In December, Google announced that it’s now working with over 35,000 nonprofit organisations within its Ad Grants programme.

This charitable side of Google provides nonprofits with paid search advertising grants of up to $10,000 a month to help them reach more people with their public service messaging.

Alongside the obvious nod to its corporate social responsibility efforts, Google took the opportunity to notify advertisers and agencies that they were lifting the $2 bid cap for campaigns using the maximise conversion bid strategy.

New Criteria

The bid cap has previously been a big barrier of spend for many nonprofits, and its removal will allow them to make the most of their grant. But don’t get too carried away with your celebrations. All that glitters is not gold.

Together with the $2 bid cap removal came a link to updated policy documents, detailing changes in the already strict criteria for Ad Grantees. These changes came into effect on 1st January 2018.

So, we thought it best to put together an explanation of the main policy changes and what you need to look out for to keep your account on the straight and narrow.

Stricter Performance Targets

The biggest policy update is the requirement for all grant accounts to maintain a 5% click through rate. Two months in a row below this threshold - account suspended.

This seems a little harsh - we know - but Google assures us that any accounts at risk of suspension will be alerted though in-product notifications. Alongside the CTR target, each keyword in the account needs to achieve a quality score of 3 or more.

While these aren’t impossible feats, they may both lead to the culling of large subsections of a grant account. Time to get ruthless.


Single-word keywords are out. Overly generic phrase, see ya’ later. Brand terms that you don’t own, hasta la vista, baby.

There are a few exceptions, which are worth taking a look at, but these keyword restrictions have the potential to make a big difference.

Google have confirmed that it’s not exactly a hard and fast rule, and highly relevant keywords won’t lead to account suspension. Still, we recommend erring on the side of caution with this one.

Account Structure

According to Google, its grant accounts need to bulk up.

Firstly, all campaigns need to have two or more ad groups. All of these ad groups need to contain two or more text ads. And across the account, there needs to be two or more sitelink ad extensions in place for each campaign.

This all follows Google’s existing best practices, but it’s now an obligation for those on the Ad Grants programme. Try to rebel and you’ll be forced to use AdWords Express and be at the mercy of its automatic account structuring.

Lastly, all grant accounts must use specific geo-targeting, and limit their ads to relevant locations. If your organisation serves families in the South West, it makes sense not to serve ads to searchers from the other side of the globe.

Putting it all together

These new policy updates are an extra layer on the Ad Grant terms and conditions already in place. The full T&C’s in all their black and white glory can be found on the Google support pages.

While in summary this looks like a pain in the neck, updates themselves can only be a good thing. These changes have been made with quality in mind and will only encourage nonprofits to use their grant budgets more efficiently. And as they say, all hardships are sent to try us.

Hopefully this post will help you navigate the murky water of Ad Grant polices, but if you find yourself floundering with these new updates get in contact with our PPC account managers via the contact page and we’ll guide you through it.