Google grants for UK charities


Free advertising on Google for non-profits

The Google Ad Grants Program gives charities & non-profits the chance to advertise on Google AdWords for free. The program gives qualified organisations up to $10,000 (around £7,500) free advertising spend per month. With successful management, your charity and its causes can reach new users, donors, volunteers and campaigners.

Like the sound of this? We outline the steps needed to taking advantage of Google Grants and run a successful campaign:

  1. Can I Qualify
  2. The Application & Set Up Process
  3. Optimising & Making Successful


AdWords for Non-profits: get 30% discount
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Do you qualify?

Firstly, before you apply, check to ensure your non-profit organisation is eligible. Here are the qualifications:

To be eligible for Google Grants an organization must:

  • Hold current and valid charity status (i.e. Registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales; and/or Registered with HM Revenue & Customs as a charity for tax relief.)
  • Acknowledge and agree to Google’s required certifications regarding non-discrimination and donation receipt and use.
  • Have a live website with substantial content.

Unfortunately, the following organisations are not eligible for Google Grants:

  • Governmental entities and organizations
  • Hospitals and medical groups
  • Schools, childcare centres, academic institutions and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible).

What’s The Catch? If it sounds too good to be true it probably is, right? Like all things there are some limitations to the Google Grants which failing to abide can result in your charity being removed from the program.

  • All the ads in your account must link to the non-profit URL that was approved in your application process.
  • You must be engaged and proactive in your AdWords account by logging in to the account, at least, monthly.
  • The ads you are promoting must reflect the mission of your non-profit. You can advertise to sell products as long as 100% of the proceeds are going to support your program.
  • The ads you create cannot point to pages that are used to primarily send visitors to other websites.
  • Your ads cannot offer financial products, such as mortgages or credit cards.
  • Your ads also cannot be asking for donations in the form of large goods such as cars, boats or property donations. Keywords related to this activity are also not allowed.
  • Your website cannot display ads from Google AdSense or other affiliate advertising links while participating in Google Grants
  • A daily budget set to $329 USD, which is equivalent to about $10,000 per month
  • A maximum cost-per-click (CPC) limit of $2.00 USD. (Which can cause some issue with Ad position and Click through Rate)
  • Paid adverts will always appear above grants adverts.
  • It is limited to the search market. You cannot run ads in the display market.
  • Ad Grantees may only promote mission-based ads and keywords in their AdWords account:

January 2018 Update

In January Google made some major changes to how their ad grant program works. These alterations are framed to “add clarity and raise standards of quality for [Google’s] free advertising grants,”.

No More $2 Bid Cap: Google had made it notoriously difficult to spend up to this limit due to its $2 bid cap…..that cap is no more. As of last week, Google has removed it, provided you’re willing to build campaigns that lean on a bid optimisation strategy called Maximise Conversions.

5%+ CTR or Account Cancellation: Simply put – If your account doesn’t achieve at least a 5% CTR for two consecutive months, your account will be cancelled. While you can request to have your account reinstated after cancellation, doing so will require a complete account overhaul, in which issues impacting CTR (ranging from systemic issues like account structure to simpler fixes like ad copy, geo-targeting, and ad extensions). Don’t let it get to this point!

Account Structure: The only way non-profits will be able to maintain the new standard 5% CTR across their accounts is to ensure that those accounts are structured correctly. We go into recommendations for account structure later in this blog. However, this update means accounts must have:

Geo-targeting: If you work with families in Cambridge, there’s no sense serving ads to searchers in Scotland.

At least two active ad groups: which must contain related keywords and two active text ads

At least two sitelink extensions: While they can be implemented at the account level, to ensure that searchers are directed to the most relevant pages on your website, you should make every effort to implement sitelinks at the campaign or even ad group level.

Mission-Based Campaigns: In addition to structural changes required of Ad Grant recipients, Google has also implemented changes to the keywords that non-profits can bid on. Per Google, every ad and keyword in your account “must reflect your organisation’s primary mission, be relevant to your non-profit’s programs and services, and be specific enough to provide a good experience for the user seeing your ads.”As such, the following keywords are no longer permitted for use by Ad Grant-recipients:

  • Branded keywords that aren’t affiliated with your own brand (for example, you can’t bid on “Facebook”)
  • Single, non-branded keywords
  • Extremely generic, broad keywords, like “free e-books” or “best pizza”

Now, avoiding these sorts of keywords is relatively simple. Provided you’re focusing on targeting terms that truly relate to the core mission of your non-profit, you’ll be in the clear.

Final Thoughts: This should go without saying, but Google isn’t in the business of giving money to organisations that preach hate or practice discrimination. Targeting keywords or using destination URLs that promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence is strictly prohibited. It’s also worth noting that, to continue receiving a Google Ad Grant after January 1st, 2018, your organisation must exist exclusively for charitable purposes. Failure to comply with any of these terms will result in the automatic suspension of your account.

Applying & the Set Up Process

Google Grants process with legos
There are a few Google hoops to jump through in order to qualify and maintain the grant funding. Google breaks this down into a simple 5 step process:

Step 1 – Are You Eligible: Charities and not for profit organisations that are eligible have been listed in the first paragraph. If your organisation meets those requirements then please move onto step two.

Step 2 – Fill out the application form: Applying The next step is to begin filling out the application formQuick Tip: You’ll need to know your charity ID when filling out the Google for Non-profits application form.

Step 3 – Wait for a decision: The waiting game after that you will have to wait to see if you have been successful this can take anywhere from a few seconds to up to two business days.

Step 4 – AdWords Account Configuration: The AdWords Account Configuration (The Tricky Part)In order to succeed in the application you need to follow Google guidelines. Including setting up bidding information and setting a final URL If you are new to AdWords this can seem quite confusing, but the advice is in on hand – get in touch with the Granite 5 AdWords team.

Quick Tip: We suggest setting up one rough campaign at first in order to see if you qualify before spending time structuring the entire campaign. If you think each box has been ticked then go back to the application process so the account can be reviewed.

Step 5 – Wait for a decision: Have You Been Successful? After you’ve submitted your AdWords Customer ID, you’ll receive a decision within 5 business days. If your AdWords account was set up correctly using the Ad Grants Account Creation Guide, you’ll get an email telling you that your account has been activated. If there are errors, you’ll get an email with instructions on how to correct the errors before it can be activated.

Making it successful


Google analytics traffic

Running a grants charity campaign is slightly different from a standard AdWords campaign. It’s less focused on pure ROI (as there is no monetary investment – just time) and more focused on exposure & budget.

Here are a few tips, from the Granite 5 AdWords team, to maximise the benefit of your foray into AdWords Marketing.

1. Organize Campaigns Into Categories

Structuring and labelling your campaigns or ad groups by type can make more effective use of your campaign to generate interest, brand awareness and donations. A good starting point is to build an AdWords account that mirrors your website structure, then look at how the campaigns might be broken down further. Some examples might include:

  • General Awareness – This might include your branded terms, or perhaps general facts or statistics about what you are promoting. These types of campaigns should include more generic targets – metrics such as page views, bounce rate, time on site, video views or social shares are a really good way to judge how well your website is engaging with your visitors.
  • Benefit & Volunteering Focused – This might include campaigns that use the modifying terms “help”, “contribute”, “support”, “volunteer” or “donate”.
  • Recipient Benefit Focused – This might include campaigns that use the modifying terms “save”, “stop”, “prevent”, “achieve” or other such words.
  • Events – Local, national or even global events deserve a campaign that promotes them. You can choose to target a specific set of countries, cities where the event is taking place, this is called Geo-targeting. These campaigns would have ads that are specifically speaking to the time and place of the event.

2. Keyword Match Types without overusing negative keywords

keyword match types for Google AdWords

Unlike commercial Pay per click campaigns (where budgets are often tight) be sure not to restrict your match types too much. Again, you need to spend this budget, and in a way that is going to benefit your organisation. Broad match types are going to bring you a lot of impressions and potential clicks, but you need to ensure the traffic is relevant. At the same time don’t go overboard with negative keywords; as you do not want to be blocking searches that may be valuable. You do need to spend the grant money.

3. The Longtail Keyword

Answering Questions Long-tail keywords should be your best friend. Think of the WHAT, WHO & HOW that your charity offers.

  • HOW do people find you?
  • WHAT services to people require?
  • WHO needs your services
  • HOW do people benefit?
  • HOW do you solve an issue?

Thinking of your service in this context can give you some more ideas for keywords and expand your current selection of keywords to include in your ad campaigns. Remember, you might not be receiving a huge volume of clicks for highly competitive keywords due to artificially depressed ad ranking (low ad position & limits on the amount you are able to bid).

4. Maintaining Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate or CTR is a metric that measures the number of clicks advertisers receive on their ads as a ratio of the number of impressions.

All Ad Grants AdWords accounts must maintain a 5% click-through rate (CTR) each month. We recognise that there are reasons why CTR may fluctuate as you test new initiatives, so you’ll see in-product notifications alerting you that your account is at risk with educational resources. In the event that the CTR requirement is not met for two consecutive months, your account will be cancelled. You may request that your account is reinstated after you’ve paused or deleted keywords with low CTR to bring the account into compliance.

There are a few ways to maintain a strong CTR:

Perform ad copy testing: Start with a few ads in each ad group, and make sure you have performance data to analyse before implementing new ad copy and determining which elements you should test.

Search Term Report: Reviewing your search term report can help highlight keywords and phrases that could be added as negative keywords.  As mentioned previously we don’t recommend you go overboard with negative keywords, just cull the highly irrelevant ones.

Branded campaign: Brand campaigns can have a massive CTR compared to other more standard campaigns. This will benefit the overall account helping maintain the required average account level click-through-rate of 5%. Conversion & Monitoring Just because it’s free traffic it doesn’t mean you should not be monitoring its impact. At a bare minimum, you should link your Google Analytics with your Google AdWords account in order to monitor how traffic is interacting and engaging with your website The next stage is to set up website goals and events. This is especially important for high-value actions such as donations, applications or contact form submission, even fewer value actions such as newsletter sign-ups or social shares are worth tracking. The quick way of implementing & managing these events is though another useful Tool from Google, Tag Manager. Tracking conversions are essential to help you understand your website visitors and their needs. Tracking will enable you to make better decisions for your non-profit account.

Final Tip – Don’t Abandon Best Practices: Using Google Grants is interesting because you need to take a different approach to manage the account compared to one using client’s money. Using the budget should be one of the targets but not the only one, remember, you still want to be smart and build a solid account structure. As always, keep PPC best practices in mind when structuring your ad groups and ads. There are many success stories from companies using Google Grants which Google are more than happy to highlight. The key to managing a Google Grant account is this: don’t walk away and forget it’s running (As stated it needs active account management to continue running).


AdWords for Non-profits: get 30% discount
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