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Google Ads for Nonprofits

Kyle: Hello, and welcome to the Google Ads Strategy Show. I’m your host, Kyle Sulerud, and today, I’m going to be talking with Tim Tompkins. We’re going to talk about a subject I literally know nothing about, which is Google Ads for nonprofits, Google Grants. Tim is a senior digital strategist at a company called Cause Inspired Media and that is mainly what they do. Or perhaps, only what they do? I’ll let him get into that.

Tim deals with Google Ads for nonprofits. So Tim, welcome to the show.

Tim:  Hey, Kyle! Thanks for having me on. I was listening to a bunch of episodes earlier. Sounded great. 

Kyle:  Great, thank you. So if you could maybe add to that introduction, tell us a little more about who you are and what you do.

Tim: Sure. I’m a senior digital strategist at Cause Inspired Media ( We are Google Ad Grants certified professionals. To your point, Kyle: for the most part, we are handling mainly Google Ads, Google Ad Grants for nonprofits, but also Display, Facebook, Instagram, Remarketing, web development, but specifically for nonprofit agencies. I think we have around 350 total. Everything from animal sanctuaries, veteran organizations, national parks, global welfare organizations, museums, not-for-profit educational institutions, medical fundraising missions, faith-based organizations, the entire spectrum of nonprofit from your one-person 30K a year budget up to nonprofits with regional offices all over the world.

Kyle:  Great! Now how did you get into that? 

Tim:  Well, probably the same way a lot of people do. Just having an affinity for digital advertising. I have been advertising digitally (not necessarily on Google) basically my entire adult life. It was actually MySpace, and Facebook, and social media networks that launched a previous career of mine.

Working with that, and then managing a number of other organizations’ social media accounts after that, and then getting into Google Ads. Trying to initially get into Google Ads to help small businesses out, then learning about the Google Ad Grant, which is an incredible thing that Google offers nonprofits. That’s up to $10,000 a month, an in-kind donation in Google Ads (search specifically) spend. Finding a way to get in there and be able to help non-profits fulfill their mission.

Kyle: So, do pretty much all of your clients take advantage of the Google Grants Program?

Tim:  Yeah, every single one of our clients has. We walk them through the application process. They have the Google Ads Grant, and then we manage that grant specifically.

Kyle:  And then is that pretty much all they spend? Or do some of them have budgets above and beyond that?

Tim:  The majority of the clients solely have ad grants, which is for Search. I do have a number of clients also that do have supplemental Display accounts and Remarketing accounts. There are instances in which the clients want to be a bit more competitive, or perhaps not have to worry about the restrictions that come with Google Ad Grants, and they will have a supplemental Search account on top of it. But basically, every single one of our clients has the ad grant.

Kyle:  And then they pay your agency on top of that? How does your agency get paid?

Tim:  Correct. So the ad grants, it’s free, if you will. It’s an in-kind donation from Google. And they pay us to manage that. And we have an essentials package, as well as an optimization package. But it starts at around $199 a month, I believe. If I’m wrong, my bosses will let me know about that, but reasonably inexpensive for the level of management that you’re getting with our services.

Kyle:  Sure. So talk a little bit about the requirements of the Google Ad Grant. I know that you have to meet certain performance criteria, right? And there’s certain ways you can or can’t spend the money with the Google Grant budget. Take us through that a little bit.

Tim:  Sure. So there’s a number of restrictions and a lot of the reason why nonprofits need help managing the grant is because of the stipulations that Google puts on (and they put it on for good reason.) It used to be in the old days of the grant that you could target your ads in India. And you could go to your supervisor and say, “look, we got 4,000 people over to our website this month,” and really take advantage that. That wasn’t useful for the nonprofits, it wasn’t helpful for the people searching. So Google put an end to that, among other things. You have to maintain a 5% CTR, which is incredibly difficult for certain people to do. Your keywords have to be mission-based. You have to be using conversion-based bidding strategies in at least one of your campaigns…

Kyle:  For example, a mission-based keyword, what would that look like versus another type of keyword?

Tim:  Sure. So let’s say that your nonprofit is an animal society and you are adopting out dogs. The mission-based keyword might be something along the lines of “adopt dog Charleston”, right? A non-mission based keyword might be “watch movie”, or you’ll have something like “stories of…” if it’s going to a blog site, that’s not a mission-based keyword. You have to have conversion tracking set up. And that’s a really big stipulation of that as well. 

So there’s a number of different restrictions. And then, of course, those get added to over time as Google learns a bit more as well. There’s certain certification requirements for political ads and debt settlement type organizations and those types of things also.

Kyle:  So it’s interesting that conversion tracking has to be set up. Because when I think of a nonprofit, I think of a business that’s probably the least likely to track conversions or have anything to track in the first place.

Tim:  Well, that’s part of the Google Ad Grants is really redefining what you count as a conversion. Because with a tier point, I think a traditional conversion for, let’s say “plumber near me” might be that phone call, click, or form submission to get the lead, right? But conversion tracking for a nonprofit might be something like outbound to donate click, it could be a newsletter signup, it could be somebody that clicks to email, it could be somebody that goes outbound to a volunteer form fill, it could be somebody that downloaded a PDF which was a list of in-kind donations that your nonprofit gets. So it’s all about redefining what you count as a conversion. And some of those things for a traditional business, you might not qualify, you might not want to track when someone plays a video. But that might be important, depending on what’s on that video for your nonprofit. Is it a video that is getting out your message about your mission?

Kyle:  Got it. So then those things become the main focus for the campaign, the main things that you are reporting to the client as far as their results? What kind of results are the nonprofits interested in seeing?

Tim:  Well, I mean, that really depends. A lot of nonprofits are using the Google Ad Grants for a number of different things. But it’s really all about presenting value to the client, as well as presenting value to Google. So those things have to mix. 

The large majority of nonprofits are going to come into and they’re going to say the only thing that we really care about is increasing donations. 

And I hate to break it to you. But there’s not a lot of people on the internet that are searching, “where can I donate my money?”

People generally are donating their money to organizations that they already know about, that they’ve already interacted with, that they believe in their mission, and they are engaging with that organization in some fashion.

So the Google Ad Grants is really great for a number of different things. For example, growing that email newsletter list and working with clients on a content strategy that helps grow that newsletter list. Growing volunteer opportunities, volunteer applications, internship applications. A lot of volunteers turn into donors, helping a nonprofit. Build an in-kind donation list because those do incredibly well. And finding other sources of revenue generation other than just solely donations, but making sure that you increase the awareness for the nonprofit so that when the charitable season is in full swing (which, by the way, you do have GivingTuesday which is happening on May 5, now due to COVID-19. That’s being bumped up), that organization is top of mind. 

The vast amount of donations that people make happen from them searching their inbox for organizations and nonprofits that they’ve already interacted with and already know and believe about their mission. So part of it is growing that, and helping show that value.

Kyle: Does your agency do anything outside of managing the Google Ad accounts? Are you helping them with these email campaigns or anything like that?

Tim:  We do to an extent, yes. Part of a strategist’s role is to really help the client build to improve their site, their call to actions, their SEO. Because as you know, a lot of the same algorithms that work with SEO are the same ones that really help Google Ads campaign perform at peak value. But also coming up with a content strategy that can really work.

To give you an example, let’s say you had an organization that really wanted to book online LSAT prep courses. It’s coming up with a content strategy. What are the types of content that you can write that people that would be interested in those online LSAT courses? Because there’s only so many different keyword groups available for that we’d be interested in. Could you come up with a piece of content about how to overcome test anxiety, studying tips, what to bring on test day, how to prepare for college admissions, how to prioritize college admission applications. Coming up with a content strategy based around that, that would help funnel some of that traffic that would be interested in their mission over to their organization. 

Kyle: Confirm this or tell me I’m wrong. Most of these clients are not able to spend the full $10,000 a month?

Tim:  The majority of clients that come to us initially have a very hard time getting anywhere close to the $10,000 a month cap. A lot of this has to do with the geo-targeting, which is something that I failed to mention earlier. Google has restricted that if you’re an organization that serves one very small area, they don’t want you targeting nationally unless you have a really good reason to. 

But there are ways to really help grow the use of the grant through some of the things we’ve been talking about. A good content strategy, switching to conversion-based bidding strategies, it’ll allow you to get over that $2 per click limit that they otherwise put on the manual CPC bids with an ad grant, to really maximize the amount of value. I have clients that serve a 30 to 50-mile radius that we’re able to spend the full $10,000 a month on.

Kyle: Wow. It sounds like you guys are really valuable. You’re really providing a huge value if you’re able to actually spend $10,000 for what, like a local animal shelter or something like that?

Tim:  Yeah, but I mean, I wouldn’t say it’s just about “spend”. It’s not about getting irrelevant traffic or just getting the spend up. Because at the end of the day, you can have an organization that you’re like “Look, we’re spending $10,000 over ad grant, but what is that getting us?” And it’s being able to deliver on some of the things that we talked about earlier, increasing engagement, increasing the donor list, increasing donations, and increasing volunteers. They have a gala and event coming up, can you help market that? Five K’s are really big with nonprofits. The Google Ad Grant can certainly help with some of those types of things.

Kyle:  How do you find most of your clients? Are they coming to you? Or do you seek them out, tell them about this grant and bring them on board that way?

Tim:  Coming on really awesome podcasts such as yours, usually. Now there’s a lot of different ways. There’s a Google Certified Professionals community where nonprofits can go and look. Of course, we have a full business development team that does their thing. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not on the business development side of it, just the managing of accounts. We get a lot of referrals from existing clients as well.

Kyle:  Okay. Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about that you think I should have? Anything else you want to talk about? 

Tim:  One thing is if I could give nonprofits a piece of advice, we’re really trying to maximize their Google Ad Grant account. It’s that we spoke about it a little bit earlier. People are not going to search online: “Where can I donate my money?”

So what are the other ways that we can engage and grow our brand as our nonprofit and really get the most out of it? And we’ve talked a lot about this. Part of that is having a content strategy or the types of content that you can release that people would read on your site and then become interested with your organization. 

And not just that. What are the calls to action? Do you have proper site linking set up on your site? Are you engaging people? Are you using a well thought out pop up service such as Opt-in Monster to really grab those emails before people leave? 

Have multiple ways to get, again talking about donations but have a page that says: “Here’s 5 Ways That You Can Help our Organization”, in-kind donations, having an Amazon wishlist, really targeting Facebook fundraisers. 

What I mean by that is, so you’re using the Google Ad Grant to grow that email newsletter list. Well, what are you doing with it? Do you have birthdays in there? Are you putting at the bottom of your newsletter: “Hey, you have a birthday coming up this month, consider making us your Facebook fundraiser”. Monthly Venmo Clubs, growing that volunteer base, allowing people to donate vehicles, where people can just pray for your organization. There’s a lot of different ways that people can interact with your organization, so list that out and give people options. And this is something that I’ve really been drilling in here a lot, but using the Google Ad Grant to effectively increase that email newsletter list, and then use that over the course of the year to drive conversions in other ways

Kyle: Great advice. I’m certainly not going to be jumping into this market anytime soon. So I’m glad there are people like you.

Tim:  It’s fun! It’s fun! I’ve definitely had my fair share of traditional paid accounts, “a plumber near me”, and they require completely different strategies. And they’re both a lot of fun and in different ways. And you’re absolutely an expert in your field and there’s no reason not to dabble in Google Ad Grants. And at the end of the day, you’re helping out, you’re doing good for an organization that is also doing social good, so there’s a huge reward in it for yourself as well.

Kyle:  Yeah, well, I can clearly see you’re the specialist, and it would take me a while to get up to speed with nonprofit campaigns, so we’ll leave that to people like you. Again, Tim Tompkins, thanks for coming on. The company is Cause Inspired Media. Anywhere else people should go if they want to get in touch with you, Tim?

Tim: is the perfect way to do it.

Kyle:  All right, great. Thanks again, Tim. And to everyone listening, thank you. This has been the Google Ads Strategy Show. Again, my name is Kyle Sulerud and I will talk to you later.