How to apply for the Google AdWords Grant in 5 steps

Most grant applications for your nonprofit are long, complicated, and stress-inducing for your entire development team. Are you sick of working on logframes? Tired of staying up all night rewriting organizational narratives until the grant deadline? Don’t fret! Google has a grant that gives $10,000/month in free Adwords spending for nonprofits that qualify, and unlike most grants it has a really simple application process. Free advertising can be a fantastic source of extra traffic to your website and help increase your organization’s impact, and we’d love to see every single eligible nonprofit apply – so here’s your step-by-step guide through the process.


1. Find out if you are eligible

You must be a nonprofit and hold current valid charity status in your country. In the U.S., that means that you have 501(c)(3) status.

There are, however, some exceptions. You cannot apply if you are a hospital or a medical group, you cannot be a government agency, nor can your organization be a school, child care center, or academic institution. Double-check your eligibility here – if this is a fit, you’re ready to apply!

If you don’t see your country listed, stay tuned. Google is expanding constantly to more countries throughout the world, so if your nonprofit is based in a country without the program, keep checking back.

2. Register your nonprofit with TechSoup and acquire a Validation Token

Awesome, you are eligible? Next step is to register and validate your organization with TechSoup and acquire your Validation Token. TechSoup is a company that partners with corporations, like Google, to help bring technology tools and other resources to nonprofits at a discounted rate. To get started:

  1. Go to the TechSoup registration page
  2. Choose the country your organization is based in and your preferred language
  3. Click New Member, register, and agree to the terms (click to enlarge). In some cases, it may take up to 30 days to be validated and TechSoup may contact you to request additional information or documentation.TechSoup Registration Form
  4. Once your organization has been validated, log in and you will be presented with a TechSoup Validation Token that looks something like this: [email protected] Copy this code and include it in your Google Nonprofits

3. Register for the Google NonProfit Program

Got your validation token? Next step is to sign up for the Google Nonprofit program. You’ll need to have this set up before you can apply for the Grant. Being a Google Nonprofit also gets you other Google perks, like

  • Special features on Youtube, like a donate button and video annotations that link to your site
  • Free Google apps, like Gmail and Google Docs under your domain
  • Listing on One Today, Google’s mobile fundraising app

For this, you will need your tax-id number (or employer ID, EIN). Make sure to have it handy!

  1. Go to the Google Nonprofit site
  2. Agree to statements about non-discrimination (click to enlarge)
  3. Insert your validation token (click to enlarge)validation token
  4. Fill out your personal contact and organization info and agree to be contacted by Google. Make sure you’re signed in with an email address that you check often (especially if you’re using a shared company email address), since this is where Google will send important announcements about your account. (click to enlarge)
    contact form
  5. Wait for an answer! Google should approve your application within a day or two – they’ll send you an email when they do. We’ve seen 95% success with nonprofits we’ve worked with – so unlike other nonprofit grants, this isn’t one you should lose sleep over.


Seriously – we’re not kidding – that is the full Google Nonprofit Program application. But there’s a bit more to do before you can start running AdWords ads for free…

Make sure to sign up for the Google Nonprofit Program before you apply for the Adwords Grant! Click To Tweet

4. Apply for the Google AdWords Grant Program

Once you are accepted as a Google Nonprofit, you can apply for the Ad Grants program. It’s not really an application, more of a three-step process that works a little backwards:

  1. Log in and create your Adwords account. Yep, you can do this as soon as you’re approved for the Google for Nonprofits program. A few tips:
    • Use this link. It skips the billing process, IT IS CRITICAL that you skip the billing process, this is the #1 mistake people make in applying. Make sure you use the same email address you used for the Nonprofit application – this helps with you sanity.
    • Choose USD as your currency (even if you use something else).
    • Never enter any credit card info – even if it asks for it. If you do, you’ll be setting up a standard paid account – not grant account – and you’ll have to start the whole process over again. Sad face.
  2. Create your first campaign. Yes, a little scary, but just create something super basic as a starting point. Pages 10-14 of Google’s guide has a nice step-by-step guide if you’re a beginner to Adwords.
  3. Wait for Google to approve your account. Google will get back to you within 30 days, but from our experience, it’s usually quicker. So keep an eye on your inbox.


Once Google gives you the go-ahead, you can start racking up up to $329 per day in free Adwords spending. The application is done, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention an important last step…

The #1 mistake in applying for the Google Adwords Grant: setting up payment info. Don't do it Click To Tweet

5. Set up the AdWords account correctly

Check out our Ultimate Guide to learn more about how Adwords works and how to go about setting up your account from scratch.

Make sure you’re complying with all of the grant requirements, like

  • Logging in and making some change to the account at least once every two months (hopefully more!)
  • Have at least one goal set up in Google Analytics so you can measure the impact of Adwords traffic to your site. Start with this how to set up Google Analytics goals guide.
  • Only send traffic to YOUR website (at the domain you applied with)
  • Complete Google’s surveys about the impact of the program (usually at the end of the year)


Your next steps are to:

  • Spend the full grant every month. That ten grand is use-it-or-lose it, so aim to max it out every month to get as much web traffic as possible.
  • Optimize the grant – keep working on it over time to improve the account and get even better bang for your (free) buck.

Then, take a peek at our articles on how to avoid the 5 worst mistakes in managing the grant.


But wait, there’s more

Whole Whale University Cover imageIf you’re an Adwords newbie and would like to dive deeper about how to set up an account from scratch, how to write awesome ads, where to find keywords, and how to measure success within your account, enroll in our three-hour Whole Whale University course. You’ll learn how to make the absolute best use of this grant, which will mean thousands more users taking meaningful action on your site this year. We’ve managed over $4 million in Google Grants and we want to help you get free money too!
Nonprofit grants can be so hit-or-miss and stressful to obtain – but hopefully the Google Grant is a painless application process that will have some real and tangible impact for your organization.