I recently hopped on Zoom to interview Simon Choy who works with non-profits to use Google Ads Grants. Years ago, a client of mine applied for and got a Google Ad Grant (it’s a very simple process based on eligibility) and then never used it. So, I was curious about what he does and how to successfully leverage those resources. I had a lot of fun talking with him on a snowy Upstate New York day and left the call way more excited about it than I was at the beginning. I can see now how it can build muscles in non-profits and helps us achieve our missions. These are some of the results that he mentioned in the interview.
- Non-profits getting 400 new emails a month added to their list.
- A theater that is generating $3,600 of ticket sales per month.
- An autism non-profit has an autism checklist tool that has 2,000 users a month.
- A women's shelter got six times as many crisis calls after using the grant.
I transcribed the video, so you have two options for learning more about Google Ads Grants – listen/watch the video, or read an edited version below. Yup, I learned about learning styles and tried my best to accommodate a couple of different modes. You tactile learners can go set up an account for yourself and start playing.
As always, I hope that this serves you and your mission.
Allow me to introduce Simon Choy. We met through a mutual friend and I thought it would worth passing along the introduction. Simon is the founder of a business called ConnectAd that specializes in working with non-profits to use Google Ad Grants. I think it’s worth paying attention to what he has to say for two reasons. First, many non-profits don’t know that they can get $120,00 in free advertising each year from Google and, those that do, don’t know how to make good use of those ad dollars. Second, Connect Ad has worked with almost 200 non-profits generate over $50 million in ads, and 1.8 million ad impressions through their work. So, if you are thinking of boosting your presence online, this article/recorded interview is worth your time.Let’s start with a bit about you. How did you get involved with Google Ad Grants?
In 2009, I found a summer job in the digital marketing industry where I learned about managing Google AdWords. My work with for-profit companies gave me an appreciation for how complicated campaigns could get.
Later that summer, I discovered the Google Grants program, but was surprised to find out that nobody was out there helping nonprofits. Agencies serving for-profit companies were everywhere, but why wasn’t anyone assisting nonprofits in taking advantage of $10,000 per month in free ads?
Always having had a passion for social enterprise, I decided to be that person and opened ConnectAd in 2010 with the mission of helping nonprofits. Since then, we have remained committed to only working with nonprofits, managing their Google Grants.
In a nutshell, what we do is focus entirely on helping nonprofits grow their impact using effective digital marketing tools like the Google Ad Grant.
If you ever have gone on Google and searched for something, usually you will get a list of results, but at the very top, you may see some sponsored ads. Those are Google Ads and they come about when, as an advertiser, you purchase an ad for a keyword, or a search term such as “low-income housing Atlanta”.
When someone’s search matches a keyword on your list, your ad may appear. When that person clicks on the ad, they get taken to a landing page that you specified, and usually, you would want to make it related to the search term that you've purchased.
Now, Google Ads can be very expensive for any organization. What's amazing is that the grant program is that Google is trying to make it accessible for non-profits, and so they offer up to $10,000 per month or $120,000 per year in free Google Ads. And, this figure gets mistaken all the time. It is $10k per month, because sometimes people think that's like a one-time grant, or they think it's a per-year grant.
The application process is simple and not what most people think of as a competitive grant application. You simply fill out form and if you qualify you get the ad credit.
I’ve talked with the people at the Google Ads Program and I think in large part they genuinely want to help nonprofits achieve meaningful impact. It could also serve as a natural transition into running parallel paid ad campaigns outside of the free grant credits.
Google Ad Grants are for any eligible nonprofit organization. Eligibility has three main requirements 1) You’re a registered nonprofit in any one of the 50+ countries listed 2) You have an active website 3) You’re not a hospital or healthcare organization, educational institution, or government entity – although University/Hospital Foundations are eligible.
To some extent, you have to answer that question on an individualized basis but there are some broad principles.
- Population Size: Typically speaking, the smaller the population of your audience, the harder it will be to use the grant. And, this is in simple virtue of there being less people searching for what you're offering. For example, a non-profit that serves a population of only 10,000 people might not be a good candidate. It can be tougher for very localized groups to use an effective amount of the free ad credits since there’s inherently less people to promote to.
- Type of Non-Profit: There are just some areas that will inherently have more people searching for it than others such as Pet Adoption versus awareness of a rare disease. But that can also be an intricate point, because we work with certain non-profits who may be very niched, in terms of what they do, but they could also be running certain marketing initiatives that have broader appeal. For example, let's say you a niche non-profit, but you ran a clothing, or goods donation program. Well, that actually tends to do quite well with the grant, because the first place that people go to when they want to donate some clothing, they Google it and search it up.
- Time & In-house: Another limitation is whether a nonprofit has the time to actually run Google ad campaigns and the know-how to do it properly. If they don’t, the grant may end up being severely under-utilized and not make any tangible difference.
There is no threshold that is tied to the amount of the grant used. Google does have a minimum click through rate of 5% for Ad Grant accounts, so a campaign/ad created and never touched again could lead to suspension because it wouldn’t be meeting their requirements when left dormant.Is it useful in actually having an uptake in donations, or is it more useful for things like promoting an event, or like a walk-a-thon, or how is it best used by people?
I believe direct fundraising tends to be difficult with the grant. There's a lot of other non-profits competing for that same pool of keywords, and so I do think that tends to be tough, although it can be used successfully for donations. If you use it for donations, I would recommend that you have a killer landing page. And, what I mean by that is, when somebody clicks on an ad, and they get to your site, where you have content, it has to do a really good job of convincing and converting that person to become a donor.
Now, it doesn't mean that all hope is lost. There are many other ways that you can use it.
Events are a really good example of a successful way to use a grant because you have the option of tapping into a lot of new audiences. They key for success with events is that it’s an event of general interest. I know a lot of non-profits run galas. The thing about galas is the audience for that tends to be people that already know you, as opposed to someone who's on Google, searching for something to do. It’s great to start building relationships with people who are simply looking for an idea for a date, or maybe want somewhere to take their kids. Right? Google grants can be really powerful for events and awareness because you're tapping into a large audience of people who don't know you.
Theaters: it tends to work really well with theaters because you could sell tickets there. I would say any case where there's some kind of revenue model beyond donations – such as ticket sales, clothing donations etc. – is also a good fit because you can tap into a general audience
Awareness is also a good option because someone could find out about you, learn about you, start engaging with you, and then you can turn them into a donor down the road because what you're doing is you're introducing yourself to a new audience. For awareness, it really depends on what topic you're discussing, so that's why you have to do a little bit of research beforehand, to determine those things.
Email acquisition also works well with Google Ads too.
To get good results, it's critical that you're able to track and monitor the results that you want. For example, if it's donations you’re focusing on, then you need a way to track donations from the ads. If it's about having more people sign up for a program, or more people attending an event, you need a way to track that, and then trace it back to what you're doing with the grant.
Just in terms of good case studies –
- We've had people who are using it for email list building and they're getting 400 new emails a month.
- A non-profit theater that we work with are generating $3600 dollars of ticket sales.
- We work with an autism non-profit, who has an autism checklist tool that has 2,000 people a month using it.
- We work with a women's shelter that got six times as many crisis calls after using the grant.
- The number one mistake that I see is people will generate a huge, diverse list of keywords, and place them into one entity called an ad group. Ad group's like a container for the keywords. It's supposed to be a group of highly relevant keywords, and so what we see is many, many different keywords inside one ad group. Without getting too technical, it makes your advertising a lot less relevant, because all the keywords inside an ad group also share the same ad text. And, it's very hard for you to have a message that speaks to one audience the same time as a completely different audience. That's something that I see a lot and its quite dangerous inside Google Ad accounts.
- Using keywords that are not that relevant to what you're trying to promote. Relevancy has become a huge factor in Google Ad success as of 2018 and onwards. What I mean by “relevancy” is that the keyword you use, should try to, as much as possible, capture the intents of the landing page, of their niche. So, if I'm searching for donating used clothing, you better have a relevant keyword for that, but also drive them to a page that makes sense for whatever they're searching for. If I go into a homepage after searching for how to donate used clothing, and it's very hard for me to look for what I was searching for, you're going to lose them.
- Generic ads. If the ad text I'm writing is not related to the keyword that I'm using, as well as the landing page that I'm using, I'm actually not going to get very far.
- Ads that are not geo-targeted correctly – which means that there is no particular place where the ad will show up. Let’s say you have a nonprofit that runs a local program in San Francisco but the ads are targeted to all of the US. There’s a good chance that most of the traffic coming in from the ad will be from locations where your program does not operate and will therefore be irrelevant to those users.
- When there are no conversions being tracked. A conversion could be downloading a PDF, signing up for a newsletter, registering for a program etc. Although it seems positive to see an abundance of clicks, impressions and grant spend in your account, we aren’t able to determine if those users engaged with your website if there isn’t conversion tracking. Conversion tracking can accurately determine how the grant program is providing value, or not, to your organization.
We always work with nonprofits on a month-to-month subscription basis, so if it’s truly not beneficial to them, it’s easy to stop. I believe that nonprofits we partner with see the value in enhancing their digital presence and decide to invest in it. Of course, we understand that nonprofits budgets are limited, but if I were a nonprofit organization looking to maximize my dollars to engage my audience online, what better way than to spend a little to leverage a program providing potentially $10,000 per month in ads. For example, even if I’m a small nonprofit, it’s important to engage my stakeholders online – and with a limited budget, I would look for ways to stretch it as far as I can. That’s why it makes sense for even small nonprofits to leverage our services and the Google Grant because they can truly amplify their spend.
Google Ad Grants can be used for a myriad of purposes to achieve nonprofit goals (e.g. Promote awareness, gain new emails, sell tickets to events, new volunteers, etc.).
We offer a Google Grants Service with dedicated account management by our team of AdWords certified account managers and we also provide optimized landing pages and in-depth Google Analytics services – designed to drive specific, valuable results beyond the click. You don’t just want people clicking on the ad. Clicks by themselves do not equal success.
When they click, that needs to lead them to a landing page where there are some specific call to action (e.g. Emails, volunteers, selling a product or service, in-kind donations) and to understand not only the results of a digital marketing campaign, but where success came from and what caused it. Better data = better approach = better results. We have also just been recognized by Google as an Ad Grant Certified Professional, one of 20-25 companies worldwide with this certification.
- I would go to what's called Academy for Ads. It's Google's training program to get people certified for the Google Ad platform. https://landing.google.com/academyforads/#?modal_active=none. There's a ton of information there. They do different modules that you can learn, and then, after you're done, you can actually take a test and be officially certified to run Google Ad campaigns, so that's the first place I would go.
- The second place I would go is the Google Grants Forum, that's where you can post questions about some things are going wrong with your grants, or you're having some technical issues, you can go there. There are experts, just like us, as well as members of the grant team who monitor the boards.
- The third resource is the Support Knowledge Base from the grant program is quite robust, so I would take a look at that, as well. So, those are the three best resources that you can get some coaching.
For folks who would like to contact Simon, you can find him at www.ConnectAd.ca