So, you’re interested in starting a Google Ads for Nonprofit account, but have absolutely no idea how to get started, and no time to manage the dang thing? That’s okay. We understand. And we’ve created this guide to show you how to get verified, set up a campaign, and manage your ads with as little as 30 minutes per week.

Yep. Just 30 minutes. You can do this. Here’s how:


Before you get started, you’ll want to be sure you’re eligible. Here’s how Google lists its eligibility requirements:

    • Hold current 501(c)(3) status, as determined by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
    • Acknowledge and agree to the application’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use.
    • The following organizations are not eligible:
      1. Governmental entities and organizations.
      2. Hospitals and health care organizations.
      3. Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities (philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible). To learn more about Google’s programs for educational institutions, visit Google in Education.

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can then request a Google for Nonprofits account, and get verified, which you can do at

STEP 2: review the program terms

The Google Ads grant program allows you to spend up to $10,000 per month on Google’s dime. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your ads:

  • Your ads will be entirely text-based (no videos or images, but there is a YouTube program aimed at helping nonprofits create video assets to tell their story).
  • They’ll appear only on Google search results pages.
  • All campaigns must be keyword-targeted.
  • Your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) will be $2.00 USD.
  • You’ll receive $10,000 USD (up to $40,000 USD for Grantspro participants) of in-kind Google Ads advertising each month.


Once you’re verified, Google Ads provides a step-by-step account creation guide to help get you started, and walks you through everything from login to setting up your ads.

Here’s the rundown of the process, with more guidance to follow:

  1. Login and set up conversion tracking: Once you receive an email that your account has been verified, you can log in and set up tracking to get a better idea of what happens after people click on your ad. You can track things like calls, website visits, donations, and more.
  2. Create your campaigns and ad groups: Next, you’ll choose a campaign to help meet your goals (website visits, phone calls, etc) and then set up ad groups and choose your keywords. The Google Ads platform provides guidance and suggestions at every stop, but we’ll provide more guidance on this below.
  3. Create ads and launch your campaign: Lastly, you’ll create ads for each ad group. Google will guide you towards setting up responsive ads, but you also have the option to create standard text ads.


Does your organization need volunteers? Awareness? Donations? Google can help you with all of that. In order to be successful, you’ll want to:

4A: Organize your ads based on their content.

Creating multiple ad groups will help you be more strategic with your target keywords and landing page. You might opt to have one group focused on recruiting volunteers, another on soliciting donations, and a third to spread the word about an upcoming fundraising event.

4B: Perform keyword research using the Keyword Planner.

This is the foundation of a good search campaign. Ads and campaigns should be based around what people are actually searching for. Here’s what you’ll need to think about:

Match types: You’ll want to think about your match type strategy when deciding how to target keywords. A “match type” tells Google how widely they should consider search terms to “match” your target keywords. You can choose from:

  • Broad match: Ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations.
    • Example keyword: women’s hats.
    • Example search: buy ladies hats
  • Broad match modifier: Ads may show on searches that contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms) in any order.
    • Example keyword: women’s hats
    • Example search: hats for women
  • Phrase match: Ads may show on searches that are a phrase, and close variations of that phrase.
    • Example keyword: women’s hats
    • Example search: buy women’s hats
  • Exact Match: Ads may show on searches that are an exact term and close variations of that exact term.
    • Example keyword: women’s hats
    • Example search: women’s hats
  • Negative Match: Ads may show on searches without the term.
    • Example keyword: women
    • Example search: baseball hats

Search volume by location: You can set location(s) to target in the Keyword Planner. Based on your goals, decide how far-reaching you want your ads to be. Keep in mind that the average monthly searches are a very important part of your research. If no one is searching for the keywords you’re researching, it might be better to continue brainstorming to find keywords that are searched for more often.

Seasonality: As with any marketing campaign, seasonality is a factor in Google Ads success. Take a look at Google Trends to see what spikes occur for searches in the services you provide. In this example for trends for “homelessness,” spikes occur each year in November. During that time, you should plan to ramp up your efforts on AdWords to capture those searching online.


4C: DETERMINE your keyword strategy.

After performing your keyword research, you’ll be ready to decide which ones you’d like to focus on. When people search for these keywords, your ad might be shown to them. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • “Keyword” does not have to be just one word. You can choose to target a phrase, as well.
  • Keywords aren’t case-sensitive. You don’t need to enter “women’s hats” and “Women’s Hats” as keywords—just “women’s hats” will cover both.
  • Your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) through Google Ad Grants is $2.00. This can be quite low for some industries so you’ll have to get creative if your keywords have a higher CPC than you are allotted.
  • Watch out for competition score. When you search within the Keyword Planner, you’ll see a competition score of low, medium, or high. The lower the competition, the more likely your ads will be presented to those on Google. If competition is high, it might be in your best interest to look at other options because of your limited CPC budget.

4D: Link your ads to a dedicated landing page.

Send your Google Ads traffic to a strategic page within your website so they can easily decide to donate, volunteer, or attend a special event. Check out our landing page post for an idea of how to get started. Keep in mind that the user behavior on your landing page will affect the quality score of your ads on Google, which can affect how often and a what position your ads are served. If your page consistently performs poorly, your ads could be shown less often. 


If you have not already, set up Google Analytics on your website. You’ll want to know how Google Ads traffic is interacting with your site prior to launching any campaigns.

Upon launching your ads, you’ll start seeing data within your Google Ads dashboard. This information will tell you about the exposure, interactions, and conversions associated with your ads. Give it a little bit of time (say, 30 days) before you make any serious adjustments so that you have a reasonable amount of data to truly reflect how you’re doing.

Keep tabs on:

  • How your ads are performing over time. In the top right of your dashboard, you can elect to compare your data to that of the previous period, the same period last year, or a custom timeframe. Keeping tabs on this will let you know how your ads have improved (or worsened) over time.
  • How users are interacting with your ads. If you aren’t happy with your click through rate (CTR), you might consider refreshing the copy in your ads. Try testing your headline with another version or rewriting the supporting copy to be more engaging.
  • How your landing page is performing. Go back to your Google Analytics account to see how your landing page is performing. Within Google Analytics, you’ll scroll down to the Behavior section, click “Site Content,” and then select “Landing Pages.” Find the page you’re sending your Google Ads traffic to and keep an eye on the time on page, bounce rate, and conversion metrics. These pieces of data will help you get a good idea of how well your page is performing over time.


Google reserves the right to grant or deny an organization’s application or participation at any time for any reason. Some thing you cannot do include:

  • Link your ads to financial products (like mortgages or credit cards).
  • Request donations of cars, boats, or other property.
  • Link to a page that is primarily composed of links to other websites.
  • Advertise for products or services that do not fully support your organization’s program.
  • Forget about your account and never look at it again. You’ll need to make at least one change to your account every 90 days. They’ll send you an email reminder when you’re getting close.


This guide is meant to give your organization the tools it needs to get started. Here are some additional resources for your team: