Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 09:33
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Finding enough money in your budget to market your organization effectively can be challenging. Most nonprofit organizations need to focus their limited resources on providing programs and services. Google makes it easier for nonprofits with Google Ad Grants. That, in combination with CiviCRM provides a power engine fueling your marketing, outreach and CRM needs.

So let’s start with Google Grants...

GoogleGrants gives $120,000 per year of free advertising to each nonprofit which meets the requirements of the program (

What does this mean? Anytime you Google a word or phrase, there will be results at the top of the page and in the sidebar that returns relevant results. Most of the time, this is paid search (which is very different from organic search, but that’s a different topic for a different day.)

So $120,000 a year: this breaks down to approximately $329 per day or $10,000 per month. This is a modified version of their popular Adwords advertising program, enabling you to:

  • Raise public awareness of your organization;
  • Promote specific programs and events;
  • Garner monetary and volunteer support, and
  • Measure the effectiveness of your advertisements. 

​How does the Adwords advertising program work? With your grant you will be utilizing three (3) related elements:

  1. A series of “Ad Groups”: sets of text-only advertisements, each set highlighting one of your programs, services or events;
  2. Keywords”: A set of related search terms for each ad group which would lead people to one or more of the ads in the group. Each term you use must purchased at a cost in a form of “bid”; and,
  3. A “Landing Page”: a dedicated page on your website which is specific to the program, service or event being advertised in the ad group which also includes a “call to action” (request for donation, newsletter sign-up, or something similar). This type of landing page and functionality is easily created using CiviCRM. CiviCRM landing pages support your ad campaign and enable you to best use the grant itself.

Sounds simple, yet requires experience, testing and regular monitoring to be successful. Google uses a complex algorithm which scores your “ad quality” based on a combination of these elements. Based on that quality score, they determine whether your ad can be displayed or not. Since the cost of a keyword term can change based on bids by other organizations for the same or similar phrase, your high scoring ad can quickly be too expensive to continue to include in your list of terms.

There are a few constraints to the Ad Grant program which can contribute to the challenge of competing for ad space:

  • You can only bid a maximum of $2.00 for a term: If the keyword you are trying to use is also targeted by commercial business or a government organization who is willing to pay more than $2.00 for the same term, you will be outbid and unable to compete for that term.
  • Your advertisements cannot include an image: Your ads can only contain text.
  • Your ads can only be placed on the Google network results pages: Google has other business partners who typically display their advertising (“search partners”) but these result pages are not available for your ads.
  • Certain terms are reserved for commercial customers: Certain retail sales terms are reserved for commercial use only. This typically is only an issue if you are selling products in some form of an online shopping experience.

With these constraints in mind, where you can have the most control over ad quality is in your landing page content and construction. CiviCRM allows you to create pages to enhance your “ad quality score”.

So what goes into a great landing page?

Here’s an example of a landing page on our site redesign/ CiviCRM implementation for Adrenal Insufficiency United, and below the image are some aspects we kept in mind while building it.

SocialRaise depicts a quality landing page for CiviCRM

  1. Not too many options: You want clear, concise copy that’s directing the user to exchange their information (name, email, contact info) for something of value to them. This could be your nonprofit’s programs, a volunteer inquiry, or information someone is submitting to receive help on something. In the screenshot above, this is indicated as callout #1.
  2. Calls to action: In the example above, we have two calls-to-action. The first; asking the user to sign-up for communication. And secondly, we’re asking for the user to donate with a clear message on what that funding can improve. In the screenshot above, this is indicated as callout #2.

*How to do this in CiviCRM: You can create a simple form using the CiviCRM profile functionality, and this will populate directly into the individual contact record. If you need information that’s not part of the base Name and Address, then you can create a custom field and have that populate as a new tab on the individual record (say if you want to collect something like T-shirt size or something not in the standard set of CiviCRM fields). For the donation page, there’s out-of-box donation forms already available. So simply create a new menu item, and point this to the CiviCRM Contribution page. Once that’s completed, you can link to that page as we’ve done in the Donate button below. In the screenshot above, you can see the CiviCRM profile form embedded in callout 2a.

3.  Good imagery: Please please stay away from stock photos! They’re usually trite and won’t effectively communicate what you’re needing to convey. For professional photos that aren’t stock (and free to use with proper attribution, check out or They have incredibly rich, engaging and professional photographs that work well in a variety of sites and communications. In the screenshot above, this is indicated as callout #3.

4.  A home for the data/ ongoing communication: Upon submission, their information is populating the CiviCRM queue for a follow-up or drip campaign. This is an effective way to stay top-of-mind for your group of constituents; if someone wants to volunteer, if someone wants to donate, or if someone is in need of help - you want your organization to be in the forefront. In terms of the best way to setup a drip campaign, we’d suggest importing the data into Mailchimp. It’s free for many organizations, and the functionality is exceptional. Recently, Mailchimp introduced drip-functionality. This means that if a user, let’s call her Joan Donor, adds herself to the mailing list. Once the data is in Mailchimp, you can specify a workflow for her to receive communications. So on sign-up, she gets a Welcome email. 3 days later, she gets communication regarding what your organization is doing to help others, perhaps 2 weeks later she receives an automated note about an upcoming event. 1 month later, she receives an auto-message asking her to help support the organization. There are so many things you can do with this autonomy, and it allows you to automate tasks that can be automated and allows you to focus on leading and growing the organization. CiviCRM also has its own drip-campaign functionality, so it really depends on what features you want/ need and the level of system consolidation that's desired. MailChimp has invested all of its efforts into perfecting the email marketing world, but you also lose a bit of CiviCRM's completed integrated solution. It's definitely a decision worth having within your organization.

*As a footnote, there is a CiviCRM Mailchimp extension that exists. We haven’t used it ourselves, but are definitely planning on trying it out!

One thing to remember is that a landing page for Google AdWords is frequently not the home page. The landing page should be specific to the ad to increase relevancy, clickthrough, conversion, which all rolls into AdWords Quality Score.

After obtaining user information, it’s important to use the CiviCRM reporting and mailing tools to have a strategy for follow-up (what information to share, how to garner support, etc), but again, that’s a whole different topic!

After successfully using your original grant for a designated amount of time, you can apply for “GrantsPro” which can supply you with $30,000 more advertising each month for a total of $40,000 per month of advertising to use in raising awareness and support for your organization. Learn more and begin the application process here:

So what other advantages can you imagine by combining a $120,000 Google AdWords grant and CiviCRM automation? What other things would you like to learn about?

About SocialRaise: SocialRaise is a Chicago digital agency that has worked with a range of small two-person nonprofits all the way to $13 million capital campaigns for the largest nonprofits in the world. They’ve helped the City of Chicago reduce building emissions and companies such as Yamaha allow students to remotely audition to music schools all around the world. For more information, please visit