Such a thing as a free lunch?

You know how, when you Google something, you get your search results, and, on the right-hand side, a bunch of advertisements for companies/products/organizations that match your search? You may not always notice them, but sometimes you might click on one that looks particularly promising.

Well, now, open up another browser and search for key words related to the work that your organization does. So, if you’re a domestic violence shelter, search “domestic violence Kansas”, (kudos to Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, by the way, for coming up first on that Google Search!) or, if you work with homeless youth, search “homeless youth Missouri”–you get the idea.

Does your organization come up? If you’re lucky, and you’ve gotten a lot of media coverage, or if you have an active blog (blogs get preference in search engines because they are updated so much more frequently than organizational websites–another great reason to have a blog!), or if you have a Facebook page, then maybe you’ll come up in one of the first few hits. If not, there’s a good chance that you’re not there at all, or maybe there’s just a passing reference to you in a news article, or maybe it’s even (gasp!) something that some of your opponents have said about you, rather than you controlling your own message.

And what is in those advertisements off to the right side? Somebody else, right? Maybe someone selling books about your topic, or some company that may not have your constituents’ justice and dignity foremost in their interests.

How about changing that?

In yet another effort to distinguish themselves as truly helpful and friendly, or part of their evil-genius plot to take over the world (I haven’t totally decided yet), the folks at Google have come up with something SUPER TERRIFIC: Google Grants. Hopefully you know about the program already, because it’s not completely new (I had heard something about it, but I didn’t really learn about it until I was part of a Facebook conversation about possible nonprofit grants/discounts for Facebook ads–I’ll keep you posted on that), but, if you haven’t/aren’t, here are some details.

Google Grants provides in-kind grants of free advertising to qualified nonprofits so that you can be the featured ad that comes up when searches match your keywords. Grant amounts vary depending on how many hits you get, but, for most grantees, Google reports that the grants are worth about $300/month–so, it’s not a huge infusion of cash, but they are smart and are working with some grantees to track the value added, and there they’re seeing some tremendous payout. How about a 43% increase in donations? Or a 60% increase in volunteers? Um, yeah, that would be good.

You can use your Google-grant-funded ad to just get the word out about your organization–how about if someone experiencing postpartum depression Googled it and found Postpartum Support International, locating a help line and a bunch of resources on their first click? That would be awesome. Or you can solicit donations–chances are good, for example, that people Googling “global poverty” are more likely to donate to an organization fighting poverty than the general public, so it’s good targeting. Or you can recruit volunteers, or, of course, you can spread your advocacy message and get people connected to a campaign that will move them to action. And you’re doing it on Google, which has so much traffic that it has turned itself into a verb. So that’s incredible.

Check out the link above and apply. It’s a grant program, so obviously not all organizations will receive awards, but there are no troubling exclusions–the only unusual requirement is that the organization must have a website for the ad to link to, and Google evaluates that website as part of the application process.

I would LOVE to hear from nonprofits who are participating in Google grants, and I’d also be happy to help folks develop a proposal to apply. If you have had good or bad experiences, please share. And if you find out about any other resources to help social service agencies get their messages out and connect with people online, please share!

4 responses to “Such a thing as a free lunch?

  1. i’ve heard of it and plan on applying. i want to flesh out my website a bit more before i apply. thanks for reminding me though. I’ve applied for the animoto cause grant but have yet to hear back. our blog is up and running. you should “rss feed” us.

    • Awesome. I’ll do it, although I am SO behind on my RSS feed reading! It’s horrible. Let me know how the Google grants thing goes–I’d love to hear!

  2. Applying for this, this week, in fact. How funny that you should post this, at the same time! We actually had to go back and add an app to our website (Google Analytics) to track things like the search terms people were using to find The Postpartum Resource Center. If you don’t know those search terms, the ads are useless…

    • Good point about the Analytics, Jen. I can’t wait to hear how the application comes out–I would think that you all would do pretty well with Google Ads, because of relatively high interface with the Internet around your issue and among your target population. Keep me posted! Oh, and check on Facebook where this posted–a friend of mine has a resource for a contest where marketing students are helping nonprofits maximize their participation in Google Ads. It sounds really cool.

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