Use Google Grants to Generate Revenue for Your Nonprofit

Google Grants is a very powerful tool. The obvious use of it is to sell things, but it can be used for so much more to generate revenue for your nonprofit.

Mission-based Goals

Even though this is an article about generating revenue, I feel an obligation to at least mention that you should not limit its use to revenue-generating goals. All Google Grants does is send people from Google’s search engine to your website.

Google Grants should be included in your outreach gameplan because people turn to Google when they need help, by searching things like, “affordable housing options,” “meals for the poor,” and “job training.” And because your advertisements are triggered by these searches, Google Grants allows you to connect with people who need help the moment they are in the process of looking for that help. That is powerful.

You exist for a reason other than making money. You exist to do some good in the world. And you need to do outreach to make executing on that mission successful.

One of my clients is Children’s Eye Foundation. They use this to spread the word to parents that many eye conditions that are thought to be permanent can be treated if they’re caught early enough. Before I became involved with the organization, I, too, thought these conditions were permanent. And I consider myself fortunate that I was able to use my skills to help people all over the world treat their children’s ailments by tripling the number of times their Amblyopia 411 guide is downloaded every week.

This flies in the face of traditional AdWords best practices that you may read elsewhere on the web, but all those rules are based on for-profits. They emphasize things like ROI. I am a strong believer in data-driven decisions, many of which inform the other goals later in this article, but when it comes to your mission, you’re likely not going to get any revenue. That means any ROI calculation that depends on revenue is fundamentally broken. However, you can set up your own way of determining the value of reaching the people who your nonprofit can help. And from there, you work to define the proportion of how much of your Google Grants spend should be devoted to it.

Selling Products or Services

The most common and obvious use of AdWords is to sell things. Just because you are a nonprofit doesn’t mean you don’t have things to sell. Google requires that nonprofits’ websites be focused on the mission, but they don’t ban commercial activity.

If your organization sells anything, you should have Google Grants ads that promote the product or service as well as conversion tracking set up to record successful sales.

Online Auctions

In the same vein as sales, Google Grants can promote auction items. Many nonprofits don’t have a large inventory of what they sell but instead sell one unique item as part of a fundraiser, such as a football signed by an NFL player. When you use Google Grants to promote the webpage you’re selling it on, you create an auction with a lot more bidders. Getting more bidders in the game, particularly those who are searching for the item you have, will help you sell that item at a much higher price.


Much like products or services, you can promote your events. Many nonprofit events charge for tickets, so that’s another way to get revenue. “Things to do in NYC” gets searched 135,000 times a month. That doesn’t even go into all the opportunities about words associated with your particular event.


Another thing you can promote are your classes, whether in-person or online. One of the most common searches on Google are people who want to know how to do something. Many of these are simple things like how to tie a tie, for which the user isn’t likely to pay for. But some of them are people who are looking to get a deeper education to improve their job prospects.

If your technologically capable, I recommend doing online courses that people have to pay to view. This is because when you have the course online, you can reach anyone who speaks the language instead of just people within driving distance of your location.

Getting Sponsors

Most of my experience has been at nonprofits, both on the board and as an employee, but I’ve also worked at for-profits. At a recent for-profit I worked for, I would get sales calls asking me to buy sponsorships that included my company’s logo and/or link on their website. My response was to ask for a Google Analytics web traffic report. The value of this sponsorship depends on how many people see that my company is a sponsor, right?

You are in a similar position. Part of how you fund a nonprofit is through corporate sponsors. Having more web traffic earned through Google Grants will give you another tool to pitch to a potential sponsor. If you know that a certain audience is important to one of your sponsors, let your Google Grants manager know that. Give him the information he needs to get the type of visitors that a sponsor values so he can put you in a better position to prove to that sponsor the value of associating with your nonprofit.

Before you get gung-ho about selling ads, Google restricts the advertisements that you can include on your website. They specifically restrict Google AdSense and affiliate advertising links. It’s a bit frustrating that Google doesn’t provide more examples or a definition of “affiliate advertising links,” but corporate sponsors are widely regarded as in-the-clear. What they likely mean by affiliate advertising links are display ads that function similarly to AdSense, such as Amazon’s Affiliate Marketing Program.

YouTube Ads

Another type of advertisement that is in the clear is YouTube ads. Yes, you must direct people from the search engine to your web page, but you can embed a Youtube video on your webpage. There are two major benefits to using Google Grants to promote your Youtube videos.

The first is that you will get many more searches. In general, people search how to do things (of which you can make a Youtube video for) more frequently than they search where to buy things. The reason for this is that Google has established itself as the world’s library while Amazon has established itself as the world’s superstore. Yes, you’ll find purchasing searches on Google and information searches on Amazon, but in general, people divide which tech giant’s website they go to based on which of those needs they have in that moment.

The second is that people are far more likely to watch a video than they are to buy something. I watch youtube videos all the time when I need to learn a new digital marketing skill, learn how to fix something in my house, or just unwind by viewing a comedian’s bit on a late night show. I buy things far less frequently.

And Youtube is on the rise, whether you personally prefer it or not. It’s particularly popular amongst the younger generation. My client, Marty Jones, is shocked that I watch television shows on Netflix far more frequently than I go to the movie theater. I am just as shocked that his kids watch Youtube videos far more frequently than television, which is what I grew up watching all the time. Ever heard the story about the 6-year-old who made 11 million dollars in a year by reviewing toys on Youtube? What’s stopping you from pursuing your $11 million?

If you’re in the Portland Area, I recommend you reach out to my client, MetroEast, for help with producing a video. They have a great team of experts and a very impressive studio space. Another option is to do what I did: make a video exclusively on your laptop. Was what I made Citizen Kane? Absolutely not. Does it serve the function it needs to? Well… you can be the judge of that, but I believe so, otherwise, I wouldn’t have included it on my website. For whatever you have content for, you can create a PowerPoint presentation that includes text and images on the slide and spoken words. You can even build one using the content from an old blog post. Put the slides you create into an editing system (iMovie comes standard on most macs), record a voiceover, then export your video.


When I first started this company to help Nonprofits leverage the benefits of their Google Grants account, a lot of people (my Ma included) thought that the only thing this was good for was to get donations. Debunking that widespread belief is a large reason for why I decided to write all these other uses down. Though driving donations is a legitimate goal that I regularly create campaigns on behalf of clients for, I think it’s relatively low on the totem pole for three major reasons.

The first is that people often don’t Google how to get rid of their money. Yes, people donate, but those donations regularly come from auction events and other initiatives that require an obscene amount of work on behalf of the nonprofit. Thinking that a huge volume of donations can easily be generated simply by bidding on the “where to donate” keyword discredits the work of in-house fundraising employees who work really hard to build relationships with large donors.

The second reason is that keywords concerning cash donations are highly-competitive. Other nonprofits want these clicks too, so those keywords get bid up very high. It’s often better to avoid competition by choosing other keywords than to get involved in a bidding war.

And the third reason is that those few searches that you pay a lot of money for are unlikely to actually donate. I’ve heard another advertising consultant describe expecting someone to donate on the first visit to your website as the online equivalent of bumping into a stranger, making brief small talk, and then asking them to donate to the nonprofit you work for.

The solution to this is to make sure that even though the click on your advertisement may be a person’s first exposure to your business, it doesn’t have to be their last. Get in touch with that person again by adding them to your newsletter and using remarketing tactics. 

Literally Any Web Page of Yours that has Relevant Searches

The great thing about Google Grants is how flexible it is. If there are searches for it and you have a landing page dedicated to it, you can promote it. I covered a few of these, but never feel limited by the above list. The world is your oyster. If you want to promote job listings, volunteer signups, board openings, bio pages of influential leaders, memberships, or anything else under the sun, just go for it. My client, Native America Humane Society, received so many messages from animal lovers who were looking for a way to volunteer with animals, that we had to cap the daily spend for the volunteer campaign at $50 a day because the staff could not keep up with the messages from interested volunteers.

Michael Rasko is a nonprofit marketing consultant who specializes in Google Grants. If you work with or for a nonprofit who is interested in starting or improving a Google Grants account, contact him to learn more about a one-month, no-commitment free trial. Included in the free trial is application assistance for new accounts and re-activation assistance for accounts that have been suspended for policy violations.

You can contact him for this reason or any other reason by filling out the contact form below or calling (503) 558-6500. If you do call and get voicemail, remember to leave a detailed message to differentiate yourself from the many robocalls that publicly listed phone numbers receive.