Posted by Dave Strong, Search Analyst
While history may suggest that a weakening economy has little effect on nonprofit organizations, anecdotal evidence of our current situation is more grim. As trillions of dollars disappear both in America and abroad, governments, corporations and individual donors, which make up the foundations of philanthropic giving, are under increasing pressure to slash budgets and prepare for a long economic downturn. Across the country, the nonprofit sector — from food banks & heath care policy groups to foreclosure assistance programs & arts organizations — is announcing reductions in staff and programs as available funds dwindle. The American Lung Association and Susan G. Komen for the Cure (breast cancer foundation) recently cut staff by 15% and 16%, respectively. The New York Metropolitan Opera, once a shining example of nonprofit sustainability, has cut all salaries by 10% and removed at least 4 shows from its 2009 program due to endowment losses and depressed contributions. And the Philanthropy News Digest reports that grantmaking foundation endowments declined by a median of 29% over the second half of 2008.
The dismaying financial statistics coupled with a call from our recently-inaugurated president for all Americans to “pitch in” have left many of us wondering how we can contribute. Millions of people nationwide have pledged their time or money to assist in any way possible, but if you are wondering about a more targeted approach leveraging your individual skill set, consider teaming up with a nonprofit organization and applying for a Google Grant.
Those of us who work in search understand the value that it can bring to a company. Few of our colleagues, however, are familiar with a BETA program known as Google Grants, which offers free Adwords placements on Google.com for qualified organizations.
Google describes the program:
“Google Grants is a unique in-kind advertising program, providing free Google AdWords text advertising to select nonprofit organizations. The program harnesses Google's products, technology and resources to support groups that share Google's philosophy of helping the world through community service in areas such as science and technology, education, global public health, the environment, youth advocacy, and the arts. To date, grants have been awarded to thousands of nonprofit groups whose missions include animal welfare, literacy, supporting homeless children and HIV education.”
The basic idea is that for qualifying nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) status, Google will pledge up to $10,000 per month in placements, giving grantees the ability to solicit donations, recruit volunteers, raise awareness of their missions or even just test messaging around a specific marketing push. The program is simple to apply for (much more so than the average grant) and once a grant is awarded it will run indefinitely with no need to re-apply each year, (assuming you meet Google's requirements for an ongoing campaign). Pair the campaign with the free Google Analytics package, and you've provided an organization with powerful tools that will help them to achieve their business objectives. Once the program is launched, a minimal time investment centered around optimization is all the commitment you need to significantly increase visibility for your chosen organization.
There is a set of constraints that apply to Grants accounts that do not apply to a normal Adwords account, such as unique editorial policies, no inclusion on search partner sites or the Google content network, a max allowable CPC of $1.00 per term and a request that the program is actively tended, but for those willing to work through the nuances of this type of program, the benefits can be immense.
More information on Google Grants.
More information on the state of nonprofits in the current economy at Council of Nonprofits.