Google Non-Profit Grant Canceled? Here’s Your Rescue Guide

Here’s how to prevent your Google Ad Grant from being suspended or canceled

Google Grant canceled

This article was written to help nonprofits prevent cancelation of their Ad Grant and accomplish four key goals:

  • Ensure compliance with newly updated Google Ad Grant changes and policy updates
  • Prevent Google Ad Grant account deactivation
  • Improve Ad Grant performance by embracing the new Grant policy updates
  • Enhance the outcomes of your monthly $10,000 budget

So, let’s get started.

You should stop reading right now if your organization is automatically ineligible for the Google Ad Grant:

  • Schools
  • Childcare centers
  • Academic institutions
  • Universities
  • Government entities and organizations
  • Hospitals and healthcare organizations
  • Philanthropic branches of educational organizations, although those may be eligible for a subsidiary of the Grant called Google for Education.

You should also stop reading now if you are using AdWords Express to manage your Google Ad Grant.

Okay – first question…is your Ad Grant compliant under the new policies?

I don’t know what you are talking about. What is a Google Ad Grant?

Google Ad Grants is a donation program from Google that distributes free in-kind advertising to select 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Participating nonprofit organizations are eligible to receive up to $10,000 per month in in-kind advertising from Google Ad Words.

For 501c3 non-profits, Google Ad Grants can be used to find more volunteers, get donations, and build awareness. Qualified nonprofits can make a major impact with the Google Grant – after all – who can’t use an extra $120,000 per year in online advertising?

You can learn more about the Google Ad Grant here:

We have a Google Ad Grant but I don’t know much about Google Grant requirements. Can you give me some background?

In late 2017, Google updated their Ad Grant Policies to improve quality standards. For nonprofits, understanding these policy updates is important – maintaining Google Ad Grant compliance can help you maximize the impact of your campaigns. A few of the new requirements include:

  • Geotargeting [Not applicable for AdWords Express accounts]: You must have geo-targeting enabled and must set target locations relevant to your organization.
  • Ad Groups [Not applicable for AdWords Express accounts]: Every campaign must have at least two active ad groups. Every ad group must contain at least two active text ads. Every ad group must contain at least two highly-relevant keywords.
  • Site Link Extensions [Not applicable for AdWords Express accounts]: You must use at least two site link extensions per Campaign.
  • Click-Thru-Rate [Not applicable for AdWords Express accounts]: Your account must maintain a 5% click-through-rate (CTR) every month: If your account is at risk of falling below 5%, you will receive a warning. If your account does not achieve a 5% for two consecutive months, your account will be suspended. Since CTR is such a complex topic, we address it in greater detail later in this article.
  • Mission-Based Campaign Requirements: Your Ad Grants account must clearly reflect the organization’s mission, programs, and services. This means your messages should be relevant! Check your quality scores to see how Google is comparing your ads to your landing pages!

Some practices which are allowed with PAID accounts are not allowed with Ad Grant accounts. For example:

  • You cannot use brand name keywords that you don’t own, e.g., the name of other organizations, newspapers, or corporations.
  • Single-word keywords (excluding branded words you own, recognized medical conditions, and a few other exception keywords). Terms with dashes, periods, or special characters are not treated as single-word keywords.
  • Low keyword quality score: keywords with a quality score of 2 or less are not allowed.

See the full exception list here.

Website Requirements:

What hasn’t changed is the domains your organization wishes to use must be approved during the Ad Grants enrollment process or through the additional website domain(s) request form. What has also not changed is the use of approved domains. Approved domains must abide by following criteria:

  • Your organization must own the domains being used in your ads.
  • Your organization’s website must not contain broken links.
  • Your organization’s website must function well and have a clear description of your organization and its mission.

THE EXCITING NEWS – Bidding Strategy Updates

The new bidding strategy update removes the $2.00 bid cap. This is a huge deal. If your organization chooses to apply Google’s Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy, there is no cap on keyword price. Applying this strategy automatically adjusts and sets bids based on performance. The $2.00 maximum bid still applies to all other bid methods.

These updates will help improve the overall performance of your Ad Grant accounts so that you can better expose your mission. As you explore your Google Ad Grants Compliance in 2018, these updates will help you achieve more donor dollars.

I don’t know my click-thru rate. How do I tell?

The main way Google determines the status of a nonprofit’s account is through its CTR, or “Click-Through Rate.” An account’s CTR measures which ads have successfully engaged users by tracking how many users clicked the ad versus the total number of users who saw the ad.

A high CTR directly correlates to the effectiveness of a nonprofit’s ad presence.

A nonprofit must maintain a 5% Account Level CTR each month to ensure their account remains active [Not applicable for AdWords Express accounts]. Due to the importance of this metric, achieving a 5% or greater CTR should be a chief priority while working within the Google Ad Grant.

Google checks CTRs each month. If a nonprofit’s CTR dips below 5% over the course of a month, they will receive notifications both via email and in their AdWords portal.  After two consecutive months of reported CTRs below 5%, a nonprofit’s account may be deactivated. Per Google, accounts in danger of being suspended or canceled will be “alerted through in-product notifications if your account is at risk of falling below 5 percent CTR with educational resources offered to improve.”

Google wants grantees to be able to maintain their accounts just as much as the grantees do. So, they’ve made it easy to keep an eye on an account’s CTR.

Follow the checklist below to learn how:

  1. Log in to Google AdWords
  2. Check for notifications from your bell icon in the upper right corner of your screen. If the account’s CTR has dipped below 5% for a calendar month, Google will notify you here.Google Grant requirements notification bell
  3. Select your date range. Either click on ‘Last Month’ or change the date range in the portal to reflect the last calendar month, also in the upper right corner of your screen. Adwords Campaigns
  4. Click “All Campaigns” in the sidebar to see campaign activity during the selected calendar month.
  5. Do not filter out paused campaigns. Campaigns that ran during your selected timeframe are considered in the overall account CTR for the month. These can be paused to maintain CTR compliance but may need to be removed.
  6. In the table at the bottom of the screen, locate the CTR column. Here you will find an account’s reported CTR for all active campaigns during the selected month.

ad grant click thru rate 5%

My CTR is at or above 5%

Congratulations! Your Google Ad Grant account is probably in good standing. This means you’ve established a strong landing page with a succinct call-to-action. You’re also probably implementing consistent keyword strategies between the different ad groups in an ad campaign—that is, the wording in your ad campaign is parallel with a targeted set of search keywords. In short, both your ad text and ad group convey the call-to-action on your landing page.

A high CTR is a gift that keeps on giving: the more clicks an ad gets, the more often it will appear on a page, generating even more engagement. You just have to get the ball rolling!

Adopt a Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy

If your CTR is greater than 5%, you are in a good place

One of the most exciting updates to the Google Ad Grant policy is the recent relaxation of caps on conversion bids. That might not sound exciting, but here’s what it means practically for nonprofits…

Previously, a Google Ad Grantee could only bid up to $2.00 on any given keyword in an ad group. This meant that grantees were often outbid by organizations or entities with bigger buying power. Now, grantees can exceed $2.00 per keyword, but only if they use the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy. And, bonus, the Strategy sets and submits bids automatically.

Using machine learning, information on a campaign’s past performance, and real-time data during an auction, the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy will determine the most advantageous bid for an account to make in the context of the ad group’s budget. This means that a nonprofit’s bidding can be more agile during an auction, leading to more exposure and engagement.

How to make the most of the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy

Check the account’s conversions-per-month and clicks-per-day rate. If an account is averaging more than 15 conversions each month and more than 20 clicks each day, then proceed to the next step.

The higher an account’s conversion and click rates are before enabling the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy, the better the results.

Enable conversion tracking and the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy. This will allow the Strategy to gather information on a campaign’s performance. Before tailoring other settings, allow Google to run through the ‘Learning” phase. You can check the Learning status by hovering over ‘Eligible (Learning)’

what does eligible learning mean?

Move extraneous keywords, like your owned brand names or cheaper words, to a new campaign.

Perform a low-risk test with the Maximize Conversion Bidding Strategy by first applying it to a campaign with a smaller budget. Adjust the budget accordingly once the Strategy begins to increase exposure.

If implemented appropriately, the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy can greatly increase a campaign’s conversion rates and consequently, a nonprofit’s visibility. Even so, nonprofits should compare other bidding strategies with the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategy. These other bidding strategies include Maximize Clicks Bidding Strategy, Manual Cost Per Click Bidding Strategy, and Enhanced Cost Per Click Bidding Strategy. You can best compare these strategies in your accounts by duplicating your nonprofit’s best campaigns and enabling different combinations of bidding strategies in each. Comparing and contrasting the results will help you determine which strategy pairings are most advantageous for your campaigns. If you choose to use a conversion-based bidding strategy other than Maximize Conversions, such as Target CPA, or Target ROAS, you must have conversion tracking set up properly and you must adhere to the $2.00 max CPC.

Ad Grant requirements

It will take some time to finesse the exact combination right for the campaigns in your nonprofit’s account. Traditionally, pairing the Maximize Clicks Bidding Strategy and the Maximize Conversions Bidding Strategies is most effective, but feel free to experiment with strategy settings to discover what best caters to your campaign.

My Click-Thru Rate is Under 5%  

First, take a deep breath. There are several changes a nonprofit can make to reach that coveted 5% CTR:

  1. Cut out low-performing keywords. You can do this by filtering out all enabled ad campaigns that have a high impression rate but have generated few or no clicks over the past calendar month. In other words, pause keywords that have had significant face time with users but little engagement. Your filter parameters should look something like this:
      1. Impression rate: > 100
      2. Clicks: < 2
      3. Conversions: < 1.00

Ad grant keywords

NOTE: This strategy is meant to be implemented selectively. Some low-performing keywords might be newly introduced to a campaign, and thus haven’t had enough exposure time with users to build up substantial data. In the future, these might become very effective and high-performing keywords. If you have a lot of new keywords with low impression rates, check back on them during the next calendar month to see if their performance has improved. But for now, only filter out keywords that have a high impression rate (>100), low engagement (< 2 clicks), and no conversions (< 1.00).

After completing step one, clear the filters and check the account’s average CTR for enabled keywords. Again, this can be found at the bottom of the table to the right of “Total: Campaign.” If your CTR is now above 5%, sit back and relax— your account is in good standing.

I’m having problems getting my CTR above 5%

Instead of filtering for an impression rate > 100, filter for an impression rate > 75. This will widen the pool of potentially underperforming keywords during the selected calendar month.

Continue pausing keywords within the newly defined impression rate that also report low engagement (< 2 clicks) and no conversions (<1.00).

Clear the filters and check the average CTR for enabled keywords.

Rinse and repeat until your CTR is at or above 5%: lower the filtered impression rate, pause keywords with low clicks and no conversions, clear filters, and check the average CTR for enabled keywords. If the second round of filters target an impression rate of > 75, the third might be > 60 or > 50. Eventually, the average CTR will rise to 5%.

You can also filter keywords for their individual CTR. Instead of setting parameters that filter out clicks < 2, your parameters could look like this:

      1. Impression rate: > 100
      2. Conversions: < 1.00
      3. CTR < 2.50%


With these filters, pause all keywords listed. Clear the filters and check the average CTR for enabled keywords. If the CTR is still under 5%, continue using a combination of the two methods above until the CTR reaches 5%.

I can’t get to a 5% CTR. What should I do?

If the account is still struggling to meet a 5% CTR, it might be time to re-evaluate your campaigns.

Your ads are not reaching users, and the best course of action is to reassess your message and your keywords.

Pause the campaign and start drafting something new. Keep in mind which keywords performed the lowest to avoid revisiting them in the new campaign.

My Google Ad Grant Account has been canceled or deactivated…what should I do?

If your account is deactivated or suspended, you can contact the Google AdWords team to discuss reactivation. The team can be contacted here.  Here’s another article about what to do if your Google Ad Grant is Suspended

The best approach with a canceled, suspended or deactivated account is to review the basics and spend extra time on the care and maintenance of your Google Ad Grant. Best practices recommend you do the following…

  • Address Keywords Properly: Within the Google Ad Grant’s new policy updates, all keywords must have a quality score higher than 2. Otherwise, an account is at risk of deactivation. In the same way, enabled keywords can be filtered for their impression rates, they can also be filtered for their quality score.
    • Set your parameters to filter for enabled keywords that have a quality score < 2.
    • Pause or remove all keywords returned by this filter.

Ad grant Quality Score requirement

  • Check for Brand Names: Brand names in keywords should also be removed. A nonprofit is only permitted to use their own brand name in their keywords.
  • Implement Geo-Targeting: Geo-targeting is mandatory and an effective way to ensure your campaign reaches users in the right location. For example, if a nonprofit’s services are specific to a town, county, or region, geo-targeting ensures that an ad or campaign is only displayed to users in that area. An ad for a food bank that serves Chicago displayed to a user in Winnipeg is an ineffective ad.
    • Under the new Google Ad Grant policies, all campaigns must have appropriate geo-targeting for their nonprofit.
    • Check the geo-targeting of each enabled campaign to see if the location is logical for the service reach of your nonprofit.

Ad grant Geotargeting requirement

  • Nested Ad Groups: Another policy update concerns minimum ad group requirements. Now, each ad campaign must consist of at least two ad groups. These nested ad groups have the same budget, geo-targeting, and marketing strategies. Think of it as an evolutionary tree for ad content: your ad groups don’t have to be exactly the same, but they should work in the same genus.
    • It is important to note that, like the 5% CTR requirement, the new regulations for ad groups are closely monitored and enforced. Nonprofits should be vigilant in keeping their ad groups compliant.
  • Sitelink Extensions: A sitelink extension is a link logged into AdWords that will appear below an ad when it loads onto a page. Sitelink extensions are effective tools to increase user engagement and provide opportunities for users to experience a wider range of a nonprofit’s content. Under the new Google Ad Grant policy, each ad campaign is required to have 2 or more working sitelink extensions. Examples of sitelink extensions that anticipate a user’s needs are “Upcoming Events” for a cultural organization or “Make an Appointment” for a charitable clinic.

Ad grant Sitelinks requirement

An Amazing Opportunity to Reach New Audiences and Grow your Mission


The Google Ad Grant is an amazing opportunity for nonprofits to reach new audiences, augment their engagement, and grow their digital presence. Macon Raine’s Google Ad Grant Cancelation Guide is intended to help nonprofits utilize their $10,000 monthly grant for the best results possible. This guide is also intended to decode some of the latest Google Ad Grant policies, so grantees can both build their expertise in the grant process and take advantage of new opportunities facilitated by the updated regulations. With this guide, some diligence, and creativity, nonprofits can begin to see the benefits of higher exposure and more meaningful engagement.


Ready to talk? Let’s do it! Contact us below.