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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

Managing A Google Ads Grant: Our 3 Year Journey

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

This post was written by the Nonprofit Learning Lab. Want to write a guest blog? Learn more here.

Managing a google ads grant for a nonprofit can feel like playing darts with your eyes closed. This fall in a series of blog posts, we will be sharing our own successes and failures from managing our #google ads grant for the past four years. Posts will focus on topics ranging from hiring a consultant, managing keywords, writing great copy, smart campaigns versus search and everything in between.

In addition, we are partnering with Google at our #Nonprofit Lab in Oakland on October 17 and they will be running a workshop Google Ad Grants: Connecting People To Causes Through Free Google Ads. If you are in the Bay Area, we hope you can join us! More details can be found at

Should Nonprofits Outsource the Management of their Google Ads Grant?

Deciding how to manage a google ads grant is a hard decision. Being able to manage the google ads grants program without a consultant depends on your staffs' knowledge of the google ads grant program. Do you have staff that have successfully hit the required 5% monthly click through rate (CTR) on search campaigns to retain the free google ads grant program? If not, then hiring a consultant might be a good idea.

Understanding the Google Ads Program

We have had the google ads grant since 2016. We have hired a few different consultants to manage our google ads grant prior to the 5% CTR requirement. When we had a consultant in 2017 and 2018, the average click through rate was anywhere between 2.6% CTR and 3.8%. During that period, we never saw a 5% CTR but it also wasn't a requirement, so we had no expectation. When we first got the google ads grant, a consultant was extremely helpful because it allowed us the opportunity to understand the program and ask basic questions knowing that we would not need to handle the day to day details of managing keywords, creating copy, etc.

Switching from Search to Smart Campaigns

We knew that we would likely lose the grant once the 5% CTR requirement policy was initiated since we hovered around 2.6% to 3.8% CTR from month to month. We also started to realize that the ad copy and keywords being used in our campaigns didn’t quite match up with the keywords that people organically used to find our website. We switched over to smart campaigns from search which does not have a required 5% CTR. The smart campaigns are significantly easier to manage and our consultant at the time thought we could do it ourselves - so we took the consultants advice and started managing the campaigns ourselves.

Hitting the 5% CTR with Search Campaigns

In early 2019, we requested to get the search ad grants campaign back and have successfully hit a 5% CTR for the last four months managing the ads in house with just our staff. We have all our old ads and data from 2016, so we can see the good and the really bad campaigns to get a sense of what works to make sure we hit the 5% CTR each month.

Time and Effort Managing the Ads Grant Program

Currently, managing the google ads grant requires about 5 hours a week of staff time but there was a steep learning curve to figure out how to quickly fix issues when our CTR is hovering around 5%. Would I suggest hiring a consultant for nonprofits that don’t want to spend the time managing the google ads grant program? Yes! But…I might also suggest having at least one knowledgeable staff person create simultaneous ads so that you can compare and contrast ad copy, keywords, etc. It is really helpful to see what sticks and sometimes in the process of doing the compare / contrast you know if you are working with the best consultant / agency to manage your google ads.



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