Big Changes to the Google Grant Program

In late 2017, Google announced significant changes to its Google Grant program. The program has provided eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofits a chance to spend up to $329 per day in Google AdWords. The changes announced by Google will force nonprofits participating in the program to get their AdWords accounts in order, and fast. The changes went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.


Using the Google Grant to its full potential can be extremely difficult for nonprofits. Lack of available resources and sufficient training in AdWords are two primary inhibitors. Another factor that has made it difficult for nonprofits to compete with their grant accounts has been a $2.00 maximum cost per click (CPC) bid. Many keywords in the Google search auction require a significantly higher bid than $2.00 for top positions. To further complicate matters, Google will give preference to paid accounts in the auction over grant accounts. So, what are the changes and how will they impact your business?


Bidding Changes


The changes include lifting the debilitating $2.00 bid restriction. This is great news, right? Yes and no. Yes, from the standpoint that nonprofits will now be able to go after more expensive keywords in the auction. This will allow them to be more competitive, particularly for nonprofits seeking donations. Donations and charity keywords are highly competitive in the auction and carry a hefty price tag for clicks. With the $2.00 bid cap, it’s excruciatingly difficult to acquire quality clicks on these terms. From this perspective, the bid lift is great!


The flip side of this is the alternative option to the manual CPC bid, the Maximize Conversions bid strategy. This means nonprofits will need to have proper conversion tracking installed to use this bid strategy. Having conversion tracking installed is a best practice and every account should have appropriate conversions installed. However, it’s easier said than done. With many nonprofits having a tough enough time spending the available budgets and structuring Google Grant campaigns, installing conversion tracking can be a daunting thought. Additionally, in order to get the most use out of the Maximize Conversions bidding strategy, a conversion must have significant data in order for this to work.

google grant clickthrough rate requirements

Click Through Rate Changes


Another major change Google is making to the grant program is Click Through Rate (CTR) requirements. Historically, grant accounts have had to maintain a 1% CTR. That is, total number of clicks divided by total number of impressions. Google is quintupling this and requiring grant accounts to maintain a minimum of 5% CTRs. Wow. This should serve as a smoke signal for nonprofits to audit their respective accounts and look at their CTRs! If an account fails to meet this 5% CTR for two consecutive months, the account will be cancelled. This is scary stuff for Google Grant accounts that have struggled to produce strong CTRs. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Google has stated accounts can re-apply for the grant program after being cancelled.


Account Hygiene Changes


In addition to the CTR bombshell, Google has laid out other factors that count toward satisfactory account standing. These include having at least two ad groups per campaign with each ad group having no less than two active text ads. Furthermore, accounts must have two active sitelink extensions. These changes will ultimately help nonprofits have better search campaigns, providing the most relevant experiences for searchers. The more relevant the experience for the searcher, the greater benefit to the users, nonprofits, and Google.

google grant for nonprofits

Closing Thoughts


If you’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it’s time to evaluate how useful the grant is for your business. Google AdWords can be extremely beneficial in donor acquisition and lead generation. For example, VJ has been fortunate to partner with the American Indian College Fund, where we’ve taken their Google Grant account and transformed it into a lead generation machine. Through diligent account management, data-driven optimizations and smart keyword research, any Google Grant account can overcome the recent changes to the grant program.



Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.

Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.