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Take advantage of your NGO status in AdWords - Adviso
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Take advantage of your NGO status in AdWords - Adviso

Paid Media & SEM

This content has been updated in 2020 by Laurence Cardin.

Are you an NGO? Did you know that Google has a program that could give you access to USD$10,000 per month worth of free advertising on their search network?

Google for Nonprofits is a program created to support organizations by giving them access to several of Google’s products. We’ll focus here on one in particular: Google Ad Grants.

This program is designed to help you promote your website. You’ll have access to USD$10,000 worth of AdWords advertising per month to put your organization’s mission front and center in Google’s paid search results.

There are several steps to follow before you can be approved to use the service. With nearly ten active Google Grants accounts in our care, we’ve developed a practical guide to quickly get an account approved and running. The idea being that we would rather focus our time and effort on the development and optimization of the account, rather than on getting it approved.

What’s up with the Google Grants program?

In 2017, Google made a number of changes to the terms and conditions of its program to help NGOs in their quest for visibility on the behemoth that is the Internet. These changes were made with a very specific goal in mind: increasing the relevance of search results and improving the experience users have with the search engine. It’s true that these changes impose more rules and limit some aspects of SEM, but they also encourage the adoption of industry best practices.

For example, a widespread practice in the management of Grants for AdWords was to target very broad terms that weren’t necessarily directly aligned with the NGO’s area of interest. This technique was used by many organizations to maximize impressions and gain more clicks, without worrying about other metrics like bounce rate, which serves as an indicator of how well the landing page’s content reflects the user’s search intention. Google wants campaign managers to adopt a “post less, post smarter” mentality.

To encourage these best practices, Google has, among other things, decided to loosen the restrictions on maximum bids for NGOs. Organizations who adapt their approach to target search intentions that align with their programs’ priorities will benefit from an intelligent bidding system that is optimized based on conversions. Organizations will therefore be able to bid more than $2 per click, which was impossible up to now.   

Restrictions on the Google Grants program

The program has several restrictions you will want to keep in mind:

  1. It only applies to text ads in the Google Search Network (no display, no YouTube).
  2. The maximum bid is USD$2, unless you are using the bid optimization system known as Maximize conversions.
  3. Your maximum budget is USD$10,000 /month for a total of USD$120,000 per year.
  4. Ads must drive to a single domain.
  5. Ads that are strictly commercial are prohibited.
  6. Your click rate can’t drop below 5% for two consecutive months.
  7. Geo-targeting is mandatory.
  8. Every active campaign must have a minimum of two ad groups, each of which must contain a minimum of two active ads.
  9. You must have at least two sitelink extensions.
  10. The quality score for your keywords must be higher than 2.
  11. You must bid on a combination of keywords. You can’t bid on a single-word keyword, for example “Show”, although there are a few exceptions.
  12. Your site cannot host Google AdSense ads.
  13. If your site hosts other types of banners, these should be unobtrusive. The content of the site should be the main focus of every page.


Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the restrictions, it’s time to take advantage of the Ad Grants program. To do this, Google for Nonprofits requires you to meet several eligibility criteria.

Creating an Ad Grants account & eligibility guidelines

  • Send a membership application request to Google for Nonprofits
  • Be able to prove your status as a charitable organization (find country-specific details here)
  • Recognize and accept the necessary provisions concerning non-discrimination, receipts and the use of donations
  • Have an operational website with substantial content

N.B. Certain entities including government bodies, health care organizations, schools, daycares, institutions of higher learning and universities are not eligible to take advantage of the program. However philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible.

Once your application to Google has been accepted, it’s time to create your Google Grants AdWords account!

A Grants AdWords account is the same as a standard AdWords account, but the payment information belongs to Google. If you already have an AdWords account, you can’t use it for the Ad Grants program. You’ll need to create a new account.

Google provides a complete account creation guide on its support platform. Here we will summarize the essentials and draw your attention to a few significant points. Our guide is accompanied by screenshots so you can follow along step-by-step.

It’s important to follow each step in the account creation guide to the letter. For this exercise, we are going to create a campaign that redirects towards a fictional NGO: Adopt A Big Blue Elephant.

Creation of a Google Ads Grant account.


1. Go to the Google AdWords account creation interface.

2. Select the country where your organization is located.

3. Choose US Dollar as your currency, regardless of the location of your organization.

4. Save and continue. We will now move on to the creation of your first campaign.

5. Click “Create your first campaign”.

Use the USD devise regardless of your billing country.


Cautionif this option doesn’t appear and a campaign called “Campaign #1” is already in your account, use this campaign as your starting point, do not delete it under any circumstances. If you deleted a campaign that included Google Search Partners and/or was of a type other than “Search Network Only,” your account will be rejected by AdWords support. Essentially, even if you delete it, the campaign will always exist in your account. You will need to create a new AdWords account.

6. Every campaign in your account must have the following settings:

  • Type: Search Network Only
  • Network: uncheck the box “include search partners”
Uncheck the “Include Google search partners”.


  • Geographic location: choose the geographic locations that you want to target. Google will evaluate the relevance of your geographic targeting before approving your account.
  • Languages: choose the language of your campaign
  • Bid strategy: click on Manual CPC bidding. Once your account reaches 500 clicks per month, you should change this option to Maximize conversions.  
  • Default bid: select USD$2.00 or less
  • Budget: select USD$329.00 or less. You will have access to USD$329.00 per day for all your campaigns combined.
Initial bid of maximum US$2.00


  • Ad extensions: you need to add at least two sitelink extensions, leading to two different pages of your website.  

Next you should add at least two ads and one keyword to an ad group. But remember – every ad in the account must point to a single domain name.

To quickly get your account approved and avoid multiple back and forths with support, we recommend starting with a simplified account structure, including: 1 campaign, 2 ad groups, 2 ads, a few keywords.

Reminder: bid on keyword combinations related to your area of activity, like “how to help blue elephants” or “foundation for endangered animals.”

Creation of a Group Ad and an Ad.


Selection of 1 or 2 keywords.


Your first campaign is ready! You’ll notice that your account isn’t active because you haven’t entered any billing information. Don’t panic, Google will take care of that for you.

Set conversion goals

Under the new rules, it’s now mandatory to have conversion goals associated with your Google Ad Grants account.

To do this, go to the “Tools” tab and click “Conversions”. You’ll have different types of conversions to choose from, depending on your goal. For example, there might be an action users can take on your website, like making a donation or registering for an event, that is particularly valuable to you.


There are four types of conversion in AdWords:

  1. Website actions (visits to a specific page, submitting a contact form or simply making a purchase on your site)
  2. App downloads, or in-app actions
  3. Phone calls
  4. Offline conversions

Submitting your Ad Grants account for approval

You’ve now arrived at the final step: submitting your account to Google for approval. Before submitting it, it’s very important that you don’t pause your campaign, but rather leave it active (see screenshot below).

Look of a Google Ads Grant Campaign


Here are the last steps to follow:


  1. Use your administrator account to log into your Google for Nonprofits account.
  2. Click “Sign up now”.
  3. Click the “Enroll” button under Google Ad Grants.
  4. Enter your AdWords customer ID (upper right corner) in the form, then fill out the form.
  5. Click “Sign up”.

Once you’ve submitted the form, you should receive an answer from Google within 24 to 48 hours.



Management and optimization of a Google Grants account

Your Google Grants account is ready! You can now promote your organization across the Google Search Network with a budget of USD$120,000 per year.

The restrictions related to Grants, particularly the USD$2 bid limit, can often make it complicated and challenging to optimize and use the full USD$329/day. With nearly ten active Google Grants accounts in our care, Adviso has developed extensive expertise in the development of digital media strategies specific to non-profits.

Are you looking to take fuller advantage of your Google Grants account? Don’t hesitate to contact our specialists, who would be happy to help set you on the right path.