Google Grants: Be prepared for trending topics

In two previous posts on Google Grants, my colleague, Mark Neigh, talked about bidding on your brand and best practices for maximization. In this post, I will show you why being prepared for trending topics, that are appropriate to your cause, can help your non-profit’s spend, visibility, and fundraising.

Enter Mercy Chefs

Late in September, Masterworks secured a Google AdWords Grant for Mercy Chefs, a non-profit that provides disaster response support through meals, establishment of kitchens, clean water systems, and more.

Hurricane Matthew as a Trending Topic

While doing initial planning for how to integrate the Grant and maximize its (up to) $10,000/month of in-kind media spend, Hurricane Matthew began its trek through the Caribbean and up the eastern coast of the United States.

Mercy Chefs did not yet have copy on their website related to Hurricane Matthew, but did have a homepage hero image and a donation page hero image that clearly showed support for Haiti around the hurricane, so we developed ads specific to Haiti hurricane relief.

Example Haiti-themed ad:


The Grant Maxed Out on Day 1

These ads were deployed on Thursday, October 6th, and within less than 2 hours, we had maxed out the daily Grant budget of $329, creating an additional 273 visits that would not have occurred without the Grant. That is 273 more people that could learn about Mercy Chefs and potentially support hurricane response and relief through Mercy Chefs. The following day, the Grant budget was once again maximized with similar traffic results.

On the first day, we had added negative keywords around news, video updates, and other topics not relevant to Mercy Chefs so that the ads would not show when someone searched for — for example — “hurricane matthew news.” Friday, we felt we still saw too much generic traffic and not enough focused on fundraising, donating, or support, and Mercy Chefs had deployed its team to Beaufort, SC, so we reworked the keywords to focus more narrowly on donations and the ads to not focus on Haiti.

Example new ad:


Traffic Decreased as a Result

Unfortunately, what we did not expect was for the volume of searches for things like “donate to hurricane matthew” to be so low, and as a result, the Grant saw a drop in spend and clicks from the maximum down to almost zero over the weekend.


Our rationale for the change was that we wanted to get in front of the most relevant traffic possible. Relevant traffic correlates with higher conversion rates and greater giving, which increases the funds going to programs and services. Unfortunately, what we found was that people were primarily looking for information around Hurricane Matthew, and those people might very well have eventually decided to give, but they were generally not using donation-related search terms, and as a result, we lost most of the opportunity to promote Mercy Chefs, their work, and the impact it could have for survivors and first responders.

A Return to Maximization

As a result, we opened up the keyword targeting on Monday in order to make sure that — even if people were not looking to give — they could still find information about Mercy Chefs and their disaster response work. We saw a return to Grant maximization and increased traffic.


For Mercy Chefs, being able to promote their programs, at a time when they are in such great need, means that they have the opportunity to raise funds to support residents and first responders, but they’re one step closer to maximizing their Grant long term, which can mean eligibility for Grantspro which will increase their budget from $10,000 to $40,000 per month. Note: As of this writing, Grantspro applications are closed, but in the past AdWords has closed them for a few months, only to reopen them later.

For other non-profits and Masterworks, one of the primary takeaways is that — as long as you can provide answers and support around the topics — promoting trending issues within a Google Grant can not only give you increased traffic and potential fundraising opportunities, but it can also help you to become eligible for up to $40,000 per month in digital media spend. And the additional spend can have a huge impact on ROI.

Make the Most of a Google Grant

If your non-profit does not have a Google AdWords Grant, or has one and is not maximizing it, email me at Just as happened with Mercy Chefs here, we can help to ensure that your message gets out there at the right time and that you are using resources like this that can both lower your fundraising budget needs while increasing your fundraising revenue.