Stories like this always get me excited as a journalist and fellow philanthropist. I first heard about this story on Twitter and I took it upon myself to find out more and track down the individuals involved in this story. I quickly tracked down two responsible for this, Vlad Rascanu and Tudor Stanescu from 80 Proof Digital, a Toronto based Digital Marketing agency. These two Toronto natives took it upon themselves to give back to the community and partner up with the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), and offer their SEM expertise to their vast network of charities and nonprofit organization at no cost.
The goal was to select 5 charities and nonprofit organizations each quarter to help them apply for the Google Grants Program and set up their online advertising campaigns. The Google Grants Program is a program by Google which gives accredited charities and non for profit organizations up to $10,000 a month in spending in AdWords, Google's platform for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. Having a strong online presence is often very expensive, and often not within budget for these types of organizations, and Google aims to gives these organizations a fighting chance in the online environment to reach potential donors, volunteers, sponsors, or help them achieve any other organizational goal through online advertising.
I had a quick chat with Vlad and Tudor at 80 Proof Digital, the agency behind this cool project, and Vlad explained that the idea came from a Marketer's Unbound event that his brother hosts:
"The meetups bring together digital marketing experts from different industries and different companies. One of the presentations at an event I attended surrounded the topic of marketing for nonprofit organizations and the challenges behind that. Something that was said during the presentation just sparked an idea in my mind. I realized there was a need for this service, because many small nonprofits and charities did not have the budget to be able to afford online advertising or to hire an in-house/agency expert to create or manage a PPC campaign."
Vlad explains that a typical setup fee for a PPC campaign can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 and then there's an on-going cost associated with maintaining the campaign which is a percentage of spend. Restricted by their small operating budgets, many organizations are unable to afford online advertising or to hire an in-house/agency expert to create or manage a PPC campaign. They knew that their services would become instantly invaluable.
"After talking to my brother about the idea", Vlad continues, "he offered to make an introduction to one of his contacts in the marketing department for the Ontario Nonprofit Network [a provincial network for around 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario] ... They help bring the voice of the sector to the government, funders and businesses, to create and influence systematic change. He graciously put me in touch with his contact and I proposed my idea towards the organization. They agreed to partner up with us, and announce our Pro-Bono service to their network, in their upcoming newsletter."
Vlad proudly recalls how many charities and nonprofit organizations reached out to the agency, interested in the free service. "...our only regret, Vlad bemoans, "was not being able to help out every single one of them at the same time. Unfortunately we do not have the resources to take on more than 5 organizations each quarter. The organizations that we have helped so far are forever grateful, and even though we are not making any money off this service, our contribution to community is rewarding enough."
While the guys at 80 Proof Digital selected the organizations to work with in a 'first come, first served' manner, the application to apply for the Google Grant Program is a little more complicated. Tudor explained that he wishes for every nonprofit and charitable organization to take advantage of this program, whether they have the expertise available or not to run an online PPC campaign.
"Google provides you with a budget of up to $10,000 a month in ad spending online, how could you ever pass up something like that? I want to help other's help themselves and learn how to properly apply for the grants program successfully."
Having gone through the process countless times Tudor explains how charities and nonprofits can apply for this program on their own. He warns everyone that the sign up process is very delicate. He explains that he is only familiar with the application process for Canadian organizations, as the agency is based in Canada, and each country has their own process.
"There will be some similarities in the first step of the application, and the AdWords set up will be identical. Each country has its own governing body which verifies nonprofit and charitable organizations for their eligibility for applying for the Google Grants Program. In the case for Canada, it's an organization called Tech Soup Canada. The sign up process is relatively straight forward, and you will need to have some basic information about your organization handy, such as the legal name, address, phone number, charity registration number or business registration number, etc."
After receiving an approval from Tech Soup, with a validation code, comes the Google Grants application. It is best that you thoroughly read through Google's set up/application guide before you get started since I won't go into as much detail. Much like the Tech Soup application, this application is pretty straight forward, where you provide them with the organization's name, mission statement and three goals the organizations wants to achieve through this grants program.
"The next steps are pretty crucial that you get correct the first time around, otherwise it's a nightmare to get it corrected later (speaking from experience). You will have to create an AdWords account. You must also set your currency to USD, regardless of your country of origin. Other requirements for the program include a maximum daily spend of $329.00 (adds up to $10,000 a month), max cost-per-click (CPC) of $2.00, only running keyword-targeted campaigns which appear in Google search results, and only using text ads. Until you get approved by Google you must set up a dummy campaign and after approval you can begin your keyword research and craft your ultimate ad copies."
Vlad and Tudor shared some of the success off some of the organizations they have helped out. They described the work they did for each PPC campaign. Each organization received it's own in-depth keyword research to target their specific goals which they had provided them with and crafted the perfect ads.
These goals ranged from raising awareness about their organization, getting more volunteers to getting more donations. To show the success of one of the campaigns they launched for one of the organizations Vlad and Tudor shared with me a campaign screenshot, which brought over 6,000 users to the website in the last 30 days, and was able to successfully spend the entire $10,000 monthly grants budget.
Vlad comments to stay they would love to continue helping more and more organizations with this great program that Google has for charities and nonprofits.
"We will continue to help out 5 NFPs each quarter with the campaign setup and with any questions they may have. We encourage all nonprofits and charities to take advantage of this program one way or another! Don't hesitate to get in contact with us and we will try our best to help everyone".
For more information, visit 80 Proof Digital's Non Profit Program page.