The Google Grants program is a great option for charities that are short on marketing funds and could benefit from an increased online presence. This program provides up to $10,000 per month of in kind advertising through Google AdWords to qualified registered charitable organizations.

When used correctly, Google Grants help nonprofit organizations raise awareness, reach new clients, promote events, recruit volunteers and board members, and increase online donations. For more information on Google Grants visit Google for Nonprofits.

While this is a great program, setting up your Google AdWords account and getting your first campaign running can be intimidating. This post will walk you through the initial account set-up and help you get your first campaign running.

Getting Started

The first action you will be prompted to take in your AdWords account after you’ve received entry to the Google Grants program is to start a new campaign. As an example, we’ll be using a basic campaign aimed at targeting users that are searching for your organization by name: we’ll use ‘ABC Org’.

New Campaign

Once you have started a new campaign, you’ll be given some choices in the ‘Campaign Settings’ screen:

1. You’ll need to select a name for your campaign. For consistency, you can name this campaign ‘ABC Org’.

2. In order to comply with your Google Grant terms, you will want to select ‘Search Network Only’ and ‘Standard’ features. The display network and search partner options are only available for paid AdWords accounts.

Location and Language Options

For location and language, consider the geographic area and languages that your organization serves. It is important to keep your advertising relevant to the people searching online for you, so it is best to advertise only to the geographic area that is applicable. There is not much value in advertising overseas if you are a local non-profit that serves regional clients. Likewise, choose the language options that best define your potential audience.

Bidding and Budget Options

The Google Grants policy limits you to a maximum $2 bid limit and a $329 daily budget. Unless you are maxing out your grant and becoming sophisticated in your approach, it is best to leave these maximums in place.

Ad Extensions

For AdWords beginners, leave your ad extensions blank for the time being. You can always come back and put these in place once you are more comfortable with your account. After you’ve completed this screen you can ‘Save and Continue’.

Create an Ad Group

Ad Groups are the way you organize similar ads under the campaign umbrella. For example, you could have two ad groups for your ABC Org campaign – one aimed at awareness and one for recruiting volunteers.

In this example we’ll use a general awareness profile and name the ad group ‘ABC Org Awareness’. Please note that naming campaigns and ad groups literally will help you keep the account organized in the future.

Creating Your First Ad

With Google Grants you are limited to text ads, so you will need to promote your organization in a very limited amount of space. To do this, you need to get directly to the point without appearing too pushy or spammy.

You only have 25 characters to use on the first line and 35 characters on the second and third line including spaces. You also need to include your keywords and to incorporate them cleanly into your text.

Here is the text ad format:

Headline: max. 25 characters

Description 1: max. 35 characters

Description 2: max. 35 characters

Display URL: max. 35 characters

Destination URL: max. 1024 characters

When you write your ad you will see examples of how it will appear to the right side of the screen. For tips on writing great ads visit Writing Ads That Attract Customers.

Keyword Selection

Keywords are essential in any online marketing campaign. Keywords are the group of words or phrases that are used when searching for specific topics using Google.

For this example you’ll want to use keywords related to your organization name. This is a limited campaign so your keyword list won’t be long. You will also see a list of suggested keywords, feel free to add any of these that you feel are relevant.

With a large budget available to you, you should experiment to find the keywords that work best for your target audience. If you add too many words and feel like you need to scale back in order to be focused, you can always delete keywords in the future.

Ad Group Bids

Confirm that you’ve selected $2 as the default maximum bid. This can also be adjusted later if you want to focus less of your budget on this ad group.


There are three options available at the bottom of this screen – ‘Save and continue to billing’, ‘Set up billing later’, and ‘Cancel new ad group’. DO NOT select ‘Save and continue to billing’. If you are happy with your ad group select ‘Set up billing later’, if you want to start over you can select ‘Cancel new ad group’.

Google Grants users do not need to set up billing information. Please skip this step going forward. If you make the transition to a paid account by setting up billing information you will not be reimbursed by Google.

Your First Campaign Is Now Complete!
Your ads will now be ready to be shown on Google when people search for ABC Org! You can now add more keywords, ads, and ad groups to this current campaign. Or you can start a new campaign as well. My advice is to take it slow, get comfortable with your account and don’t try and do everything the first day. The AdWords interface is fairly intuitive, but can also be overwhelming if you try and tackle everything in the first day.

Mark Hallman
As a Google Partner, Mark helps organizations plan and manage their online marketing campaigns. This work includes website development, search engine marketing, SEO, social media, and email campaign management. Mark is an active member of Waterloo Region and volunteers with a number of local organizations. Using AdWords, Mark has run campaigns in both local and global settings to reach a diverse audience. His past and current campaigns have included customer attraction, business development, brand awareness, fundraising and online recruitment.
Mark Hallman
Mark Hallman