In the years since its inception, Google’s growth from simple search engine to provider of multiple web services has seen it release a number of tools and programs for both users and webmasters to take advantage of. Some, like AdWords and Gmail, are well-known by name; others fly under the radar and take a little more digging to discover. One example of these lesser-known programs is the Google Grants program. Although the criteria for this are rather specific, it is set up just like an AdWords campaign – albeit with some limitations. If you’re familiar with AdWords and are eligible for the Google Grants program, this may be perfect for bringing your business the online boost it needs.

This article consists of two parts. The first half will give some background on what the Google Grants program is, who is eligible for it, how you can apply if you meet the criteria and certain limitations advertisers face. The second half will outline a real-world case study, showcasing how an agency using the Google Grants program worked to improve the position and click-through rate of their campaign.

Part One: What is the Google Grants Program?

Google defines the Google Grants program as follows:

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

So, in short, Google Grants is “AdWords for Non-Profits”. If you’re running a company that meets Google’s criteria for this, the Google Grants program gives you a helping hand with promoting your products and services. Businesses that are eligible and participate in this program receive a $10,000 monthly grant for their campaign.

Eligibility for the Google Grants Program

There are several criteria that a business must meet in order to be eligible for the Google Grants program.

They must hold 501(c)(3) status, as determined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and must acknowledge and agree to the application’s required certifications regarding non-discrimination and donation receipt and use. The program is only available to companies in the countries listed here, and governmental entities and organizations, hospitals and health care organizations, and schools, childcare centers, academic institutions and universities (with the exception of philanthropic arms of educational organizations) are not eligible.

A full list of criteria is available at

How to Apply to the Google Grants Program

Google lists four simple steps for the application process:

  1. Read the eligibility requirements
  2. Apply to the program
  3. Once approved, enroll in specific Google products
  4. Get started with product tutorials

Limitations to the Google Grants Program

There are some restrictions to using the Google Grants program. Daily budgets are set to $330.00 USD, Costs-Per-Click are limited to $2.00, campaigns can only be keyword-targeted and ads can only be text ads.

The full list of restrictions and limitations can be viewed here.

Limits to Where Ads are Shown

Ads can only be shown on the Google Search Network, not the Display Network or on Search partners. Campaigns can only be keyword-targeted and cannot use CPM bidding.

More information on limits to where ads show is available here.

Limits to Budgets and Bids

The maximum daily budget you can set is $330 U.S. dollars, which is equivalent to about $10,000 per month. In the last year, Google has increased the Cost per Click bid for keywords to $2.00 USD from the original $1.00 bid per keyword. Accounts can only use Manual bidding for clicks; automatic bidding is not allowed. You are unable to set Display Network bids or managed placement bids.

More information on limits to budgets and bids is available here.

It is important to note that Google Grants accounts will only run for as long as your organization remains actively engaged with your AdWords account. Google states that they reserve the right to terminate your organization’s participation in the Google Grants program for any reason without notice at any time. We recommend to any Grant Account Managers to consistently check in on the AdWords campaign at least once a month to keep the campaign active and to check for any urgent notices from Google or changes to the Grants program.

Why spend so much time getting the Grant approved and then waste it away on inactivity? Getting accepted in Google’s Grants Campaigns is an extensive process, but the benefits of the program are limitless – so do not take the campaign for granted and be sure to check in on the campaign multiple times each month to be on the safe side and it’s a great practice to follow for any AdWords campaign.

Part Two: A Google Grants Case Study

Here we will showcase one agency’s experience with the Google Grants program. The following case study is a brief look at the challenges they faced with the restrictions Google places on the Grants program and the strategy they used to overcome them. We’ll see how they were able to turn the campaign around and go from a lower position with a low CTR and higher CPCs to a higher position with a high CTR and lower CPCs.

Campaign Stage 1: Initial Impressions and Campaign set-up (July 26 2011 – October 31 2011)

During the initial stages of the campaign we had set up 8 Ad Groups related to the client’s campaign and different aspects and keywords of each ad within – as we would with a traditional AdWords campaign. Please note, that we had selected the keyword lists for the campaign and did not use the assistance of Google for setting up the keyword list. This is also an option, but we wanted to have complete control of the keywords used within the campaign. We started with basic research and development and observed the campaign’s progress over the first few months. Over this time, the campaign grew to respectable levels – upwards to $5000 spend of the month – not near the full spend, but a good start, but we found that between the limit on bidding and keyword selection we struggled to get to a ranking above position #4. This is where we first experienced a roadblock caused by Google’s limitations on the way the Grants program works.

Campaign Stage 2: Keyword List Expansion and Ad Group Development (Nov 1 2011 – Mar 31 2012)

During the next stage of the campaign we set out to expand keyword lists and grow the existing ad groups – again, taking the same type of approach we would with a traditional AdWords campaign. Once again we found that the restraints placed on the campaign tied our hands significantly, but progress was made despite rarely rising above the 4th position.

Please note that in the graphic above we had set the budget to $2,000/day as we were not reaching the daily limit – however, since then we set the budget to the limit of $330/day as per Google’s Guidelines.

Campaign Stage 3: Social Media Development (April 1 2012 – March 1 2013)

It wasn’t until we added social media-focused ad groups and keywords that we found ourselves expanding significantly. Due to the targets used with regards to funnelling people through the organization’s Facebook Page and Twitter Account, we found CTRs and Positions increased significantly. Far and away we’ve seen the Social Media (Facebook) targeted ads have dwarfed the response gathered from organization-specific keywords from other ad groups:

This is where we see the agency really turn things around. Having had limited success due to the restrictions on the Google Grants program, they found a rather surprising solution: instead of relying on the traditional AdWords approach of keyword research and structured ad groups, they turned to social media, another aspect of online marketing that can play a major role in helping the same types of companies that benefit from the Google Grants program. What they found was that they were able to receive the majority of impressions and clicks by choosing to focus on social networks, using the information they gathered to perform research and add the findings to their campaign. It was the unconventional approach to a paid campaign, one that went outside of the traditional data mining that’s so often used by online marketers, that helped them break past the barriers imposed by Google Grants and see a good degree of success.

It was a smart move that paid off for them in the end, increasing their clicks, impressions and position while lowering the costs of the campaign.

However – unfortunately – Google has recently updated their Guidelines and Restrictions for the Google Grant programs to the limit the use of only 1 domain for the ads used in the Google Grant’s program. The 1 domain that you can use actually has to be the domain used in the Registration process for the Grant Campaign.

This means that current and future Grant’s campaigns can only target ads to the Domain used in the Registration and any URL’s not included within the domain will be disapproved by Google – and continuation of this process will likely result in an account suspension or worse, a removal from the Grants program.

We wish this was not the case as we were able to have great success for a Grant’s campaign by using the Facebook pages for better engagement with the program – but rules are rules – and as we know, when they are Google’s Rules, you follow them to succeed.

If you are eligible for the Google Grants program, this is a great opportunity to create additional exposure and promotion of your cause. Visit the Google Grants homepage for more information, or check out any of the following resources to learn more:

Google Grants Ongoing Management Guide

Make the Most of Your Budgets & Bids

How does a Google Grants Account Differ From a Paid AdWords Account?

About the Program, Eligibility Guidelines, Criteria, Definition of Charity Status in the US