Google Ad Grants – what UK charities need to know

If you work for a charity, then Google Ad Grants will give it up to £7,500 each month to spend on Google Ads. Sounds too good to be true? It is true, and here's how you can get it.
Google Ad Grants for UK Charities

Google Ad Grants is a philanthropic programme from Google that seems to be under the radar in the UK charity sector. That’s very unfortunate as it leaves a lot of free Google advertising on the table for eligible charities.

And when I say a lot, I mean a lot.

If you’re a qualifying charity, Google will give you a grant of up to $10,000 USD (about £7,500) to spend on Google advertising every month. That’s absolutely free advertising spend, and with few criteria that your charity must meet to qualify for the programme and stay on it long-term.

According to Google, the Google Ad Grants programme1 supports 35,000 charities (grantees) worldwide. But consider that, in just England and Wales, the Charity Commission has about 170k registered main charities2. So, how many of those 35k charities globally that Google is supporting are based in the UK?

There are no official figures, but the uptake of these grants by the main charities in the England and Wales must be minuscule. In fact, almost non-existent if Google’s claim about the total number of grantees worldwide is correct. Most grantees made public by Google appear to be US-based, and details of UK grantees are limited but include Samaritans and Barnardos.

Why have so few charities taken advantage of Google Ad Grants? It may be because Google doesn’t do a great job of advertising it, which would be ironic. Or possibly because some charities, particularly smaller ones, don’t fully understand what Google is offering. Or charities feel they don’t have the expertise to take advantage of that offer.

So, a pot of free advertising spend is sitting there waiting for your charity to collect it. This ad spend could be used to increase registrations, incoming phone calls, donations and volunteer applications.

Who wouldn’t want that for free?

Read below if you’d like to find out more about Google Ad Grants. I’ll show you how your charity can apply to become a grantee. Once accepted, you can start delivering adverts to reach people while they search on Google for topics relevant to your charity.

What is Google Ad Grants?

Google Ad Grants is a Google initiative that helps charities, who often have limited budgets, take advantage of advertising on Google Search without having to pay for those adverts.

If your charity is eligible, Google will give it a grant of up to $10k USD in total each month (about £7.5k) to spend on adverts on Google search; these are the adverts that appear within Google’s search results and are identified by the text ‘Ad‘ next to them.

Once accepted onto the programme, Google Ad Grantees (as they’re known) can run advertising campaigns on Google Search via the Google Ads platform.

Is it free?

Yes. However, if your charity doesn’t have the necessary expertise in-house, it can choose to pay for an external Google Ads PPC Agency to set-up and manage its grant-funded Google Ads campaigns.

Who is eligible to apply?

In the UK, your charity is eligible to become a Grantee if it meets the following criteria. Acceptance is subject to Google’s final approval.

Why the requirement to sign-up to Charity Digital? I suspect that membership is needed because Charity Digital will carry out the necessary vetting of the charitable status of your organisation on behalf of Google.

If you’ve not come across Charity Digital before, it is also a charity; one that helps other charities accelerate their use of digital technology. It offers significant discounts on software to registered charities from the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Norton etc.

Charity Digital does charge an administration fee; however, this is only payable when products are purchased. They claim savings are typically over 90% off RRP even with the administration fee – so, worth joining just for those savings alone.

How can my charity apply for a Google Ad Grant?

Once you’ve checked your organisation is eligible, there are a few steps you need to take to apply for a grant:

  1. Get a Google account. The person from your charity who is applying for the grant must have a Google Account. If they don’t have one, it’s free and you can sign-up here.
  2. Enrol for Google for nonprofits. Your charity must enrol in Google for nonprofits. This is also free to join.
  3. Submit your Google Ad Grants application. This can be achieved from within your Google for nonprofits account.

The approval process usually takes up to 5-working days. At the time of writing, this may take longer due to the current pandemic.

Note: do not create a Google Ads account before starting your application; one will be created for you by Google once your charity is approved.

Are there any conditions?

So, once you’ve been accepted onto the Google Ad Grants programme, what conditions are attached to your grant and your Google Ads campaign?

Well, you can only advertise on Google Search using text adverts. The grant excludes advertising on Google’s search partners. It cannot be used with other media such as videos and images, or with other Google channels such as display advertising, Youtube, Google Shopping etc.

As well as capping the ad spend at £7.5k each month, there are other important conditions for your grant-funded Google Ads campaign:

  • No single-word keywords. You cannot bid on single-word keywords. The exception is for your charity’s brand.
  • Daily Budget. You can only spend up to $390 USD (about £300) each day.
  • Maximum CPC limit. The maximum allowed Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is $2 USD for any keywords where you are using manual bidding.
  • Conversion tracking. You must have conversion tracking set-up for at least one goal. Conversion tracking lets Google Ads know when a website visitor reaches a goal. For example, a completed donation, a newsletter sign-up, or a volunteer application submission etc.
  • Campaign Performance. Google will expect your campaign to achieve at least a 5% Click-Through Rate (CTR) on average each month. Google also expects at least one conversion to occur for every conversion you’re tracking each month.

The 5% average CTR and non-zero conversion conditions that Google places on your Google Ads campaign means you need to plan and manage it carefully. If you don’t meet these requirements for two consecutive months, Google will pause your account and only reinstate it when you make changes and convince them that it’s now compliant.

That pause in your ad campaigns due to non-compliance could be a costly delay to your digital activities; particularly if online fundraising is one of your goals.

Wrapping up

If you’re not an experienced digital marketer, the Google Ad Grant application, and managing a Google Ads PPC campaign, may seem daunting; but they needn’t be.

The application is really just online paper-shuffling to jump though a few hoops. And, though taking advantage of the grant does require set-up and management of a Google Ads campaign, help is available.

That help could be achieved by paying for an external resource to manage your charity’s PPC, or training your in-house staff or volunteers to manage it. Either approach will incur a cost, but if you ensure you are measuring the results of your ad campaigns – whether that’s an increase in donations, sign-ups or phone calls – you’ll be able to see whether the return you receive is worth that outlay.

However, neither the application nor the ad campaign should deter you from at least considering if a Google Ad Grant is right for your charity. Such a large amount of free advertising on the world’s most popular search engine should not be ignored.


1 Google Ad Grants

2 Charities in England and Wales (UK Charity Commission)

Main image credit: Larm Rmah


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Andy Dawson

MD of blue snapper; digital marketing & ecommerce consultant; musician

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