Mittens for Koalas: The Secret to Running a Successful Google Grants Account | DMA

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Mittens for Koalas: The Secret to Running a Successful Google Grants Account


If you’ve ever set up or run a Google Grants account before, you’ll know that feeling of wanting to do everything you possibly can to make it work.

After all, it’s for charity – and one you probably strongly believe in.

So it’s all the more frustrating that all the bells and whistles of regular AdWords Accounts are not available.

Here’s what isn’t available:

+ Control over bids (you can only bid up to $2)

+ Control over budget (max daily budget is $329)

+ Access to the GDN or any display activity including Gmail ads (you can only run text ads and only on Google Search)

+ Google Shopping (you can only run keyword based campaigns)

In other words, many of the spanners and screwdrivers of your regular PPC toolbox get thrown out the window.

Do not despair.

It’s still possible to run highly effective campaigns that deliver your marketing goals. In fact, after a couple of months of optimising a grants account I set up, it was actually better at bringing in donations than some paid accounts have been.

A lot of people fall into 3 classic traps with running a grants account that will prevent you from achieving your goals:

1) They start with the bad marketing mindset of, “If I reach enough people with this message, eventually one of them will donate. So I’ll just bid on as many keywords as I can think of.

That might be true, but it’s not very effective. You’re likely bombarding a lot of people who are not interested and completely ignoring the ones who would be more than happy to listen.

2) They assume that the most relevant keywords will be the most effective.

Yes, the keyword “donate to charity online” shows great intent and is highly relevant to your offering. But when was the last time you made that search? The reality is that people don’t engage with charities the same way they do with businesses. Whilst you might search for a chocolate bar after being handed a free sample in the street, you don’t see someone shaking a donation bucket in a train station and get out your phone to make a search for the charity and donate.

3) They spread the budget across too many keywords with low bids

If a keyword is worth running, it’s worth bidding $2 for. It is more important to appear as prominently as you can than it is to appear sometimes for lots of vaguely relevant searches.

So, what is the secret to running successful grants accounts?

It’s actually quite simple and cuts to the core of what digital marketing is about:

Knowing your audience.

Running a Google Grants account forces you to strip down the process of PPC to the essence of what it is about. That is, reaching the right person at the right point in time with the right message. And that doesn’t always require lots of cash and fancy pictures.

Ask yourself: “Who is most likely to be interested in donating to this charity?

The truth might surprise you. Take for example a news article about Koalas affected by a bushfire in Australia.

Koala having a footbath

Image by

Here are the people you think would be most likely to donate:

+ Those interested in animal welfare

+ Those who care about natural habitats and ecosystems

+ Australians who are patriotic about their native wildlife

So, then you would go about building campaigns with keywords like “Australian wildlife charity.” But there are hundreds of wildlife charities and they’re all going to be bidding on these same keywords. If they’re running grants accounts too then everyone’s got the same bids, the ad space becomes crowded and everyone loses out when less people click.

So, who else is interested in helping out?

In this case, the organisation is asking people to make and donate simple cotton mittens to help injured koalas. That means that a great potential audience are people who love to sew. After all, what sewer wouldn’t want to use their hobby to help out a cute koala in need? Thus, you’re far more likely to get attention with an ad running on keywords like “cute sewing projects.” That’s because your real audience – those most likely to engage with your mission and help - are the craft-loving people.

I run a grants account for a woodland charity. They often have conversions for searches on “condolence gift” and “sympathy gifts.” That’s not because they are in any way related to the funeral business nor is this something their usual audience of ramblers and tree lovers would even think about. Yet it’s a thoughtful and caring gesture to have a tree planted in celebration of someone’s life.

So, take a hard look at your audience and think again about who might be interested, then design your campaign structure around this. Good luck!

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