How to Use Google for Nonprofits

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | January 2021

How to Use Google for Nonprofits


If you have a nonprofit organization, you should be aware of Google For Nonprofits, a special feature that offers some great benefits. Not all nonprofits are aware of this suite of services as Google doesn't really promote it.

Websites for Nonprofits

However, it can help you reach a wider audience and increase your donations and memberships. There are even ad grants that provide thousands of dollars worth of Google Ads. In this guide, we'll look at why Google For Nonprofits is such a valuable resource along with some tips on how to get the most out of it.


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Google for Nonprofits

Google For Nonprofits consists of several tools and services designed to help nonprofits reach a wider audience. It includes productivity tools and valuable video resources that make it easier to share your message on YouTube. Google For Nonprofits isn't so much a separate feature but a suite of tools to help nonprofits make better use of existing features.

The most direct benefit comes in the form of ad grants, which provide free Google Ads, a benefit whose value hardly needs to be explained. However, there are also several other important features whether you receive an Ad Grant or not. One reason to explore Google For Nonprofits is that it can introduce you to services you may have overlooked, such as G Suite and Google Earth.

Even during the best of times, a nonprofit has the challenge of attracting donors and attention to their cause. After the chaotic year of 2020, the situation is even more difficult. As many people and organizations face economic hardship, the struggle to attract members and donations is ever more competitive. Google For Nonprofits is a set of tools that can help you adapt and even grow during these turbulent times.

How to Get Started

To become eligible for any of Google's nonprofit services, you first have to request a Google For Nonprofits account. There are some eligibility requirements such as the need to be a charitable nonprofit organization. You'll need to be verified by Techsoup. Government agencies, health organizations, and educational institutions are not eligible. Applications for grants are done on a rolling basis so there are no deadlines to worry about.

Google Ad Grants

Google offers advertisers the largest potential audience in the world. The Google Ads platform lets you target your audience with precision and lets you reach people in any niche. For this reason, it's a powerful tool for nonprofits looking to boost membership and donations. The main drawback is that Google Ads are quite expensive. Popular keywords can cost several dollars per click, making it difficult for budget-strained organizations to afford. With Google Ad Grants, you can enjoy the perks of advertising without having to reach into your wallet at all.

How Ad Grants Work

Google Ad Grants provide $10,000 per month, or a daily budget of $329, worth of text ads monthly as well as access to tools and resources to help you get the most out of your ads. There are some conditions and limitations that come with ad grants. If you're already familiar with Google advertising, you'll have to adjust your approach to meet these conditions. For example, bids for keywords are capped at $2. This may prevent you from ranking for extremely competitive keywords and phrases. However, it still leaves you with a sufficient budget to bid on many popular keywords.

As with all Google Ads, your ads are assigned a quality score based on factors such as relevance and past performance. This also means that campaigns deemed low quality may be removed. What are the chances of actually receiving a Google Ad Grant? While Google doesn't reveal the odds, they do give away substantial amounts of grant money. Since 2003, Google has given over $9 billion in free advertising to 115,000 nonprofits. Since there's no cost to apply and the process is fairly simple compared to most grant applications, there's nothing to lose by applying.

What kind of results can you expect? Just as businesses and organizations that advertise with Google (or anyone else) have widely differing results, it's impossible to predict what any given campaign will produce. However, many organizations have seen impressive gains. Habitat For Humanity, for example, raised over $284,000 in-kind donations in a year. And, unlike normal advertising, there is no cost so it's a win-win scenario.

G Suite for Nonprofits

G Suite is used by many businesses and organizations to help with productivity, efficiency, and collaboration. G Suite can be quite valuable for nonprofits and help you make better use of your time. When so many people, including employees and volunteers at nonprofits, are working at home and must communicate remotely, it's more important than ever to have powerful collaborative and productivity tools. G Suite For Nonprofits has the same features as any business can access but at discounted rates. Here's a summary of the plans.

  • G Suite for Nonprofits — The basic set of features is free and allows unlimited users to access the account. You also get 30 GB of cloud storage, professional email addresses, and Google Meet video conferencing for up to 100 people.
  • G Suite Business for Nonprofits — $4/month per user. Includes all basic features and 1 TB of yearly storage, access to Google Vault to search and export data, more security options, and video conferencing for 150 users.
  • G Suite Enterprise for Nonprofits — $8/month per user. Includes all Business features plus email encryption, Google Meet live-streaming, video conferencing for 250 people, and Cloud Identity to manage users, apps, and devices.

Benefits of Using G Suite

You can access many of the features included with G Suite, such as Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google Drive, without signing up for G Suite. However, G Suite provides a convenient umbrella that connects these and other services.

  • Even the free version of G Suite gives you a customized email address, which is more professional than an ordinary Gmail address.
  • Anyone can use Google Drive but with G Suite you get additional storage. When you have many people and multiple departments who need to stay in touch and coordinate schedules and tasks. 
  • G Suite is a great tool for organizing, assigning, and collaborating. It's also a good way to onboard new employees and volunteers. Navigators USA uses Google Sheets, a spreadsheets program that's part of G Suite to coordinate members and projects nationally.

YouTube Nonprofit Program

As YouTube is owned by Google, you get access to some powerful video marketing features with Google for Nonprofits. If you're not using videos to share your messages, you should consider doing so. Videos are one of the best ways to engage your audience emotionally as well as intellectually. Creating videos for nonprofit marketing isn't difficult with today's technology. If you can get additional assistance from Google, so much the better.

What's Included in the Program

YouTube Nonprofit Program features include:

  • Creator Academy lessons aimed at the needs of nonprofits.
  • YouTube Giving features make it easy to fundraise with your videos. Among other things, you can add a donation button directly in your videos. To be eligible for this program, you need a YouTube channel with at least 10,000 subscribers.
  • Linked Anywhere Cards. These are interactive cards that make your videos more interactive. Cards are available to all YouTube channels. However, when you're part of the YouTube Nonprofits Program, you get access to additional features that let you link to unlimited external pages. Thus, you can link to your website, a landing page for an event, your Facebook Page, or anywhere you want.
  • Access to the YouTube Space program. The original plan for this project was to offer video makers actual studio spaces and live workshops. As live events were mostly discontinued in 2020, most of the features are now virtual. Either way, the program provides a variety of resources, including the opportunity to network with other creators, channels, and organizations in your area.

The YouTube Nonprofits Program helps raise awareness of the many ways nonprofits can leverage video marketing. Whether you're a beginner with videos or have experience in this field, it's worth checking out these tools.

Google Earth and Google Maps

Google Earth and Google Maps are additional widely used features that Google has tailored for nonprofits. Millions of people use Google Maps to navigate their daily trips. What not everyone realizes is that Google Maps and Google Earth provide advanced mapping and geo-location features such as customized maps, and local context (providing relevant information about places depicted on maps). Nonprofit organizations are involved in projects all over the world. It can be extremely powerful to show website visitors, members, and potential donors up-close views of locations where you're active.

Basic Map features are free. However, the Google Maps Platform provides $200 in credits and charges for additional usage. Google for Nonprofits provides free credits so you and your supporters can use these advanced features. Many organizations are getting great results with Google's Maps and Earth. For example, the Jane Goodall Institute works with animals and environmental issues in various locations such as Africa. They've effectively used Google Earth to showcase specific locations to bring their work closer to home for viewers.

  • Take visitors on a virtual tour of your headquarters or places where you're active. Under current conditions, even your local supporters may not be able to visit these places in person. Google provides instant and high-quality images of places in your neighborhood or on the other side of the world.
  • Create custom maps. My Maps lets you create maps of any location, large or small, that displays locations and data important to your activities.
  • Use donor maps to highlight where your supporters live. A donor map illustrates where your supporters, volunteers, and donors are located.
  • Use Google Maps to find relief and solve problems. For example, FoodFinder uses Google Maps to help food-challenged households find assistance.

Visual data is powerful for motivating people to provide more support. In addition to explaining your activities, a map instantly takes people to the spot. As we move into 2021, travel and live visits to locations are still restricted in many areas. This makes Google Earth and Maps especially valuable for organizations. This is a powerful tool to help you engage with supporters.

Get the Most out of Google for Nonprofits

Google for Nonprofits provides many helpful resources to help your organization grow, engage with your members, and increase donations. Here are some guidelines to help you get the most out of it.

Optimize Your Website

Most of your marketing and fundraising activities involve sending visitors to your website. When you send traffic from Google Ads to a landing page on your site, you have to make sure it's appealing, relevant, and user-friendly. Upgrading your website will help all of your other actions. For example:

  • Fast-loading pages.
  • Responsive and mobile-friendly.
  • Easy navigation.
  • Clear calls-to-action.
  • Compelling images.

Manage Your Google Ads Strategy

If you're fortunate enough to receive a Google Ad Grant, don't get complacent and assume everything will automatically fall into place. You still need to manage your campaigns.

  • Don't limit yourself. As valuable as these grants are, they limit you to text ads. You may want to supplement your text ads with other types of ads, such as image, video, and call-only ads (which entice visitors to call you rather than click on a link).
  • Pay attention to quality and relevance. Google is notorious for suspending accounts, and they can do this with Ad Grant accounts as well. Make sure to keep your keywords relevant to your landing pages. This relates to the above point about optimizing your website. If you do run into problems such as a suspension, you can always contact Google and request a reactivation.
  • Test your results with Google Analytics and other tools. This will help you improve your results, and achieve a higher Quality Score for your ads. Google mandates conversion tracking for Ad Grants.

Integrate Google for Nonprofits into Your Marketing Strategy

Google's resources for nonprofits aren't a replacement for your other marketing and fundraising strategies but an enhancement. You can use these tools to get more out of the platforms and techniques you already use. In some instances, they can introduce you to new areas such as Google Ads or YouTube if you're not yet using these. Either way, it's up to you to identify the optimal strategies for connecting with your audience and use Google's tools to enhance these actions.

There is no downside to using Google for Nonprofits. You have a chance to earn valuable ad credits. Even without this grant, you'll gain access to a variety of educational, productivity, and marketing resources. As a nonprofit in the post 2020 world, you need to seize every opportunity to raise visibility for your nonprofit. Google for Nonprofits can be a valuable resource for helping you adapt and thrive in the coming years.

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Topics: Nonprofit Help