Tag: advertising

In prior articles about Google Ad Grants, I’ve primary shared technical advice, particularly in light of new compliance requirements. Yet for nonprofits that aren’t as familiar with Google Ads, there’s an opportunity to take a bigger picture view.

Google Ad Grants gives you up to $120,000 per year on the world’s largest advertising platform, which allows your organization to send users from Google’s search engine to your website when they search for a term that’s relevant to your cause.

Given this basic function, how can your nonprofit use this tool? Start by amplifying your strategic initiatives.

Mission-based goals

As a nonprofit, you exist to do some good in the world. And you need outreach to make your mission successful.

Children’s Eye Foundation uses Google Ad Grants to spread the word to parents that many eye conditions thought to be permanent can be treated if they’re caught early enough. With the Google Ads that link to this page on the foundation’s site, more people all over the world can learn how to treat their children’s eye conditions.

Volunteer, job, and board positions

Use a Google Ad Grants campaign for your open positions for volunteers, jobs, and board. The tool is especially useful for taking your job listings nationwide for people searching with terms like “nonprofit jobs” or “Membership job.”

Selling products or services

The most common use of Google Ads is to sell. To qualify for Ad Grants, Google requires that your nonprofit website be mission-focused, but they don’t ban commercial activity entirely. If you do sell products or services online, such as textbooks, set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics so that you can see the data on the web visits that lead to sales, and improve future sales by appropriately informing the maximize conversions bidding system.

Maximize Conversions Bidding is what Google calls a “smart bidding” strategy. Instead of setting a specific maximum that you’re willing to pay for a click, you instruct the machine to bid what it thinks is necessary to get more conversions (the desired action that you want a person to take, such as a purchase, an email list signup, or a contact form submission). Valid conversion tracking is mandatory for any accounts enrolled after January 1, 2018, for it to be compliant (older accounts were grandfathered in).

Online auctions

Similar to sales, Google Ad Grants can promote auction items. Creating a Google Ad Grants campaign for your auction item is the digital version of attracting more buyers in the auction hall. Getting more bidders in the game, particularly those who are searching for the item you have, will help you sell that item at a higher price.

Many nonprofits will sell one unique item as part of a fundraiser, such as a football signed by an NFL player.

This one is a bit tricky, since most people don’t often search for how to become members of a nonprofit. However, if there are member benefits to joining your organization, bid on Ad keywords related to the benefits your provide.

For example, a Friends of the Library keyword might be “discount books” and a member benefit would be 10% off at the store or an invitation to a members-only pre-sale.


“Things to do in NYC” gets searched 135,000 times a month. Take advantage of web traffic in your geographical area by promoting your events to generate more revenue.
Classes and videos

Another thing you can promote is a class, whether in-person or online. If your class isn’t behind a paywall, you can embed the video on your site and set up pre-roll ads for the video. Google has forbidden Grantees from using AdSense ads, but have not restricted video ads, at least at the time of this publication. If you do pre-roll ads, be sure to monitor compliance rule updates, as Google may take further steps in restricting other types of advertisements for Grantees.


A common misconception is that Google Ads are great for getting donations. Though you can and should build campaigns for your donation page, a better development strategy is to use Google Ad Grants to build your lead list and actively pursue those leads.

Those who access your site through Google Ad Grants are likely visiting for the first time. Expecting them to donate as a first-time visitor is the digital version of bumping into a stranger on the street, making small talk, and then asking them to support your nonprofit. If you’re looking to use digital marketing for fundraising, check out my recent article on Facebook’s Giving Tuesday promotion.

Go beyond these recommendations

Don’t feel limited by this list. If there’s a project or strategy unique to your nonprofit, go for it. Though there are a variety of circumstances that will affect your level of success, Google Ad Grant campaigns can be created to raise the visibility of any page on your website.

At nonprofits, we know how important it is to understand your audience. To listen deeply, and to understand the motivation of everyone in your ecosystem—from the constituents you serve to the volunteers who help make your work possible. Some call this human-centered design. We prefer to think of it as following the need.

The emphasis on listening has been in Empower Work’s DNA from the very beginning. Before launching the organization, founder Jaime-Alexis Fowler sought out to validate a hunch: challenging work situations are universal, but access to resources is not.

We conducted quantitative surveys with 140+ responses; market research; and more than 100 interviews with career coaches, workforce trainers, HR professionals, executive coaches, diversity and inclusion specialists, labor and employment attorneys, managers, labor organizers, and most importantly, people who have faced tough work situations. We saw a tremendous need for confidential, accessible, and immediate support for work issues—and designed Empower Work based on the needs of the people we serve.

This practice of deep listening has continued as we’ve grown. What creates the best experience and drives the best outcomes is at the heart of our organizational decision-making. We strive to apply human-centered design principles to every element of our work, whether it’s choosing a prefered mode of communication (for our users it’s SMS!) or launching our first public service announcement (PSA) campaign.

Launching our first PSA campaign

In late 2018, MUNI and Clear Channel donated ad space on buses and bus shelters across San Francisco. It was an opportunity to capture attention during an optimal time: a work commute. We worked with our pro-bono partner Odysseus Arms to create a human-centered ad concept that would speak to the people we serve.

Knowing that the ads would be featured on a moving bus, the visual and accompanying copy needed to be concise, direct, and effective. The team at Odysseus Arms drafted a concept that reflected our community’s needs and could be processed quickly by busy commuters.

One of our consultants introduced us to PickFu, an instant polling service. Through PickFu, we were able to survey 50 respondents between the ages of 18 and 54 and ask whether, upon seeing our ad, they would text us if they were facing an issue at work. The results came in lightning fast—it took exactly 31 minutes.

Poll results screen capture

The response to our ad was largely positive. Many remarked they would welcome a fresh perspective or even just the opportunity to vent. People who said they wouldn’t use the resource generally fell into two categories: they already had people in their lives they could confide in (which is great!), or they weren’t clear on what type of counseling services we offer, and whether it was truly confidential and free (which it is!).

Since the imagery seemed to resonate, we kept it as-is. However, after reading through the reactions, we adjusted the copy. Rather than focus on usage (“Free, confidential peer counseling.”), we focused on hurdles (“Navigate tough work issues with free, confidential peer counseling.”)

Empower Work bus ad

As we test more concepts in the future—from ads to landing pages—we’ll continue using survey tools to ensure we’re listening to and resonating with the community we serve. One of the biggest advantages is that we can target poll respondents based on traits such as gender, age, income level, and even their primary mode of transportation—so the next time we test a bus ad, we can test it with a group wholly made up of bus riders.

We’ve received an overwhelming positive response from the bus and bus shelter ads. Many people told us that they had no idea a resource like this existed, and they’re so grateful to have found support. “I have spent years looking for actionable advice for my work woes,” one texter expressed after seeing our ad on a bus. “Have a wonderful evening and know that you have made my journey a little bit easier.”

Deep listening and empathy can go a long way.

Tips for creating human-centered ads and content

It’s not enough just to test.

Testing isn’t a goal in itself. Rather, it’s a three-step process:

  1. First, clearly define what you’re looking to learn. Once you’ve laid out the question you’re seeking to answer, determine the optimal means to test for it. For example, what’s the best survey question to pose? How much information should we provide to those surveyed? Who is our target audience for this test? What software or services do we need to employ?
  2. Only after you’ve completed the first step should you proceed to the testing itself. The more you integrate testing into your day-to-day operations, the better you’ll get at it, and the easier it will become.
  3. Once the test is complete, critically examine the results. This is the most important step in the process. It’s not enough to gather data just to have it; what good is analytics if they sit in some esoteric report that nobody looks at? Instead, discuss what learnings can be derived from the test. Put an action plan into place for how to implement changes, whether they be in your operation itself, your ads, or your website.

Not all feedback is created equal

When you hear negative (and even positive) feedback, ask yourself whether it’s coming from your core constituency. If not, you don’t have to weigh it as heavily as feedback that comes from, say, a client or previous donor. It also means that friends and family are usually not your best sounding board for testing. They may be too close to you or your organization to give an opinion that is aligned with our community. Don’t solicit feedback in an echo chamber.

Testing should be a help, not a hassle

Don’t think of testing as a speed bump that gets in your way. Feedback should clarify the process, not hinder it. If you find a testing method too difficult or burdensome to employ, look for an easier solution. With so many software platforms to choose from, it’s simpler than ever to incorporate testing and idea validation into your nonprofit. Remember, testing isn’t just another thing to do. It’s a compass that points you in the direction of what to do.

Now in its fifth year, the 2019 report has data from hundreds of organizations from more than 20 countries, and features in-depth guides and expert advice. With actionable ideas for every organization, it’s a valuable resource for nonprofit digital teams hoping to improve their results in 2019.

Learn how to better measure the ROI of your fundraising efforts, simple ways to improve cross-team communication, and how to think outside the #nptech box to find software solutions that fit your organization.

Download your free copy here.

Report webinar on February 28

Interested to hear directly from the research and report partners? Join Care2, hjc, and NTEN for a webinar to discuss report findings on Thursday, February 28, at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET. We’ll recap trends and strategies, and highlight best practices and expert insights along the way.


Though it varies by situation, I think that in most cases, sticking with AdWords Classic is the better bet. Here’s why.

Too much automation can lead you off track

The Classic version of AdWords can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many choices. However, those choices exist for a reason: they let you home in on reaching people who are important to you. And hiring a vendor or in-house staff person who understands Google Grants is worth the cost as their knowledge will help you deliver your ads to the right people. This is particularly true when it comes to keyword selection.

If you managed a Classic account prior to 2018, you may have gotten a taste of how the machine determines your appropriate keywords. For those who are unfamiliar, Classic accounts used to include keyword suggestions in their opportunities tab. They would often come in batches of as many as 25 suggestions for an Ad Group on a daily basis, for which you could pick and choose your favorites or add all of them in the batch.

These keywords that were decided by the machine weren’t very relevant to what was in the advertisement and landing page, but it was very convenient to be able to add so many in so few clicks. They may not add much per keyword, but they weren’t doing any harm.

Then Google radically changed their compliance rules, and those keywords started doing a lot of harm. All these keywords that were added due to the machine’s recommendation now made it harder to stay compliant because they had extremely low quality scores and click-through rates.

Given the lack of relevance for machine-generated keywords in the opportunities tab as recently as 2017, you should not expect the machine for AdWords Express would be more relevant in selecting keywords. For those who suspect that I’m making a big logical leap in comparing the opportunities tab in Classic with the automatic keyword selection in Express, I’m doing this as a comparison for those who only have exposure to the Classic version as it is something you’d be familiar with and remember from less than a year ago. But this same argument can be made when looking at the actual keyword selections of the machine in AdWords Express.

A few of my clients have come to me with Express accounts, asking that I change it to Classic and use my own judgments in selecting keywords that are right for them. I saw in their accounts that the keywords that the machine selected didn’t capture the nuance of what someone would type when looking for my clients’ programs.

One thing to keep in mind when you use AdWords Express is that you can turn off certain keywords, but you cannot add new ones. Those are added by the machine based on your business product or service. Further, you can’t decide how many keywords the machine will add. Because you cannot import the keywords you had in the Classic account to Express, switching to Express to bypass the new rules won’t let you perfectly replicate your 2017 pre-rule success.

When to make the switch to Express

However, I must recommend AdWords Express for one situation and one situation only: as a stopgap. For all its limitations, it has three very valuable features:

  1. It lets you bypass many compliance rules.
  2. It sends traffic to your website for free.
  3. It doesn’t preclude you from using a Classic account at a later date.

So if you are really struggling to stay compliant and you know that you can’t commit the time or money to it in the immediate, make the switch to AdWords Express as a stopgap. Having an Express account is far better than having a Classic account that has been suspended for several months with no end in sight.

I must emphasize that this should be a temporary measure. To make sure it is temporary, you should add reassessment tasks in your schedule. For a fiscal year that matches your calendar year, you should meet with stakeholders in July to discuss how to handle this problem, build a plan in August, and incorporate funding for the plan in the organization’s budget in September.

Without these deadlines, you likely won’t do it. And I’m not trying to be critical in saying that, just honest about what I’ve noticed in how people work. I have a set of unopened headphones that I could sell for $200 but they’re depreciating in my closet right now because this task has no deadline and I can always do it later. This is why many people who heard about Google Grants years ago have yet to do the work in looking into how to apply. However, this opportunity is too valuable to postpone indefinitely. I recommend you be better than me.

2018 Digital Outlook ReportDo you have the strategies you need to launch your nonprofit into the stratosphere? NTEN, along with partners Care2, hjc, and Resource Alliance, have produced the 2018 Digital Outlook Report, which includes data collected from over 500 nonprofit professionals in more than 20 countries.

The theme of the 2018 report is expand your nonprofit’s universe, and it encourages nonprofit professionals to explore new worlds of digital marketing and fundraising innovation.

Key points include:

  • Pundits claim that no one uses email anywhere and that its time has passed, but the report shows that for fundraising success, it’s more important than ever that nonprofit emails reach their intended inboxes.
  • A focus on mobile is central to improving a nonprofit’s digital strategy.
  • Tracking, analytics, and proper attribution have been an Achilles’ heel for most nonprofit organizations, so the report focuses on the benefits of digital tracking and attribution.

With in-depth guides and expert advice, we’ll walk you through three areas that may be uncharted terrain for your organization: mobile optimization, tracking web conversion, and email deliverability.

Providing actionable ideas for every organization, the 2018 Digital Outlook Report is really a must-read for any team hoping to improve.

Download your free copy here.


Social media advertising has become one of the biggest revenue generators and online traffic drivers in consumer and B2B marketing. Facebook advertising alone raked in 26.2 billion dollars last year, according to TechCrunch. As a digital advertiser, it is important we have working knowledge of how advertising works on some of our most popular social networks. Having tried (and saw successes from) Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube advertising, we realized there was a network we hadn’t explored: LinkedIn.

LinkedIn advertising is quite different than using Facebook or Twitter, from the interface down to targeting. Here are a few things we’ve learned while running advertising tests on LinkedIn. Please note that the following are simply recounts of the experience we had running ads on LinkedIn. This is not meant to deter you from advertising on the LinkedIn, as you may have a different experience. As best practice, conduct your own tests while keeping the following in mind.

LinkedIn may not be the best traffic driver.

The goals we set for our ads were to acquire emails and put our brand in front of potential clients that may be lurking on platform. We used the Sponsored Content ad type, optimized for clicks. We tested ad copy, custom graphics against images with human elements, and tried different targeting options to cover all bases. Ultimately, we saw very few clicks compared to impressions, garnered very few sessions on site and saw even less on site conversions on pages with normally high conversion rates.

CPC/CPM* can be quite high, while ROI is low.

We had a total budget of $270 to be split between 3 campaigns. Normally, we like to keep our CPC at $1 or less. We’ve seen low CPCs on several different advertising networks and use that partly to determine the success of our ads. On LinkedIn, our CPC was quite high, with the most expensive click being $4.36. Cost per impressions were even higher, capping at $23.89. As mentioned above, we saw very little return for the budget we spent, partially due to the high CPC/CPM. Out of 11,000+ total impressions, we saw only 61 total clicks and 7 total on-site conversions.

Targeting can be limiting.

Targeting works on an ‘and’ basis, meaning the user who gets the ads checks off ALL of the targeting options. For example, if you’re trying to reach people who work for a nonprofit or have graphic design skills or are seniors in college, LinkedIn will only show your ads to users who hit all three options. The more targeting options you include, the smaller your audience.

Spending can be erratic.

Daily observation during the duration of the campaigns showed ads not spending for hours then rapidly spending a huge chunk of the budget in minutes. Also, the entire budget was not spent during the intended time period (7/26 – 8/4). It was unclear how the daily spend operated, as we saw the ad spend cap daily at about 20% more than the allocated minimum spend. For example, we set the daily minimum spend at $10, we’d see daily spend (seemingly) stop at $12. This is unusual as we normally see a gradual increase in spend on other platforms.


According to Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn is used by 94% of B2B marketers, with 41% saying it’s the most important platform they use. LinkedIn boasts a 82% effectiveness rating and is said to generate more leads than Facebook and Twitter, according to Inside View. Unfortunately, we can not boast about our results this time around.

We’re not counting LinkedIn out completely, though. As advertisers, we think businesses should test their ad content on all social media networks so see what works best. There are many different factors that go into whether ads perform well or not, so we cannot put blame on the platform alone. There is a reason why many B2B advertisers love the platform and we intend to crack that code.

As with any advertising platform, there will be some pitfalls along the way. It’s best to give each platform a small test to get an idea as to how and what works. You can always adjust your strategy and find a way to make it work for you.


*CPC = cost per click. CPM = cost per mille (“mille” is Latin for “thousand”)

Once upon a time, I coveted a certain wall clock from Uncommon Goods. It had these lovely bendy arms that would artfully tell the time… and were too long to fit on basically any wall in my NYC studio apartment. So though I swooned over its product page, and even put it in my shopping basket just to feel that rush of adrenaline, I didn’t actually buy it.

That friggin’ clock followed me for months in banner ads and on Facebook and more. It was on every device I owned, every site I visited, at home and at work.

You’ve almost certainly been haunted, too, by a product or a cause. Over the past few years, the ever-more-precise targeting of people wherever they go on the internet has been an amazing development for nonprofits who want to reach their current supporters and potential new audiences.

Programmatic display ad technology, as it’s called, lets us target the right people for a nonprofit’s goals: the specific advocates who recently abandoned a donation form; the visitors who keep coming back to the website but haven’t converted yet; and the right lookalike group of likely donors. We can target audiences rather than than blindly buying ad space on specific websites. With some very limited exceptions, this is how we approach donor acquisition and direct response fundraising for the organizations M+R works with.

But following a person across the internet means you go where they go—and to be completely honest, your supporters are going to go to some pretty weird places. With the increased prevalence of fake news sites and other hateful, racist, and inflammatory content, there are more and more places you just don’t want your ads to appear—and websites you don’t want to get a dollar of your ad budget.

Brand safety—keeping yours ads away from offensive sites—is something we’ve kept an eye on for years. With the growing prominence and impact of Breitbart, Infowars, and their ilk, it’s never been more important. The good news is, it’s possible to show ads to the right people, avoid sites with fake news and hateful content, and maintain a great ROI.

Here’s a simple, 4-step action plan you can take to ensure your advocacy ads aren’t showing up in the wrong places.

Step 1

Start by reviewing your brand safety settings for each display ad partner you use. Make sure that you’ve got strong brand safety settings in place.

If you’re running display ads on the Google Display Network using AdWords, you’ll want to check out this info. If you’re using DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) like DoubleClick Bid Manager, Rocket Fuel, Quantcast, or MediaMath, they should also have brand safety settings and/or blacklists (sites where they block ads from serving). Make sure that they’re turned on!

Step 2

On a biweekly or monthly basis, review reports of the sites where your ads have served—more often if it’s a new vendor!

If you use the Google Display Network, you can use these instructions to check your site placements—i.e., where your ads are served. Your other display ad partners should be able to tell you where their ads are serving. Tools like DoubleClick Campaign Manager Verification reporting can help. If your vendors aren’t sharing this data… ask a little harder.

Step 3

Based on your research in step 2, create and maintain a blacklist of sites or placements where your ads should not show. Make sure your partners have this list, and make sure they’re using it!

Again, if you’re a GDN user, you should be more or less covered. Check out this support article to learn more.

Step 4

Be responsive to comments about where your ads show up. Even with ongoing blacklist updates, some bad placements may sneak through—if a site uses iframes from other domains, for example.

It’s okay if you don’t know what that technical stuff means! What matters is listening to your supporters (especially on social media) when they see something wrong, and following through. Reach out to your display ad partner, have them help you figure out how to block those ads, and explain to your supporters that you’re taking steps to distance yourself from the site.

M+R takes all of these steps and more to ensure brand safety for our clients, and you can do it, too. Direct response programmatic advertising (it sounds so fancy!) ultimately means that we’ll bid to show ads to the best audiences. And as we do so, we want to make sure we’re doing it on, well, not the worst sites.

A version of this article originally appeared on mrss.com and is reprinted here with permission.