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 Nonprofits is, what the eligibility restrictions are, and help you decide if it’s right for your organization.

What is Google for Nonprofits?

Generally, Google for Nonprofits is a program where Google gives away premium services (like Google Ads and Google Workspace) for free. 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 via the Google Ads platform.

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 nonprofit’s work, even if you forget about them after the initial setup. Let’s dig into what Google for Nonprofits can do for your organization.

What Services does Google for Nonprofits Provide?

Listed below is a breakdown of each of the products included in the Google for Nonprofits program. Each service is powerful in its own way, so it’s best to check each one individually to evaluate which ones are right for your organization.

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

Google Workspace for Nonprofits

Google Workspace Tools

First up is Google Workspace. If you have a Gmail account you’re probably familiar with at least some of what this service offers; it’s essentially the enterprise version of many of the helpful tools offered by Google. Since every nonprofit uses email, calendars, chat messaging, video messaging, 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
  • 100 participant video meetings
  • Google drive, docs, sheets, slides, etc. All those fun little apps
  • 30 GB of cloud storage per user (up from 15 in personal accounts) for 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 Workspace gives users the familiar Gmail inbox, while keeping your Nonprofit’s data inside the organization and allowing you to look more professional. And now with Google for Nonprofits, cost is no excuse for making sure your NPO is secure because you get Google Workspace for free!

Other ways to maximize this resource:

  • Keep all of your organizations documents in Google Drive so you have control and access to everything.
  • Use Google Meet for your organizations meetings and share your screen while you are presenting. This feature had become essential during the Corona pandemic where many organizations started working remotely.

Cost savings:

The base plan for Google Workspace for Nonprofits is free, compared with $6 per month per user for the regular Business Starter plan.

If you need the upgraded plan that comes with 2 TB of cloud storage per user, you can sign up for the Business Standard plan for $3 per month per user. This is a considerable discount for nonprofits, as regular businesses pay $12 per month per user for the same package.

The next level up is the Business Plus plan which includes more features for holding large video meetings, 5 TB of cloud storage per user and enhanced security controls. This cost $5.04 per user per month. Regular for-profit organizations pay $18 per month per user for this same plan.

Google Ad Grants

Overall, I think Google Grants is the most useful of all the features in Google for Nonprofits because Google is literally giving you $10,000 a month to spend on marketing and 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 as well as the strict policies of Google to remain in the program.

These policies require you to maintain high click-through rates on your ads (at least 5%), a minimal quality score of at least 3 on all your keywords, and an account structure that does not just try to take advantage of the grant by using overly broad targeting. This can be very tricky for inexperienced digital marketers. Luckily, there are Google Ad Grants experts that can help you set up and run your account.

What it gets you:

  • $10,000 per month of free credits to spend on pay-per-click advertising
  • The full Google Ads platform to manage and measure your 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.

Other ways to maximize this resource:

  • Create content targeted towards topics you want to be an authority about, like “water crises” and use Google Ads to get noticed in your space.
  • Install Google conversion tracking on your website so you can track which campaigns, keywords and ads perform the best. Then, once you collect enough data, you can turn on Google’s automated bidding tools to maximize the number of conversions you receive from your campaigns.

Cost savings:

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

If you’re interested in learning more about Google Ad Grants, take advantage of our free consultation.

Grow Your Nonprofit With Google Grants

Sign up for a free consultation from a digital marketing expert specializing in Google Grants. Learn about getting help with setting up and managing your campaign so you can make the most of this opportunity. 

Do you currently have a Google Ad Grants Account?

YouTube Nonprofit Program

Youtube Donation Cards

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

What it gets you:

  • The ability to have “link anywhere cards” on your videos. These are beefed-up YouTube annotations that make your videos an interactive experience and allow you to send people to an external link (such as your website)
  • Access to Creator Academy, which offers lessons tailored to nonprofits
  • Use of the YouTube Giving features that allow you to have a donation button on your videos and those of channels you partner with

Biggest potential use:

We all know telling your nonprofit’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 spreads awareness, connects the donor with the project, and eliminates the barriers to giving.

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 plus you can connect to the 2.6 billion people that come to YouTube each month.

Google Earth and Maps (Google Maps API)

Screenshot of Google Earth and maps

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 to show your organizations impact with the Google Maps and Google Earth platforms.

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 platform to stop land-grabs around the world. Many organizations have been really creative in how to use this resource, and you should really read the case studies.

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 Google Workspace, Google Classroom, and discounted Chromebooks.
    • Google states 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 Google Workspace.
  • 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 our 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.

Summary: 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 must-haves, the first being Google Workspace 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. Google Workspace solves these two problems for nonprofits and also simplifies them immensely.

Secondly, the Google Grants program is literally 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 search 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. However, Google has added more requirements to remain in the Google Grants program so you need to be careful about that.

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

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      If you qualify, your nonprofit can receive Google Workspace for free. It’s worth going through the application process to find out.

  1. Gravatar image of Sara

    Google for nonprofits should really be titled “google for 501(c)(3) charities”. The ONLY nonprofits who qualify are ones organized under that tax section. Social Welfare nonprofits organized under 501(c)(4) do NOT qualify for Google for Nonprofits (I have been trying to get it to work for several days now).

  2. Gravatar image of MAXINE CADE

    i thoroughly enjoyed Jason Jensen’s article, THOUGHTS ON “WHAT IS GOOGLE FOR NONPROFITS? THE COMPLETE RUN DOWN”. It was highly informative and I feel that it covered the whole spectrum of what makes a very Successful and Profitable NonProfit.

    I am the founder and President of a NonProfit that focuses on Financial Education. Financial Literacy for Blacks, with an all out assault againt Black Financial Illiteracy.

    We are in the process of completing the construction of our Website. As soon as we do, I will apply to join the Google NonProfit Program and for a Google Ad Grant to enhance and spearhead the Rapid and Profitable Growth and Success of my NonProfit.

  3. Gravatar image of Jim Fraser

    Thank you for the comprehensive article. We are a small Lutheran church- we have a domain. Our goal is to establish organizational emails for our council, staff, and a few select, key individuals. My assumption is the fee account would meet our needs. Is there anything I am missing?

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Hi Jim,

      As long as your church has 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS, you will be eligible. If don’t have plans to store heavy files such as video on your Google Workspace account, the free account will give you all you need. Best of luck.

  4. Gravatar image of Vickie L Montgomery
    Vickie L Montgomery

    As a volunteer non-profit society (celebrating 50 years this year), we do not have a permanent address (officers change every 2 years), nor a physical address. Are these problems?
    And is cloud space included?

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Hi Vickie,

      You should use whichever address you use for receiving mail. Also, cloud storage is available for free for some organizations that qualify, while others pay a discounted rate.

  5. Gravatar image of Theresa O
    Theresa O'Connor

    I wanted my organization to apply for this but I’m not sure it’s possible. Our leadership already set us up with Microsoft 365 and it looks like we would need to abandon Microsoft 365 in order to use Google for Nonprofits. Is that correct?

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Not exactly. One of the best parts of the Google for Nonprofits program is the free or discounted Google Workspace subscription, which is basically useless if you are already using Office 365. However, you can still enjoy the Google Grants and YouTube nonprofit programs regardless.

  6. Gravatar image of Barb

    I’m confused by an apparent contradiction in this article. At one point, the author states that “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.” But later he states that the service is “$5 per person per month.” So is a G Suite account free or $5/month for non-profits? (And if does include a fee, is the $5/month rate still current?)

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Sorry about the confusion. If you are using the Basic plan, then as a member of the Google for Nonprofits program you will receive Google Workspace (G Suite) for free. Where you saw in this article that it said “$5 per person” was under a title “Cost Savings”

  7. Gravatar image of Melissa

    We are planning to incorporate as a 501(c)(6) but have a 501(c)(3) arm – will Google accept this? On its face, it sounds like they won’t because our IRS determination letter will be for a c(6), but the (c)(3) program is for charitable support and our primary function. Any way to get Google support for this?

    1. Gravatar image of Yaron Marcus

      Could you give us more information about what type of organization you are? According to the Google for non-profit guidelines, if you are a school, university, academic institution, hospital, health organization and you have a non-profit arm, you can be eligible.

  8. Gravatar image of Kristin

    Can Canadian N-P organizations benefit from Google Non-Profit? Our tax registrations are not the same as the 501c3 nonprofit designations.

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