What is Google for Nonprofits? The complete run-down

You may have heard rumors about a little-known program Google runs for non-profit organizations. Officially known as Google for Nonprofits, it’s great for cash-strapped organizations, but there’s plenty of confusion on what it includes and how to apply.

This post will tell you exactly what Google for Non-profits is, what the eligibility restrictions are, and help you decide if it’s right for your cause. So without further delay,

What is Google for Nonprofits?

Generally, Google for Nonprofits is a free program where Google gives away premium services (like $10,000 a month in Ads credits and custom G Suite accounts) at no cost. For organizations that qualify, Google for Nonprofits gives access to a collection of premium apps that might otherwise be too expensive for NPOs.

Google Ad Grants is perhaps the most popular program in Google for Nonprofits, where Google gives nonprofits $10,000 a month to spend on advertisements in Google search results. To learn more about Ad Grants, join our free webinar using the button below.

Grow Your Nonprofit With Google Grants

Join us for a free webinar to learn everything you need to know about Google Ad Grants, including how to use your $10,000/mo of free advertising to grow your nonprofit.

Regardless of how much time you have to spend on using the applications, it is well worth applying. Many of the products continue to amplify your non-profit’s work, even if you forget about them after the first set-up. But don’t take my word for it—let’s dig into what Google for Nonprofits can do for you.

What features does Google for Nonprofits have?

Listed below is a breakdown of each of the products included in the Google for Nonprofits program, listed in order of “most widely useful” to “useful in a few cases”. Each piece is powerful in its own way, so the best way to evaluate them is how relevant it is to your NPO.

Not all products are available in all countries. Check the list here.

 

G Suite for Nonprofits (Google Apps)

First up is G Suite, which until recently was Google Apps. If you have a Gmail account you’re probably familiar with what G Suite offers; it’s essentially the enterprise version of Gmail. Since every non-profit uses email, documents and spreadsheets, I rank this as the most widely useful app in Google for Nonprofits.

What it gets you:

  • Unlimited Gmail accounts that end in @yourdomain.com, vs @gmail.com
  • Google drive, docs, sheets, slides, etc. All those fun little apps
  • 30GB of space (up from 15 in personal accounts) for Drive documents and email hosting
  • 24/7 actual person support via phone, chat and email
  • Admin access over all your organization’s accounts

Biggest potential use:

We all know how useful Google docs are, but I think Google hosting the data while giving you full control is the best feature of this product. This frees up space on your server, and you can auto-archive emails after a certain period to automate ongoing maintenance. But most importantly, this all gives your organization control over its data.

I’ve seen several organizations auto-forward their emails to personal gmail accounts because they’re familiar with the interface. While this works fine initially, it eventually brings up concerns about confidential information. If an employee leaves on bad terms, you can’t get your organization’s emails back from their personal Gmail! Creating emails with Google apps gives users the familiar Gmail UI, while keeping your Nonprofit’s data inside the organization. And now with Google for Nonprofits, cost is no excuse for making sure your NPO is secure.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

  • Use Google Sites to quickly create intranet pages for new hires, organizational knowledge or projects
  • Use Google hangoutsto create an office phone line. Or send messages and videochat with multiple users from within Gmail

Cost savings:

$5 per person per month, versus paid Google Apps accounts.

 

Google Grants (Google Adwords)

Overall I think Google Grants is the most powerful of all the apps in Google for Nonprofits, because Google is literally giving you $10,000 a month to spend on fundraising via pay-per-click (PPC). For those not familiar with PPC, it refers to the text ads you see while searching Google. It falls second in the list because while everyone could use free money, the steep learning curve might scare people away.

What it gets you:

  • $10,000 / month of free money to spend on pay-per-click advertising.
    • Unlimited cost-per-click, if you install a tracking code
    • Ads are text only, and run only on Google.com, not any search partners or ad networks
  • The full Google Adwords platform to manage and measure your campaigns
  • Access to Adwords express, for those who don’t want to actively manage PPC campaigns

Biggest potential use:

Getting people to your nonprofit’s website is of course the biggest use for Ad Grants. You can use it to promote your next event, gain new email subscribers, attract people who are likely to donate, or just spread the word about a program you put on. The $10,000 translates into roughly 5,000 website visitors per month!

But more than just boosting your website’s stats, the beauty of Google Ads is that you can laser-target specific niches. Go for keywords like “science conventions” to promote your geeky gathering, or try out “volunteer opportunities near me” to recruit some more manpower. The possibilities are truly endless.

If you’d like to learn more about using Ad Grants to benefit your nonprofit, join our free webinar using the button below.

Grow Your Nonprofit With Google Grants

Join us for a free webinar to learn everything you need to know about Google Ad Grants, including how to use your $10,000/mo of free advertising to grow your nonprofit.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

  • Create content targeted towards topics you want to be an authority about, like “water crises” and use Adwords to get a foot in
  • If you really don’t have time, you can do Adwords Express, which is a hands-off option. However, this option is not recommended by any PPC pros over Adwords classic because Google’s algorithms will not bring you much useful traffic. But it’s probably better than nothing.

Cost savings:

Up to $10,000/month, and it generates donations!

 

YouTube Nonprofit Program

For NPOs that see the value in video, the YouTube Nonprofit Program elevates your YouTube channel to the next level and amplifies your donations. It even gives you the ability to plug into YouTube’s vast universe of content creators and develop meaningful partnerships. It’s definitely more intensive than some of the other apps in Google for Nonprofits, but it’s well worth the effort.

What it gets you:

  • The ability to have “donation cards” and “link anywhere cards” on your videos. These are beefed-up YouTube annotations that make your videos an interactive experience.
  • ZERO transaction fees on any donations processed by YouTube
  • For channels with 1,000+ subscribers: access to YouTube Spaces, Google’s professional production studios located around the globe

Biggest potential use:

We all know telling your non-profit’s story is important to get donors aligned with your cause. So build a process for creating engaging videos for each project your charity oversees! For example, child-sponsor organizations could create a short video per child and include a donation card at the end. This connects the donor with the project, eliminates barriers to giving, and saves your nonprofit the 3% processing fee! Here’s a video that describes how cards work:

Other ways to maximize this resource:

  • Build your subscriber count throughout the year, and connect with Google Spaces to create a grand-slam year end appeal video. There’s not much info on how quickly YouTube Spaces replies to requests, or how selective they are, but the application asks if your channel has over 10k subscribers. It’s probably a good idea to reach that goal before applying.
  • Connect with content creators and authority figures to get them to put donation cards to your non-profit. Any YouTuber with a solid following has access to these donation cards, and they can link to any eligible organization. Try developing a partnership with an influencer to put a donation card on one of their videos. Google even provides an outreach toolkit; it could be a great way to reach a new audience!

Cost savings:

Donations through YouTube will spare you the 2.9% + .30 fee other processors charge, while the value of YouTube spaces is probably in the tens of thousands.

 

Google One Today

What is Google One Today? It’s a daily-donation, pay-it-forward app that Google developed to increase visibility to non-profits. For users, the app gives them a non-profit to consider donating to each day. They can also “pay it forward” to friends, which basically funds the donation for the friend and prompts them to download the app.

What it gets you:

  • The ability to list your nonprofit and projects on Google’s One Today app

Biggest potential use:

Since this is such a new and relatively small initiative, the biggest way I can see this app being used is to reach new audiences, especially for tiny nonprofits or community organizations. Because it’s a smaller and less competitive platform, a user that is interested in a broad topic like “Education” might have a better chance at finding your local after-school program. Then you can push those new contacts to your website, or get some small donations via the app.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

Unknown. There’s really no information or precedent for what you can do with this app. In fact, Google doesn’t even have one example of an organization that’s leveraged One Today.

Cost savings:

It’ll save you the cost of processing fees, but it takes time and effort to make your projects look appealing. It’s unclear just how much of a revenue stream this is. In the App Store and Google Play Store, the download count isn’t astounding but the reviews are high. If nothing else, it’s an ability to increase visibility to a new population and maybe get a few bucks.

 

Google Earth and Maps (Google Maps API)

Now this product definitely isn’t for everybody, but for the right nonprofit it could really change how you do business. Google Earth Outreach opens up Google’s satellite and map data to nonprofits, enabling them to perform international development work like never before.

What it gets you:

  • The ability to publish Google Maps on your websites
  • Access to the premium Google Maps API, which lets you plot sensitive information on a map and keep the data internal
  • Access Google’s Open Data Kit, which allows you to link deep maps features in to proprietary software and applications.
  • Display customized visualizations and layers over Google Maps

Biggest potential use:

The first thing you see when you go to the Google for Nonprofits website is a case study with Charity: Water. They leveraged the Google Maps API to send donors GPS coordinates of where a new well will be built, connecting donors with a specific project to increase perceived impact. Large, international NGOs could likewise leverage the Maps API to coordinate geographic data.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

Another case study featured on the site describes how an Amazonian tribe learned to use Google for Nonprofits to stop illegal logging in their forest. The tool is so successful they’re able to use it for parceling out pieces to sell on the carbon credit marketplace! Likewise, watchdog groups could use Google Earth and Maps to stop land-grabs around the world.

Cost savings:

While the Maps API is a paid service, the cost is probably negligible since you can access 25,000 maps a day for free. The real value is in Google’s existing data sets and being able to integrate them with your applications.

Who is eligible for Google for Nonprofits?

Most 501c3’s are eligible for Google for Nonprofits, but there are some significant exceptions.

Ineligible Organizations

The following organizations are NOT eligible for Google for Nonprofits:

  • Governmental entities and organizations
    • This seems to include all government-run organizations, public libraries and 501c4’s. However, in my experience Google still approves community organizing and grassroots groups with 501c3 status.
  • Schools, childcare centers, academic institutions, and universities
    • These organizations will need to apply through Google for Education, which offers G Suite plus Google Classroom, Google Expeditions and discounted Chromebooks.
    • Google notes that “philanthropic arms of educational organizations are eligible for Google for Nonprofits”.
  • Hospitals and healthcare organizations
    • Google does not offer a healthcare version of Google for Nonprofits, nor does it give any free products to healthcare companies. It does, however, promote a HIPAA-compliant version of G Suite. If I had to guess, Google sees the health and wellness space as a cash-cow more than a cause that needs help, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for any free offerings.
  • Fiscally sponsored organizations and separate departments within the same organization
    • Nonprofits with 501c3 status through the IRS’ group exemptions are still eligible, though. You’ll apply with the group’s EIN, but the rest of the info supplied should reference your particular organization.

Honestly, even if you’re not sure that you’re eligible, it doesn’t hurt to apply. Other groups have seen 95% acceptance rates, and the application takes less than 10 minutes.

If you get rejected for some reason, google “Google Nonprofits NTEE Code” to see if the one your NPO falls under is ineligible. You can easily find your NTEE code on Guidestar.

How do you apply?

Check out the next post in this series for a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to the application.

The process has changed several times in the last few years, but these guides will always be updated.

Endnote: My take on Google for Nonprofits

The products included with Google for Nonprofits range in usefulness, but you can’t argue with free! Two products really stand out to me as god-sends, the first being G Suite for nonprofits. It’s best practice to keep email hosting separate from the website and to keep confidential information within the company’s servers, but this can incur extra costs, especially if you want to use a familiar interface like Gmail or Windows365. G Suite solves these two problems for nonprofits, and also ridiculously simplifies them.

Secondly, Google Grants is literally free money. And $10,000 a month of free money. Even if the stipulations force you to be creative to spend it, targeting low-bid, long-tail keywords is actually best practice in the industry, so it’s really not that bad. Even if you only create one ad targeting searches for your organization’s name, a native search result paired with a paid advertisement can increase clickthrough rates dramatically. It’s serious low hanging fruit.

Some people might be scared to rely on Google’s goodness, waiting for the day these programs get moved behind a paywall. I had my reservations too, but it’s been running since 2009–and even expanded since–so I’m confident in this product for the long-haul. You can’t expect things to last long in the tech space, but relatively speaking this program is eternal. So don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; go forth and do great marketing!

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23 thoughts on “What is Google for Nonprofits? The complete run-down”

  1. Pingback: Remote Working Toolkit for Nonprofits During Coronavirus (COVID-19) - The Modern Nonprofit

  2. Looking into this, but two issues we have is fast reliable trustworthy website hosting (you answered that with bluehost), and managing signups for a multitude of events through the year. We have tried Signup Genius and a couple of others, but don’t like the fact that some of them require you to use their email and access your roster (security/privacy issues), or that make each of your members create an account with them to participate on signups. We found a nice one, but the cost was more in line with huge national companies than what we could afford. Hoping Google Non-Profit has a similar service.

  3. All these things look great, but do you know if Google can provide things like website hosting for a non-profit website and information database. E-mail we have , but it is the hosting of our website that is becoming a problem.

    Thanks

  4. Hi, if we need more storage than 30gb per month, what is the extra cost? We need about 1-2TB for the whole organisation – what would this cost? We have about 24 users.

  5. My 501c3 nonprofit signed up for this especially for the ad grants, and it unexpectedly turned into a nightmare, and we’re looking for some help on how to resolve it. The portal for for-profit and nonprofit businesses are the same when it comes to managing ad campaigns, and the only difference is that they ask the nonprofits not to enter credit card information. However, since the portal is the same for both, including the popups, we were then constantly prompted to enter credit card information with warnings that not doing so would prevent us from running campaigns. Thinking this was required, someone in our organization did so, and we were charged like a regular customer would be. It completely drained our entire nonprofit’s bank account, and google tech support said they could do nothing to return our money, despite seeing we’re members of the ad grant program. Over a year and a half of fundraising was gone in a moment, and we’re devastated. We were so excited that this google product could help us take our nonprofit to new heights, and instead it was the worst thing that happened to us in our four years of operation. If anyone could give us the contact info of who could help resolve this, we’d greatly appreciate it. We don’t think Google would want this to happen, but right now their basic tech support can do nothing and we don’t know who to escalate this issue to.

    1. If you can’t get any traction with their support directly, try a couple indirect things. I find going to the credit card company will usually get the job done, they should be able to reverse the charges and/or deal with the corresponding company’s money handles (who can then contact tech support or whoever that way)…

      also, trying things like finding public twitter handles and posting your concerns can help, companies really do watch them, something that will catch notice but isn’t, at least initially, flaming or assumptive (something like "I was glad to use your service, but your offer of help has turned into a huge problem and undermined all of our hard work for XYZ cause for, what appears to be, a mistake. Unless your intention is to steal money from XYZ please help us ASAP"

    2. That’s terrible Lindsay. I can’t believe that Google has not reached out to you to help resolve this problem. We were thinking of also using the same grant service. now we are confused. Please let me know if you have had this issue resolved. Thank you

  6. William R Ferguson

    I am on the board of a Homeowners Association. We are charted by the CCRs for a development of 71 home. We collect dues but don’t generate income. We are considered a non profit by the State of Washington, but not by the IRS, since we must file tax return, but pay little if any because earned income is neglible. Do we qualify for as non profit for Google GSuite

    1. No, unfortunately. Being "not for profit", and being a qualified 501(c)3 are NOT the same thing. Your organization’s intent is not charitable, which is the most basic requirement for the Google program.

    2. A workaround may be to see what you can get done under Guidestar for transparency on your HOA. this might change how the IRS looks at you and might allow for another classification.

  7. Are YouTube Nonprofit Program participants allowed to use spreadsheet templates like a "partner" can? After researching I see that those classified as YouTube "partners" have access to using Google spreadsheets, which can export to one or more CSV files, which can then in turn be uploaded to YouTube and the content automatically be processed per the file.
    We do quite a bit of video uploading or our own content, and are looking for a means of reducing the time spent on manually adding metadata.
    Thanks!

  8. Hi,
    I’m with a 501c3 nonprofit crisis organization. We have Google for Nonprofits set up. We need to do some training (we teach interpreters about trauma-informed interpreting protocols for working with crisis survivors) where Google Classroom would really be helpful! It looks like we can’t use Google Classroom as part of Google for Nonprofits. Would it be allowed for us to also apply for the Google for Education in order to use that?
    Thank you!

  9. Hi there,

    i want to create multi pal user, please tell me how i can create multiple user and how i can control admin details like as admin super admin etc..

  10. If i contact google .. is there any chance that they agree to provide us with a non-profit account for ngo not registered in their country lists

  11. Google Grants is excellent. I like this post too! Thanks for the update. Next … Donations and Google One … well I have "all the time in the world now – awaiting a transplant!!

  12. Hi there! Do you know if a Google Non-Profit receives unlimited photo storage while using Google Photos (with the photos in their original condition, which usually you are given a limited amount of storage that you have to pay for if you go over)?

  13. Is the "$5 per person per month, versus paid Google Apps accounts" savings mean that Gmail accounts are free? Or that they are cheaper per user than for typical for-profit businesses. Thanks!

      1. And that includes the Gmail feature? I have a TechSoup validated nonprofit, but Gsuite keeps prompting me to pay $10-14/month to continue set up.

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