It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Today, a trek into nonprofit fundraising — but don’t click away yet!

Because the fundamental lesson you’re going to get here applies whether you’re getting $10,000 free from Google through their Ad Grants program…  Or if you’ve just been handed the reins of a decent-sized monthly advertising spend…  Or if you’re trying to break into paid advertising $10 at a time, looking for ROI.

So, whether you’re nonprofit or commercial, you’ll find some useful tips below.

Remember: every Monday I answer your questions, in my weekly Mailbox Monday issue.

Click here to submit a question for me to answer in an upcoming Mailbox Monday.

Today’s question on what to do with $10,000 in free advertising!

Hey Roy,

A Mailbox Monday question.  I understand you are very interested in working with nonprofits. My question has to do with Google’s willingness to provide 10K per month to nonprofits under the Google Ad Grant Program.

Unfortunately, the program only allows spending in the AdWords realm and not GDN.

How best can a local nonprofit spend 10K?

The search volume for most keywords is going to be super low.

Let’s take a real world example of a local nonprofit in my town — an after school program. Spyfu doesn’t list many organic keywords but let’s go with “after school programs.” In a town of 17K people, search volume is going to be low.

How can I best help a local nonprofit with a fantastic grant from Google?

Donations is the key. But it’s not like someone is typing “nonprofits to throw money at.”  🙂

Thank you Roy!


For those unfamiliar with the program, a quick rundown…

First and foremost, it’s really exciting because it’s an opportunity to get $10,000 in 100% free advertising from Google.  As long as you’re a qualifying nonprofit, and you jump a whole bunch of hurdles involved with staying qualified.

In addition to being a reputable nonprofit that exists solely for charitable purposes — and follows general community guidelines…

— You MUST keep an average click-through rate (CTR) of 5%+.

— You MUST use geo-targeting to advertise only in relevant local areas.

— You MUST structure your account to have at least two ads and relevant keywords in every ad group, and at least two ad groups in every campaign.

— You MUST use at least two sitelink extensions in your account.

— You MUST keep all your ads and keywords mission-specific, on-message for your nonprofit’s primary work.

(All of these are current as of July 2018, to the best of my knowledge.  See current program details here.)

IF — and yes, that’s a big IF — you can manage to stay in line with all of these policies, you can score up to $10,000 per month in free advertising from Google.

The big question: how to make the most of this $10,000?!

For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to ignore the technical, tactical implementation.  I’m also going to assume that you’re doing everything you can to stay compliant with the above — although I will speak to the 5%+ CTR.

Rather, I’m going to look at the big strategic and principles-based approaches that I believe will have the biggest impact.

First, the good news…

It’s free money.  If you’re doing this, you literally do not have to worry about ROI.  You’ll still want to do things that will help you maximize the money.  But if you don’t have to worry about ROI — and especially short-term ROI — you can do things focused on building bigger long-term momentum.

Also, specific to the question, there are positives and negatives to being in a tiny local area…

First, your competition will be much smaller.  You’ll be less likely to end up in a bidding war with another nonprofit.

Second, anything you do that mentions your local community will feel HYPER-local, which automatically makes it more relevant to searchers.

Third, because of the smaller community being served, it’s likely every dollar (spent and raised) will mean more.

Now, the bad news…

You’re right.  It’s already HARD for a nonprofit to spend $10,000 per month on advertising.  Especially limited to search.  Especially limited to relevant search terms.

Scaling will be difficult.  But at the same time, take special note.  Google does NOT include in its stipulations that you MUST spend all $10,000 to stay qualified for the program.  If you spend just $50 in free advertising money every month, but meet all the stipulations, you can keep spending indefinitely.

But I’m drifting into good news here — more bad news…

The following advice will take some work.  If you’re not restricted by things like having to maintain a 5% CTR, you can just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.  Not so for you, Bubba.  You’ve gotta make sure what you’re doing WORKS, and kill it quick if it doesn’t, before it drags down that CTR.

So: what about some actionable advice?

I’d try to get two things right, ASAP.

First, you need to learn to create a hyper-relevant message.

Second, you need to convert at least some of the traffic (opt-in and/or donations).

Let’s start with the hyper-relevant messaging…

The secret to hyper-relevant messaging!

Let’s go with the after school program.

You have to think about who would be a likely donor to after school programs in your community.

Now, I’m a parent.  And if I’m typing “after school program” into Google, I don’t think there’s even a 5% chance I’m thinking about donating.  You MIGHT be able to get the 5% CTR on this, but I’m guessing you’d find it hard, even if it SEEMS the most relevant.

Instead, you could focus on people who have active intent to donate, and target a broader term such as “children’s charities.”

Now we’re cooking.  If I’m searching for that, and I’m in your area, and you give me an ad that makes it clear that I’m a children’s charity in your area…  Boom!  That’s exciting to me.  It’s what I’m looking for.

Now that’s the obvious path.  But there are some not-so-obvious paths that could work, too.

One I thought of is crime.  I did a search on after school programs and crime.  Turns out well-funded after school programs reduce crime in communities.  Now that’s very interesting.  If I’m searching for “crime in [town name]” and I get an ad saying “[town name] residents: here’s how you can help reduce crime,” I might be interested.

Now here’s where it gets tricky.  Because if you dump that clicker on a generic donate page, or landing page, or — gasp! — the organization’s homepage, Google will hate you for it.  But if you create a custom landing page that cites the research that explains how a well-funded after-school program can help reduce crime…  And turn that into an ask for support…  Well, now that’s exciting.

Which leads us to a very important point…

You come up with an idea that you think a potential donor in your area might search for.  That’s a conversation going on in their head right now.  They’re thinking about it, and so they go to Google to search for it.

YOU, as the fundraiser, must do the hard work to connect the dots between that starting point of the conversation to how it’s relevant to donating to your cause.

— I search for crime…

— I see an ad about helping reduce crime in my community…

— I click the ad and am taken to a landing page that explains the link between reduced crime and well-funded after-school programs…

— I’m introduced to your organization, preferably with a human interest story about at-risk youth helped by the program…

— I’m told that my help is needed, and given an ask…

— Potentially, I’m also given the opportunity to receive more information, or to stay updated about special events in the community and future opportunities to help…

Wash, rinse, repeat…

The preceding process may help you spend $5 per month, or $500.  Or less, or more, or somewhere in between.

And there’s no guarantee that topic will earn you 5%+ CTR.

You have to test.  And you may have to test a lot.  And each will require a specific progression of the conversation from the search term to the logical conclusion of donating to support your cause.

Plus, because of the restrictions of the program, you’ll probably want to limit tests to control the negative impact of any failed tests on the account’s overall CTR.

But on a very fundamental level, that’s the best way to make it happen.

SIDE NOTE: Branded terms pretty much always have massive CTR, and can be used to help.  So put every variation on the specific name of the charity into an Ad Group, and spend as much as they’ll let you on those.  That will help you rise the account-wide CTR, and make a ban less likely.

About that ROI…

You can take at least three approaches to this.

The first is to ignore ROI completely, and to simply use this to raise awareness.  In this case, any ROI can be a happy byproduct, but you drop the direct marketing mentality and simply accept that you could spend $10,000 in free advertising to get $100 in donations.  I don’t necessarily advocate this, but it’s a possibility.

The second is to be a ROI junkie, likely limiting your spend to the most profitable campaigns.  If you do have the potential to scale beyond $10,000, you should be at least cognizant of ROI, because how you structure the campaign below the free $10,000 mark will impact the results when you start actually spending.

The third — and my recommended approach — is to think long-term.  Yes, you want to get donors today.  But even more important than a break-even or better ROI approach would be to build a database of potential donors and community members you could communicate with into the future.  This, of course, includes getting people to opt-in for email communications.  Also, your nonprofit could also have a separate ad account set up for retargeting site visitors.

Go deeper…

There’s a ton more I could cover, but I’ve already run long.

If you’re interested in how to do better fundraising online, using the principles of proven-effective direct response marketing, I encourage you to listen to a two-part podcast I did, on the Donor Doctor show, about my Fundraising Funnels approach: Part 1 & Part 2.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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