Your nonprofit may be eligible for $120,000 a year from Google.

11 February 2021 - Last Updated: 26 April 2021 By: Rafael Spuldar Nonprofit marketing


Google Ad Grants is a program that provides nonprofits anywhere with $10,000 a month to spend on search ads. However, only a small fraction of Canadian nonprofits benefit from Google Ad Grants, either because they don’t know it, or because they lack the digital marketing skills to set it up. Let’s see how digital marketing experts can aid nonprofits to leverage the program and get their missions and causes known to the world.

This post is also available in: Français

Nonprofits are more relevant than ever. In times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, they can make a difference for millions of people in need around the world. Moreover, their humanitarian work attracts potential donors and benefactors who feel connected to their missions and impelled to give a hand. In 2020, for example, searches for ‘how to help’ and ‘where to donate’ reached an all-time high in Canada(1).

However, reaching out to donors or volunteers can be challenging. More often than not, nonprofits have to deal with scarce resources, which makes it hard to raise awareness of their causes. Some initiatives aspire to curb this limitation, and one of the most effective is Google Ad Grants. The tech giant provides $10,000 a month, or $120,000 a year to any eligible nonprofit to spend in digital ad campaigns through this program.

While Google Ad Grants sounds like a blessing for any organization struggling to raise awareness and funds, the truth is that the immense majority of nonprofits still ignores it. Less than 1 in 10 eligible Canadian nonprofits actually benefits from the program. Besides this, the lack of digital marketing skills and experience discourages many candidates. Many feel that setting up ad campaigns, researching keywords, and reviewing metrics is an expert’s job and an outsized expense for their budgets.

But is it so? In this article, let’s look into Canada’s nonprofit environment today, how digital marketing transforms the way they operate, and how resorting to experts may be an efficient way of raising awareness and funds for any organization.

Nonprofits: big in Canada

Charities and nonprofits are big in Canada, and some stats can confirm it. As of 2018, there were an estimated 170,000 registered charities & nonprofits in Canada(2). Canadians donate more than $14 billion annually to them, and 44 percent of Canadians—13 million people—volunteer their time to these organizations(3). All this ranks Canada as the 3rd country globally in terms of charitable donations—as of 2016, 0.77 percent of the country’s GDP was donated to nonprofits and registered charities(4).

However, as of 2020, one can pinpoint a significant trend: the role of online platforms to bridge the gap between nonprofits and potential donors. In the past year, overall online revenue worldwide for charities increased by 23 percent over 2019, up from 15 percent, and online giving alone grew by 12.1 percent in 2020, year over year(5). One way of looking into those stats is that the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced online platforms’ power to bring people close to each other while making them more willing to give a helping hand.

A helping hand from a tech giant

One obvious conclusion is that digital marketing is essential not only for brands and enterprises but also for nonprofits. Here enters Google Ad Grants, launched in 2003 to enable nonprofits and charities to reach their audiences through Google’s platforms, such as Google Search and Maps. The program provides eligible organizations with $10,000 per month to be spent in Google Ads to promote their missions and initiatives.

There are endless ways nonprofits can make fair use of Google Ads. They could raise awareness of their causes and their brand, for example. They could also sell products and services if they revert revenue to their main mission. Nonprofits could campaign to hire staff or amass volunteers or turn ‘virtual money’ into ‘real money’ through donating campaigns. Organizations can reach out for new subscribers to their newsletters and social media and advertise events, such as fundraisers, lectures, or virtual gatherings.

Since its creation, Google Ad Grants has given over $9 billion in free advertising to over 115,000 nonprofits in more than 50 countries(6). It is one of the most relevant charity funding initiatives in the world today, empowering nonprofits anywhere to get their message known to the world, amass contributors, and draw attention to their events and fundraisers. The program is made even more critical by Google’s towering position in the search business: the company holds more than 92% of the search engine market share worldwide(7).

Why digital marketing experts matter


But however helpful and empowering Google Ad Grants may be, some issues still prevent most nonprofits from accessing the program’s valuable resources. For one, it is still largely ignored by Canadian charities: of 85,000 nonprofits in Canada eligible for Google Ad Grants, only 5,000 actually benefit from it(8). Another reason for the underuse of Google Ad Grants is that nonprofit leaders and staff usually lack basic digital marketing skills. It prevents them not only from setting up ad campaigns or making them efficient but also from ensuring that organizations comply with the program’s strict requirements and don’t risk losing the grant.

There seems to be an obvious solution for making the best out of Google Ad Grants: handing the job over to the experts. But does it pay to rely on those specialists? What kind of return could they bring to your charity? And what kind of experts should be hired?

Make no mistake: digital marketing can do wonders for any organization, either nonprofits or for-profits. And if you apply a solid digital marketing strategy in platforms such as Google Search, the returns are sure to appear. For every $1 brands and businesses spend on Google Ads, for example, they make an average of $2 in revenue(9). Besides, if you do your paid search campaign on Google, people are four times more likely to click on it than on other search engines—63%, against Amazon’s 15%, YouTube’s 9%, and Bing’s 6%(10).

These figures give you a picture of the power of digital ad campaigns – but having experts running them is an essential part of the process. These specialists can create your campaigns, get your nonprofit’s Google Ad Grants account up and running, make sure you comply with the program’s requirements, put the latest tools and trends to work for you, and track results through customized dashboards and reports.

A different culture for digital marketing

Of course, nonprofits have a culture of their own, a mindset that differs from the business world to which most marketing professionals are used to. To drive optimal results for charities, digital marketing specialists should go the extra mile and reach beyond their technical expertise. They should see themselves as part of a mission, sharing the same values as their client—or, to put it more correctly, their partner.

‘The more the marketing specialist shares the nonprofit spirit, the better,’ says Jorge Rodrigo Martins, CEO of hafferi. Jorge ranks himself among the nonprofit-minded professionals, having a solid background in planning and setting up campaigns for such organizations, with outstanding results throughout the years. Having worked with both nonprofits and for-profits, he grasps the power of digital marketing to pivot any organization’s digital presence.

‘Google Ad Grants is a game-changer for any nonprofit’, says Jorge.

Try and imagine the ripple effect a $120k grant can generate. Either raising awareness to a cause, searching for volunteers or advertising fundraising events, any organization can reach millions of people and drive real change in the world through a well-executed digital marketing work.

The social distancing and isolation caused by COVID-19 drove ten years’ worth of digital transformation in just six months in 2020(11). This change is here to stay, and you should ensure your nonprofit is on the right track. Google Ad Grants has the power of being a turning point for any nonprofit, and if you side with the right experts, your organization can experience a true digital awakening.

If you believe your nonprofit is eligible for Google Ad Grants and wants to benefit from the program, let us know! We can schedule a 30-minute discovery call to discuss your needs.

Schedule your free Google Ad Grants consultation
Progress: 0 %