How to Apply for the Google Ad Grant in 5 Easy Steps

Most grant applications for your nonprofit are long, complicated, and stress-inducing for your entire development team. Not the Google Ad Grant: Google’s grant for qualifying nonprofits give $10,000 in free in-kind advertising on Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords). Per month. Free advertising can be a fantastic source of extra traffic to your website, helping to meet users on their level by answering their questions, all while furthering your organization’s impact. And, unlike most grants, Google grants also have a very simple application process. Here’s how to apply for the Google Ad Grant — in 5 easy steps.

1. Meet the Google Ad Grant eligibility requirements

You must be a nonprofit and hold current valid charity status in your country. In the US, that means that you need to have 501(c)(3) status. Not in the US? Check your country’s definition for charity status.

There are, however, some exceptions. You don’t qualify for the Google Ad Grant if you are a:

  • Hospital or healthcare organization (nonprofits working in the healthcare space, such as lung cancer research or aphasia awareness, still qualify)
  • Government entity or organization
  • School, academic institution, or university (check out Google for Education for its schools program). Philanthropic arms of educational institutions are eligible.

You also must acknowledge and agree to Google’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use — and have a live website with what Google calls “substantial” content.

2. Register your nonprofit with TechSoup and get a validation token

Eligible? Awesome. Next step is to register and validate your organization with TechSoup and acquire your validation token. TechSoup is a nonprofit 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. Enroll in Google for Nonprofits

Got your validation token? The next step is to sign up for Google for Nonprofits. You’ll need to have this set up before you can apply for the Ad Grant. Being a Google Nonprofit also gets you other Google perks, including:

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

To enroll in Google for Nonprofits, you’ll need your tax-id number (or employer ID, EIN) and your TechSoup validation token. From there:

  1. Go to the Google for Nonprofits registration site
    how to apply for the google ad grant validation token

    Enter your TechSoup validation token to apply for the Google Ad Grant

  2. Agree to Google’s statements about non-discrimination
  3. Insert your 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 Google Ad Grant account.
  5. Submit and wait for an answer! Google should approve your application within a few days and will 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 need to lose sleep over.

Easy, right? That’s the full Google Nonprofit Program application. But there’s a bit more to do to apply for the Google Ad Grant. Which brings us to…

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

4. Apply for the Google Ad Grant

Once you’re accepted as a Google Nonprofit, you can apply for Google Ad Grants. It’s not really an application, more of a 3-step process that works a little backwards:

Log in and create your Google Ads account.

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 Google for Nonprofits application, if for nothing else your own 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 a Grant account, and you’ll have to start the whole process over again.

Create your first campaign

Yes, a little scary, but just create something super basic as a starting point, like a branded campaign using your organization’s name as the main keyword vertical. Pages 10-14 of Google’s guide has a nice step-by-step walkthrough if you’re a beginner to Google Ads.

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 spending up to to $329 per day in free Google Ads 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 Ad Grant: Setting up payment info. Don't do it. Click To Tweet

5. Set up your Google Ads account correctly

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

Make sure you’re complying with all of the Ad Grant requirements, including:

  • Logging in and making some change to the account at least once every 2 months (hopefully more!)
  • Have at least one goal set up in Google Analytics so you can measure the impact of Google Ads traffic to your site. Start with this how to set up Google Analytics goals guide.
  • Only send traffic to your website — the domain you applied with
  • Maintain an account-wide 5% clickthrough rate and a keyword quality score of 2 or higher
  • Complete Google’s surveys about the impact of the program (usually at the end of the year)

Here’s the full guide to Google Ad Grant policy updates.

From there, your next challenge is 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.

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.