How to Apply for Google Grants -- Free Advertising on for Nonprofits

By Patrick Miner, Media & Outreach Coordinator, Chicago Architecture Foundation

Google’s innovative search algorithms direct hundreds of millions of people to the websites they need everyday. The internet giant has become one of the most valuable and influential companies in the world by developing an advertising platform that is integrated into those search results we all know so well.

Google AdWords™ is the service or tool by which ads are displayed to the public on and partner websites. Organizations of every type use Google’s paid search to drive traffic to their websites. As nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status (and some similar designations outside of the United States), AAO member organizations are eligible to apply to a special, free program: Google Grants.

“Google Grants is the nonprofit edition of AdWords™, Google's online advertising tool. Google Grants empowers nonprofit organizations, through $10,000 per month in in-kind AdWords™ advertising, to promote their missions and initiatives on” -- Google, Inc.

Google Grants is essentially free AdWords for nonprofits. Qualifying organizations can reach hundreds or thousands of new people each month through carefully-designed advertising campaigns. The only cost is staff time.

Many organizations -- especially large for-profit entities -- hire new staff or work with firms to manage their Google AdWords campaigns. But small nonprofits typically do not have the resources to go that far. Instead, nonprofits like the members of AAO should try to manage Google AdWords / Grants on their own. Only people who are very familiar with an organization will be able to generate effective keywords, ads and campaigns. Beginners are encouraged to apply -- there is little risk involved in learning the ropes of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising on Google Grants since the program is free. Mistakes are simply reflected as less new traffic -- but any increase in web traffic is an improvement over no new traffic.

Here’s how to begin:

1      Determine who will manage the AdWords account once it is live. Although multiple people can work on the campaigns simultaneously, it is best for one person in the organization to be the project leader so that the complicated learning process for AdWords management can be comprehensively absorbed and processed by that individual.

2      Read through the requirements for application to Google Nonprofits at (if this link changes in the future for some reason, just type “join Google Nonprofits” into Google and let the search engine do its magic). Organizations based outside of the United States can also find information on eligibility at the above link. If you are eligible, gather the necessary proof of your 501(c)(3) status and proceed. Note that governmental entities, health care organizations, childcare centers, and academic institutions are not eligible for Google Nonprofits (however philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible).

3      The application process for Google Nonprofits will allow you to enroll in Google Grants if approved. You will also be able to enroll in other programs such as YouTube for Nonprofits. The application can be completed at the aforementioned link: Use a new Google account to apply so that there is no confusion about the nonprofit designation of your account. If you are an existing Google AdWords customer, you will not be able to apply using your AdWords account. Paid and free AdWords must be kept separate at all times.

4      After following the steps online for the Google Nonprofits application, you will be accepted or denied by the Nonprofits team at Google. If your organization meets the eligibility requirements, it should be very unlikely that your application would be denied. However, the review process can take up to 4 months to be completed.

5      Once accepted into Google Nonprofits, follow the instructions you receive via email to enroll in Google Grants. You will be asked to create your first AdWords campaign while adhering to the limitations of the Grants program. Google must place certain restrictions on its free offering so as not to greatly disadvantage its many paying clients. The most important restrictions include a daily budget of approximately 330 USD and a maximum bid of 1.00 USD. This means that if a keyword you would like to use for your ads is a very popular search term, you may not be able to afford it. Other companies may be paying over 1.00 USD to have their ads display for users who type in the desired keyword. For example, the term “building” is very general and is used by numerous advertisers. Therefore, if you try to use it as one of the keywords in your Google Grants campaigns, it probably won’t spur many (or any) clicks to your website because other advertisers are paying above 1.00 USD for each user that “building” sends to their respective websites.

6      Before you submit the setup of your first AdWords campaign using Google Grants, be sure to check all of the settings to confirm that they adhere to Google’s requirements. You can access these requirements at (if this link stops working, search Google for “Google Grants account creation guide” and click on a result from It is extremely important that you do not enter billing information, that you choose USD as your currency, that your maximum bid is 1.00 USD and that your ads are only set to appear on Google search (not the display network or other locations).

7      Your AdWords / Grants account, if set-up according to the guidelines, should be approved by Google within a few weeks. Once you are notified of approval, try logging in to your account and beginning the tracking and evaluating process for campaigns, ad groups, ads, keywords and more.

The next task is trying to drive additional traffic to your organization’s website through creative account management. For more information about this process (which is all-too-lengthy for a blog post), please contact Patrick Miner at the Chicago Architecture Foundation:

Patrick Miner

Posted by aao on November 9, 2012 - 12:38am