The Google Ad Grant for Churches - Your No-Nonsense Guide

by Chad Hugghins | Nov 13, 2017

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You’ve heard of Google, right?

 
That little search engine company?
 
According to Fortune Magazine’s 2017 rankings, they are the world’s 2nd most valuable brand, coming in at a cool 101.8 billion dollars.  
 
If you’ve ever clicked on an Ad on Youtube or Google, or on a Display Network ad on a website, you’ve contributed to their advertising revenues in some way.  Revenues that came in to the tune of $79.4 billion in 2016 (source). 
 
Google has become synonyous with information. The google search bar is firmly planted in our culture as a ubiquitous part of how we ask questions and pursue knowledge. Our interaction with Google has come so far that some scientists even believe it is changing the way our brains are wired
 
Check out these crazy statistics on Google Search.
  • There are over 4.4 BILLION google searches made each day (source)
  • There are over 60k searches made each second (visualize that here)
  • Google has indexed over 130 TRILLION pages (source)
So to sum it all up; Google is humongous, pretty much everyone uses Google, they use it a lot, and it makes Google a ton of money.
 
So, shouldn't a gigantic tech company like Google do something to help out the little guys?  The organizations trying to do some good in the world?
 

The should, and they do.
 
Since 2003 Google has been offering free advertising to non-profit organizations through the Google Ad Grant.
 

The Google Ad Grant - The Basics

 
In this article I want to provide you with a detailed look at the Google Adwords Grant opportunity, and how your church can use it if you choose to take advantage of it.
 
We'll start very broad, and then address some frequently asked questions we get, finally we'll provide you with a gameplan for how your church can leverage this opportunity.
 
So, what is the Google Ad Grant?
 
The Google Ad Grant is a part of the Google for Non-Profits program.  Google makes Google for Non-Profits available to any registered 501c(3) in America (and similar charitable designations in various countries).  
 
google for non profits
 
Once approved and accessed, the Ad Grant provides your organization with up to $10k/mo in in-kind Google Search Network advertising.  There are various restrictions or limitations to how Google allows you to use that money on their advertising platform, and the money is a use-it-or-lose-it, in-kind designation (there is no actual money that changes hands), but it definitely gives you the ability to do some free advertising.
 
Where do ads from the Google Ad Grant appear?
 
Believe it or not, when Sergey Brin and Larry Page originally created Google at Stanford University, they were actually hesitant to monetize it with ads. 
 
"It could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want", they wrote in their 1998 paper.
 
Fast forward to today and the space underneath your seach bar is chock-full of advertisements.  The number of advertising products has increased through the years, but it all started with those now-familiar text ads on google.com in the year 2000.
 
It's fitting then that the ads that you can make through the Google Ad Grant appear only on google search result pages.  You do not get to utilize the grant money for any other placement on the Google Advertising platform.  
 
That's right.  Through the Ad Grant you are relegated to the original google advertising placement.
 
In the internet marketing world, text ads on the google search results page is a pretty old school ad placement.  But don't fret.  Like we already mentioned, google search is still a dominant force online, and at CV Outreach we can attest from experience that real people are actively engaging with google search in meaningful ways every day.
 
What are the restrictions of the Google Ad Grant?
 
Besides being relegated to the google search results ad placement there are a few other restrictions on the Ad Grant. 
 
They are:
  • A $2 max CPC
  • Text Ads Only
  • Grant Ads appear below paid ads
  • You must own your own domain

Let's take a look at each of these.

First, your maximum cost-per-click bid is capped at $2.  That means the keywords that you are bidding on in order to show your ads can’t cost more than $2.
 
Is that a big deal?
 
For some industries it would be a huge deal.  Keywords that have to do with things like insurance, lawyers, or e-commerce, can easily cost $20 - $40 a piece.  However, most non-profits are probably not going to be bidding on the industry-minded keywords that tend to be more expensive.  In our experience, with a little creativity, churches can comfortably find many applicable keywords that are under $2.
 
A second restriction is that you can only run text ads.  You cannot use image ads or video ads.  
 
The latest text ad format looks like this.
 
expanded text ads
 
Another restriction is that your ads will appear below the ads of paying advertisers.  This is important when you are deciding on which keywords to bid on.  Some keywords, even church keywords, can be fairly competitive.  If there are other churches that are using a normal, paid Adwords account to bid on those keywords, their ad will appear above yours.
 
Finally, your ads can only run to one domain, and you must own that domain. There is an application for adding a second domain to your Ad Grant, but it's subject to a manual review.
 
How Long Does the Grant Last?
 
Google Grants was first launched in 2003.  As the search network was growing, the company believed that non-profits should be able to use their advertising platform in the same way that for-profit companies were using it.  Believe it or not, initially, google staff themselves ran and managed all of the non-profit campaigns. 
 
Over time the goal grew to include a desire to open up the free advertising opportunity to as many non-profits as possible.  So, today, for organizations that gain access to the Ad Grant, as long as you are compliant with the terms and conditions of the Adwords platform, you can use the Ad Grant indefinitely.
 

Applying to the Ad Grant 

 
To get access to the Ad Grant, you must join Google for Non-Profits, and to do that you have to verify that you are a registered 501c(3).
 
Google has effectively outsourced the verification of 501c(3) status to another organization called TechSoup.  So, the first step to join Google for Non-Profits is actually to join Tech Soup
 
Once you get through the verification steps on Tech Soup, you will be given a verification code.  They look something like this 123a4567@1b234c5de6789000.
 
With that code you can start the application process for Google for Non-Profits.
 
Once you are inside Google for Non-Profits you’ll see the other unique products that are available to you through the program.  Some, particularly the G Suite for Nonprofits enrollment, might be of interest to you in addition to the Google Ad Grant.
 
google for non profits
 
As a part of the application for the Ad Grant, you’ll be required to set up an Adwords campaign based on the restrictions we talked about. Note that recently Google has been pushing users towards using Adwords Express during the sign up process. We highly recommend clicking on the link to use Adwords instead.
 
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Church Adwords Grant Strategy

Now that you have access to the Adwords Grant, you may be thinking, "Great!  We're going to be spending $10k a month in free advertising, and everyone in town is going to know about us!"

I hate to break it to you, but it's not that simple.

A Dose of Reality

We run millions of dollars a month in Ad Grant ads for church partners from around the world, and we've noticed a few things common misconceptions about what churches think they will get out of the Ad Grant.

Here are a few misconceptions churche often have:

  • That they will get $10k/mo in local traffic
  • That they Ad Grant will magiccally make their online presence relevant
  • That the Ad Grant will be a quick solution for getting people into their weekend service

Let me touch on each of these.

First, spending the full $10k each month can be challenging in general.  Google has been raising the bar lately on the quality that they expect from Ad Grant campaigns, and many churches struggle to have enough unique content on their website to use for landing pages from their ads.

On top of that, finding keywords with enough local search traffic can be challening simply due to a lack of population density for many churches.  Keyword traffic is almost directly correlated to population density.  For example, even in a city the size of Dallas, "best church in Dallas" is only googled 70 times a month. (we actually recommend a completely different keyword strategy than that type of keyword, but that's a topic for another blog).

The Ad Grant can definitely lead to a large increase in website traffic.  But traffic does not equal effectiveness.  We advise churches to not focus on proxy metrics like website visitors.  Instead, we recommend Key Performance Indicators that show truer signs of engagement and ministry effectiveness.  So, if your church thinks that the just getting an increase in traffic from the Ad Grant will all of a sudden make your online ministry relevant and effective, chances are you'll be sorely disappointed.  

Finally, if your church thinks that the Ad Grant will all of sudden bring a surge in people to your weekend service, there is a high chance that you will be underwhelmed.  Why? Well, for the two reasons listed above.  Plus, promoting a weekend service, is a much more involved strategy than just a lot of free ad spend bringing random people to your website.

What is the Ad Grant Good For?

After working with hundreds of churches of all sizes on their Ad Grant account strategies, we think that we have found a valuable use for the Ad Grants that are available to all 501c(3) churches.

Simply put, the Ad Grant is a good tool for connecting to the people in our world that have questions, need help, or just want someone to talk to.  Through the Ad Grant campaigns we have been blown away by how much trust people put in google to help them find the answers to their questions; questions that oftentimes are deeply personal, existential, or involving grave felt needs.

We have seen an inordinate amount of people laying bare their marriage struggles to pastors and churches that they have never met.  We have seen people reach out in times of crisis or confusion, because our partner churches are simply willing to engage with them.  We have seen people with authentic questions about the Bible or Christian beliefs reaching out for insight from our pastors.

The call to action from our partner churches is simple. It is the willingness to be available to answer questions and engage with people in their search.

What the Next Step?

If your church is a 501c(3), and is interested in leveraging this unique opportunity, we are glad to partner with you to reach the people who need to be reached on behalf of your church.

The partnership is simple.  Through CV Outreach, at no cost to your church, we take care of all of the technical details, we run the campaigns, we leverage some unique technical solutions that we have developed specifically for this initiative, and your church gets to respond to the people that come to your website.

Whether or not your church chooses to partner with us for the Ad Grant opportunity, know that we are here for you.  If you have questions about the Grant, about Adwords, or about how online advertising can lead to genuine connections for your church, feel free to reach out at any time.



If you are interested in learning more about the CV Outreach Ad Grants Partnership, click below to sign up to talk with one of our Community Team members.  We look forward to partnering together to reach people with the Gospel.

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