Search Ads vs. Google Grants for Fundraising

by George Konetes | May 10, 2024 | Digital, Fundraising

Many nonprofits utilize Google Grants for search ads. This enables them to spend up to $10,000 a month in free Google Search advertising funds. Many assume this “free” money takes the place of running paid Google search ads, but that is not the case. The fundraising power of paid search ads is significantly greater than the free search ads obtained through a Google Grant.

While Google Grants seem like a great option for organizations, and they often are, they come with a series of limitations. Grant-based campaigns have keyword bidding and ranking limitations. There is a limit to how high you can bid and what terms you can reasonably rank for. If a term is not well represented on the target landing page with strong organic ranking signals, you may not be able to win auctions for it using your free grant funds.

Thus, campaigns run with Google Grants often only obtain users who were already looking for your organization on the content on one of your pages. They likely would have found their way to you anyway. Brand new traffic you receive is also going to be of lower quality because higher value traffic will be outside of your bid limit much of the time.

Using paid Google Search ads enables you to bid higher and for keywords that are outside of the reach of Grants. So, you can find the highest-quality users who are most likely to have the resources and intention to give. You can also expand your ads beyond your organization’s name and most central website content to touch all areas of your mission and activities. You can run ads into parallel and related searches as well to find users interested in what you do.

All of this, combined with a little wordsmithing and strategy, can result in very effective new donor acquisition campaigns through search ads.

Using exclusion lists, you can limit the impact of ads reaching existing donors if desired, though doing so may not always be needed. If a donor is looking for information or organizations in your niche and your ad brings them back home to give again, you may have reactivated an older donor or re-engaged a wandering donor. Both are valuable actions.

I would not recommend discontinuing grant campaigns—work to maximize the value of that resource. But I would also explore the possibilities of using paid search ads to find new donors and re-engage existing ones.

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George Konetes

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