They are displayed to large groups of people by an advertiser with the hopes of attracting viewer interest.

Their biggest benefit is building awareness around a brand. Additionally, they can be used in conjunction with other types of ads for more sophisticated campaigns.


For the purpose of this article, it’s important to understand that Google Ad Grants does not include display ads. Nor does Google Ad Grants include video ads or online ads with photos.

Google Ad Grants are search ads. More specifically, they are text ads that are shown only to people searching for keywords related to what you are advertising.

So, if your nonprofit educates women on writing software code, then you can publish ads that say something like: “Women, learn to code” and place those ads in front of women who are searching for “how to code.”

Search ads are only presented to very specific individuals and only on search pages and the ads are intended to be relevant to what those individuals are seeking.

Not only does your search ad need to be relevant to the viewer and what they are searching for, but it also needs to be relevant to the page on your website where visitors arrive after someone clicks your ad. Because if it’s not relevant, the Google metrics that analyze the performance of every ad will tell Google’s advertising computers to stop showing your ads, because they’re not good enough.


Here’s a sequence of search ad actions:

  • Viewers search for topics using keywords.
  • Google shows viewers both non-paid (organic) search results and often there will also be paid or sponsored results (paid/sponsored results are ads).
  • Some viewers click on ads.
  • When a viewer clicks on an ad, they are taken to a webpage.
  • If the webpage engages the searcher, they’ll spend some time consuming content. (Google computers track this activity.)
  • If the webpage does not engage the searcher, the visitors will leave quickly and continue their search elsewhere. (If more people rapidly leave your webpage, Google computers rank your ad performance poorly.)

Pro tip: Generally speaking, the web page (landing page) where visitors arrive after they click your ad is most often ‘not’ your home page. It should be a page that is specifically pertinent to the ad. You can have many unique ads and many custom landing pages.

This means your ads need to be targeted correctly. They need to be relevant to searchers. Also, your landing page needs to be relevant to the ad and those very same searchers.

What this also means is that even though you have a budget of $10K/mo, if you don’t have an effective strategy, you may end up spending a fraction of that (maybe less than $300/month). And worse than that, if your ads don’t perform well enough from Google’s perspective, they will reduce the presentation of your ads. And if your ads perform poorly, Google may suspend your ad grants altogether, because you’re wasting the opportunity they’re providing to your nonprofit and they would rather let someone else use that advertising to better serve their traffic.


Making Google Ad Grants serve your nonprofit productively is not rocket science. However, it is more challenging for some nonprofits, particularly those that don’t already have an effective internet marketing funnel in operation.

What’s the solution?

The Google Ad Grants Story Triangle.

The Google Ad Grants Story Triangle is a framework for getting the most value from Google Ad Grants for your nonprofit. Although the following does not embrace all the details, it outlines some highlights:

  1. It’s no surprise that you need to determine “what” you are going to advertise (topic) and how that fits in with your nonprofit mission. But for many nonprofits, that’s easier said than done.
  2. Which keywords are pertinent to what you are advertising need to be researched to find out if there are enough people searching those keywords to make the effort of developing a campaign productive. Also, the competition needs to be considered. If there are other organizations that are paying cash for ads that are competing against your Google Ad Grants ads, those cash-paying advertisers are given priority by Google. In other words, you could appear to do everything right and still not get results because Google rarely shows your ads. The trick is simply to advertise something that’s less competitive to commercial advertisers.
  3. What you want people to do when they arrive to your landing page is a vital factor. Will they download something? Will they sign up for a course? Do you want them to donate? The latter may be the most desirable, but asking people who don’t know your nonprofit to donate on their first visit is generally not very effective. What is effective is building a community of people who have some interest in what you’re doing and then nurturing and educating them over time while building a relationship with them and ‘then’ asking for a donation. This is a fundamental factor in the real world of meeting people and nonprofit networking and is even more so on the internet and in this case, is facilitated by a free and valuable giveaway.


For many nonprofits, the solution to more exposure, more volunteers and more donations is building and nurturing an online community. And this is where Google Ad Grants can truly be productive in supporting your nonprofit.

Bear in mind that the majority of online searchers are not going to click on your ads, but for those precious searchers who do, you need to have a well-orchestrated welcome for them, or they will be gone in a flash, never to return. A common strategy for nonprofits who want to gain more volunteers and donors is to build a community around a simple message. Often it’s related to only one thing your nonprofit does. However, if what you are promoting is not simple enough to grasp in a short text ad, people won’t click on the ads to learn more and get your free offer and then won’t have the opportunity to participate in your community and you’ll have poor results with your campaign. Of course, once they are in your community, over time you can educate them on the bigger picture and/or about more of the details of your nonprofit. But if you never capture their interest in the first place, they’ll miss that opportunity.

The point is to keep is simple.

Furthermore, even if your nonprofit does have an internet marketing funnel already in operation, the tremendous amount of data that Google Ad Grants provides about your visitors can inform modifications to your marketing funnel to bolster results for paid and non-paid traffic even further.

Making Google Ad Grants effective for your nonprofit can be done. You just need to establish a campaign that aligns with the best practices for this type of advertising.

In brief, you need to make your targeting, your advertising and your landing pages work hand-in-glove and in-compliance with Google’s guidelines to not only make it productive for your nonprofit, but to keep getting the ad grants renewed each and ever month.

The best news is that NonprofitFire.org offers free training on how to accomplish this.

We also provide paid services for nonprofits that want to get up and running faster and/or that want to improve the performance of their existing campaigns. But the free services will help you achieve much better results if you take advantage of the education.