Google Ads for Nonprofits, Part Three

A Real-Life Example of a Nonprofit’s Google Ad Campaign

Setting up a Google Ad initiative is a major undertaking.

You have to understand your goals, do your keyword research, make your ad creatives, set up campaigns, determine your budget, and consistently monitor the ads for optimization.

It can feel like a lot all at once, especially if it’s your first campaign.

The best way to learn is through a real-life example.

This article walks you through the five steps in a Google Ad campaign lifecycle, from strategy to optimization and beyond. Throughout the article, we’ll give you an over-the-shoulder view of an ad campaign we deployed for a client of ours. We’ve called them “Firefly Nonprofit” to maintain their privacy.

This is part three of a three-part series on Google Ads for Nonprofits.

  1. Part One: Why Paid Ads Are An Essential Outreach Tool
  2. Part Two: Key Terms To Understand When Using Paid Ads
  3. Part Three: A Real-Life Example of a Nonprofit’s Google Ad Campaign

Five Steps to Create a Successful Google Ads Campaign

Step One: Strategize

No campaign can find success without clearly outlining the objectives first. Funds are precious for every nonprofit and you want to make sure you’re getting the most from your efforts.

Before we start any Google Ads campaign, our team answers every question below. It may seem like a lot, but without this due diligence, you’ll not only struggle in the implementation but also with being able to clearly understand if you achieved your goals or not. This is the most important step of them all.

Strategy Questions

Really dive into the “why” behind your campaign. Starting aligned and focused will ensure easier decision-making as the campaign progresses.

  • Objective: What is the desired outcome? What are you trying to achieve and how should that be measured?
  • Audience: Who are the primary, secondary, and maybe even tertiary audiences you are trying to target with this campaign?
  • Campaign Message: What is the overarching lesson, fact, or takeaway audiences should walk away knowing?
  • Campaign Attitude: What is the overall tone and voice of the campaign?
  • Call to Action: What is the main thing the campaign will ask audiences to do?

Logistics Questions

Now that you have the strategy, it’s time to get into the details. This is where you’ll lay out numbers, budget, timing, and more.

  • Timing: Are you going to run within a set timeframe or run evergreen ads? The time of year and length of the campaign should influence the budget.
  • Number of campaigns: Within the overall ad initiative, how many actual campaigns will be set up in Google Ads? There are some campaign-level settings that might affect this, such as geotargeting, objective/goal, daily budget, timeline, and more.
  • Audience exclusions: Is there anyone you will exclude from targeting such as a list of donors or a specific location?
  • Bidding: What bidding strategy will you employ for the campaign? This should depend on the campaign objective.
Firefly Nonprofit Example

We sat down with our client to make sure we were all aligned on the end goal. Below we share a few answers to the strategic questions listed above.

What is the desired outcome? Execute a paid ad initiative to grow awareness of Firefly Nonprofit and acquire new leads, ideally 1,000-1,600 new leads by end of the campaign

Who are the primary, secondary, and maybe even tertiary audiences you are trying to target with this campaign? 30-65-year-old living in the home state with a secondary focus on users of that same age in adjacent states

What is the main thing the campaign will ask audiences to do? Take action on the nonprofit’s website (focused on high-intent leads vs volume of leads)

Step Two: Plan

You’ll want to set aside 30-45 minutes a week to check in on your ads in order to make optimizations on budget, bids, creative, and more.

This step may seem counter-intuitive to go before you even launch your campaign, but it’s critical to have a review plan in place. Setting aside the time before you launch will ensure this activity happens.

Google Ads aren’t a ‘set it and forget it’ type of marketing initiative. Their true power comes in optimization.

To help guide your weekly review, here are some key metrics to consider based on the your campaign goals.

  • Click-Through-Rate
  • Keyword Quality Score
  • Landing Page Experience
  • Conversions
  • Cost Per Conversion

Not sure what some of these terms mean? Part Two of this series covers the key terms for Google Ads.

Firefly Nonprofit Example

While setting up your review plan, this is the perfect time to make sure you’ve created several ad groups. This allows your copy and creative to target specific keywords.

Each campaign for this client had:

  • 1 campaign objective
  • 2-3 ad groups
  • 5+ keywords per ad group

The more focused you get with your targeting and ad creatives, the more your budget will thank you. Because we were very focused on our targeting, the campaign’s budget could be more closely tracked based on specific departmental goals.

Step Three: Activate

You’ve created your strategy, hashed out your logistics, and made your review plan—now it’s time to hit GO on your Google Ad Campaign.

But wait! Before you hit go, double-check these three things.

  1. Do you have a Google Ad Grant account? Make sure you aren’t duplicating keywords across your Grant and paid accounts. Google Grant and paid accounts compete in the same auctions, which means your paid bids could negatively affect your Grant ads’ performance. You don’t want to bid against yourself!
  2. Unless you are only interested in a very niche audience, don’t narrow your audience targeting too much. This could stunt your overall impressions and drive up the cost per conversion significantly.
  3. Make sure you have the proper tracking setup in your Google Analytics so Google Ads can more accurately report ad performance. This will help you better understand where and how conversions are happening. For example, if you want to drive email signups, you need to have a custom event for this in your Google Analytics. Don’t have Google Analytics or need expert support analyzing your web visitors and gleaning insights? We can help with that.
Firefly Nonprofit Example

Here is one specific ad campaign we created for this client. Notice how we have two ad groups with different targets. One is for their programs where we focused on keywords like “earned income tax credit.” Another was for advocacy where we focused on high-intent searches such as “help people in poverty.”

Campaign Name Acquisition 2022
Campaign Type Search
Campaign Objective Leads
Budget $100.00/day
Bid Strategy Maximize conversions (target CPA $12.00)
Schedule June 6 – September 7, 2022
Targeting United States country. Exclude: Custom audience (previous donors)
Ad Group 1 Programs
Keywords CTC, eitc, tax credit program, earned income tax credit, federal tax credit
Ad Group 2 Advocacy
Keywords poverty alleviation, poverty organizations, end poverty, help people in poverty, how to help working poor

Step Four: Optimize

Your ad campaign is up and running. You’re checking it weekly to review.

What if, during your reviews, you notice the cost is going up? Or an ad is severely under-performing?

It’s time to optimize. It’s not uncommon during campaigns to create new ad groups, make new ad creative for A/B testing, or expand to a new audience.

Remember, Google Ad campaigns are always a work in progress. They are made to be tweaked and tested.

Be aware!

One week isn’t enough time for data to show if an ad needs to be tweaked or not. Knowing when to optimize is just as important as knowing what to optimize. This, more than anything, is where an expert can be a huge asset to your organization. Understanding when comes with experience.

Firefly Nonprofit Example

As the campaign continued for this client, we made key changes to different ad groups in order to optimize for our goal.

Here are a few things we shifted:

  • Target Audience: narrowed geotargeting to only the home state, excluding adjacent states
  • Call to Action: shifted from lead form ads and lower-intent action (volume of leads vs high-intent leads)
  • New Ad: launched new ad creative for A/B testing

Step Five: Future Campaigns

Data builds on itself.

What you learn in one campaign can help you understand what new landing pages to create, new audiences to target, and where else in your marketing funnel you may need to optimize.

The more you do, the more laser-focused you can be.

Firefly Nonprofit Example

The end result of our June-September campaign was:

  • 2,860 new leads generated, surpassing the goal of 1,600 leads
  • 17,604 total clicks to the website
  • 630 actions taken on the website

The influx of new leads and expanded awareness put this nonprofit in a great position for end-of-year fundraising appeals.

We were also able to identify what new landing pages we needed to create to help further decrease the cost of conversion during that end-of-year campaign.

Launch Your First Campaign

Strategize, plan, activate, optimize, and create—this cycle of Google Ad creation will help your nonprofit get the most out of the precious funds you invest in the platform.

Ready to create a Google Ad campaign with impact for your organization?

Complete our Start Your Project form. We’re ready to help!

Subscribe to Our Blog

Stay Connected