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DIY: Google Adwords for Nonprofits 1.0 ($10,000 a month of free advertising)

on Jan 1, 2014

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Google has a grants program in which it offers charities free or heavily discounted access to some of it’s tools like Adwords, Earth, etc. The Google Adwords Grant is especially exciting. Put simply, it offers $10,000 every month in advertising for every charity that applies.

There is absolutely no reason to not have applied for this grant, besides being lazy, stubborn or both. Adwords can be complex, but because there are limitations on the Grants program you don’t have to be an expert on everything, just on the handful of tools that are available to you.

The purpose of this DIY is just to get your charity approved, teach you the basics of how Adwords works, and getting at least one effective ad live on the web. Google has a tremendous amount of easy to follow tutorials, and their phone support is free and amazing.

Also, at the end of this DIY is a glossary.

Application and Verification

Don’t wait to do this. Do it right now. Apply first, learn second.

Find your country application in this list: then click “Apply today” and follow along. This shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes.

You may have to wait up to 60 days for approval, but my experience has been that this happens significantly faster, sometimes within a week. Follow the basic verification instructions that will show up in your email.  When complete, log in and let’s get some ads running.

Ready? Okay…

Create a Shared Budget

Setting up a shared budget before creating your first campaign ensures you won’t spend your entire grant in the first half of the month.

On the left-hand menu, click “Shared Library” then “Budgets”. Now, you can hit the green “+Budget” button. Now, you can name it (e.g., Adwords Daily), and assign it a $333 budget amount. Done!

Create Your First Ad

Here’s the basic framework surrounding every ad you see show up in your search results:

Google Adwords for Nonprofits

As you can see from above, you’ll have campaigns that contain ad groups, ad groups contain ads, and ads have keywords associated.  To set up an ad, you’ll start at the top and work your way down.

Before you can create an ad, you need to create a campaign. To do this, click on your Campaigns tab, then click the “+Campaign” button. A few options appear, you’ll need to select “Search Network Only”. This is the only option that grants recipients.

To get your campaign going, you’ll need to customize several options. Here they are in order, and my advice for navigating it quickly.

Campaign Name – Give it a name relevant to the campaign you want such as “donations”.

Type – You are only eligible to use “Search Network Only”

Networks – Un-Check the box for search partners. You aren’t allowed to access these.

Locations – Choose as wide a region as you are legally allowed to.

Bid Strategy – Choose “I’ll manually set bids for my clicks”.

Default Bid – Enter 2.

Budget – Choose to apply a budget from the shared library, select the shared budget you just created. No matter how many campaigns you create in the future, they should always, always use this budget.

Sitelinks – yes please! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, skip this for now and add them in later. See the glossary for more info on why you should use these, and how to set them up.

Next, you’ll be asked to set up your ad group. Again, here are the steps you’ll need to take and my advice for getting through them quickly.

Ad Group Name – Just like naming your campaign, be specific. If your campaign is “donations” then a good ad group might be “monthly giving”.

Create an ad – Check “Text ad”

Headline – Make it snappy, capitalize each word.

Description line 1 and 2 – write copy that is relevant to the ad group theme you’ve picked.

Display URL – this is the URL that appears with the ad

Destination URL – this is the URL that people will be sent to if they click. This must be a URL hosted on your domain, e.g.,,, etc.

Keywords – Like Google suggests, start with 10-20, then you can always add more later.

Once you submit, unless you get errors to fix, you’re done! Your ad status should say “Eligible” and once it is approved it should change to “Approved”. This can take a few minutes or up to a few hours.

What’s Next?

Let this ad run for a few days, then check back. Create a few more ads, maybe even another campaign. Add some more keywords, then let it run for a few more days. Check back, repeat. A great Adwords program isn’t set up and forgotten, it is managed and optimized indefinitely over time.

Creating one ad is just scratching the surface. I’m already working on some more DIY’s to deepen your skills with Adwords, and make the most of the $10,000 monthly allowance. Some of those topics will include:

Like I said at the beginning, Google has tremendous resources that they are always updating. You’ll very likely get an email for a free assessment from an Adwords specialist, and I highly recommend that you do it. You won’t get a sales pitch for spending cash on ads, you’ll just get solid advice on how to make your ads better.


Bid / Bidding / Bid Amounts: Different keywords have different costs based on how popular they are with other advertisers. As a Google Grants recipient you are limited to a $2 maximum bid, so don’t concern yourself too much with (or at all) with optimizing your bid amounts in the beginning. Just set an automatic maximum bid of $2, and Google will figure out the rest.

Campaign: This is the big thematic bucket that will contain all the advertisements that match the theme. For example, if you were creating a “dog” campaign, it should contain ads about different types of dogs. If you want to run ads about cats, start a new “cat” campaign.

CPC: Cost-per-click, which means like it sounds. For beginners purposes and the fact that you’re on a grants program, you don’t need to worry too much about this besides you can only spend up to $2 per bid.

Display Network: Some Google Ads are pictures or video and these are called Display ads (e.g., banners or boxes). As a Google Grant recipient, you aren’t eligible to run display ads.

Search Network: This is the only type of ad that Google Grant recipients can use. This is the network of places where your text ad can show up.

Shared Budget: If you want to spread your $10,000 out evenly across the entire month, you can create a rule (or, shared budget) that once you have spent $333 in a single day, your ads will stop until the next day.

Sitelinks: Have you ever noticed an ad that also had links to specific sections of the website, or had the phone number right there for you? Those are sitelinks, and they not can help drive a ton more traffic to your site. You can add these to your ads by clicking on the “Ad Extensions” tab, clicking the “+ Extensions” button and start adding links from your site to show up alongside your ads. Some examples might be “Donate”, “Volunteer”, “Newsletter”, and “Careers”. Have fun with these.

This post was by Brock Warner. Hailing from Toronto, Brock works to foster and place value upon the act of philanthropy, no matter the size of gift. As a professional, he values the ‘how’ as much as the ‘how much’ and desire to see the fruits of my labour and energy be a catalyst for positive change. Connect with Brock on Twitter at @BrockWarner.



  1. Randy

    November 13, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hey Brock,

    Im in the Adgrant program. Since I’m trying my hardest just get my ad spending past ever 30-40 dollars/ day, I’m wondering if i need a different approach. For instance, when i pick some common words like “Canada” I have a terrible click through rate, but bottum line is that I’m getting Clicks. Isn’t that the main things? I just wonder if I have to use a very different strategy when picking the key words if “clicks” to my site are what I want.

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