Category Archives: Uncategorized

Top 5 Questions (and Answers) about Google Grants and Google Adwords for Nonprofits


How do Google Adwords work?

Google Adwords is a way for businesses to pay for advertising above “earned” or organic results. Which means that people can pay money to bid in order to rank above organic results based on visits/search keywords/etc.

Google Grants is a program that gives free advertising dollars to nonprofits to use this service, with some significant restrictions. Your organization can qualify if it is a charitable organization, and not a healthcare organization, government entity, or academic institution. There’s also other restrictions, such as being part of your local chapter of Tech Soup.

The ads available to Google grantees are only text ads, which appear above organic search terms on (see below) and will have a little square “Ad” moniker in front of your web address, to show that it is a paid, and not organic, result.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 8.37.07 AM

Google determines where your ad appears by the amount of money you bid for the ad (also known as Cost Per Click or CPC) multiplied by the qualified score of your ad. The quality score measures relevance of the ad (i.e. if the text in the ad matches the text on the webpage it links to), the success of your previous ads, and other factors.

In addition, in 2016, Google changed its algorithm and no longer allows ads to appear on the right side of a page, and only has ads appear on the main content of the page. This limits the number of ads any Google visitor sees, and limits where your ad can appear.

Do I really get $10,000 a month?

No, not really. The advertising budget is $10,000 a month (and gets bumped up to $40,000 if you spend the $10,000 consistently), but it’s a stretch goal to even reach that. The restrictions are considerable, including a $2 CPC bid limit, restrictions on what you can advertise in your ads, and more. So, yes, it’s $10,000, but just like any significantly restricted donation, it can be a bit of a challenge to fulfill in a way that aligns with your mission.

How much work is it really?

First of all, if you do not log in at least once a month, your account may be paused. This means that to take on Google Adwords is a significant responsibility, and it takes considerable time. After the initial setup, it takes less time, but it’s approximately equivalent to adding another social media channel to your workload. So before you take it on, make sure you have enough time (and resources) do it well.

When you run a Google Adwords campaign, it is absolutely vital to segment your campaigns depending on the action you’re looking to get from visitors. That means that you will need to have separate campaigns for volunteering opportunities, donations, clients, or any other audiences you are trying to reach. In addition, you have to check in on your account regularly to see if your ads are approved, how they are performing, if the CPC is correct, and other factors that determine if your campaigns are being successful.

So how do I do it?

First, you must consider the most important restriction, the $2 cost-per-click limit. This means that high-value keywords such as, “donation,” or, “volunteer opportunities,” will be out of your budget, and you’ll need to use keywords that instead are more specific, such as, “citizenship training volunteering,” or something else that gets people more directly to what you’re offering.

Focus on how people find you, as opposed to advertising. Consider writing your ads from a donor’s, volunteer’s, or client’s perspective and you’ll find much more success in conversions. This means that instead of writing, “nonprofit car donation kids,” you would write, “where to donate my car in Seattle.” Try writing long-tail keywords that match up with the way you yourself use Google as a personal resource.

The other consideration for nonprofits is to use Google Adwords to supplement a campaign that you’re already running. If, for example, you have a campaign that runs an ad for your nonprofit’s earned-income strategy, consider paying for higher-value keywords ($4 CPC or higher), and then use the lower-value Google Grants money to target lower-value keywords. Just make sure that your paid campaign isn’t competing with your Google Grant campaign, driving your CPC prices up!

What should I track?

The success of Google Adwords doesn’t just depend on clicks or impressions. It’s the conversions after people click on them. And this requires syncing it with your Google Analytics to see if your visitors just read a page and left, or if they actually donated, volunteered, signed up for your newsletter, downloaded a file, or used a tool on your website. Without that conversion data, you can’t know if your Google Adwords are effective or not.

You can set up goals using Google Tag Manager to track things like reaching a destination page, how long a user is on your site, pages/screens per session, or to track an event that you have specified. Goals are also one of the most valuable tools in Google Analytics that allow you to track conversions and ROI, and are very powerful when linked with Google Adwords. This second part, the return on investment (or ROI) of Google Adwords is really where it starts to get complicated, and where turning to a professional may be the right decision.


If you think your organization could be a good candidate for Google Adwords or Google Grants, contact Williams Whittle to find out more information and get started.

This is a post I wrote for Williams Whittle, a PR firm in DC that specializes in nonprofits and associations. 


Powerful and Practical: Nonprofit Social Media Success on Twitter

POWERFUL-AND-PRACTICAL-Nonprofit-Success-on-TwitterNonprofits are always struggling with getting noticed. One of the best ways to get noticed is through social media, but it’s also one of the hardest. So how do you get through the noise? Our Powerful and Practical series helps you break through to get your message heard!

What’s your purpose (on social)?

Social media gets a lot of attention from marketers, but it should only be one channel within your larger communication strategy. Consider the Hub and Spoke model where your website is the hub with all your content, and your spokes share out the information and draw people in to your website, where they can take further action. Social media is just one of your spokes, and each channel is slightly different.

Given that, consider how your “social media spoke” best supports the whole wheel. What audience is best for you to target on social media? What content do you have that’s the best fit for social? What tone fits that audience, your content, and your brand? Once you define those three things, your social media has a strategy. Next, it’s about how each channel can be optimized for that particular audience.

What do you post?

Your content is the next piece of the puzzle. Once you have your social media goals laid out, it’s about determining what content will inspire your audience to help you achieve that goal.

In terms of what types of content to post for the best engagement, think about (and write down) your typical follower. What are they interested in? What do they want to learn about or improve upon? Use that as a guide for your content.

For Twitter, visuals are great and should be included, but are not completely necessary. Just a simple tweet with a fact, quote, or even observation can get the same amount of engagement as a tweet with a great visual.

In early 2017, the most retweeted tweet of all time was a photo that Ellen DeGeneres posted from the Oscars, with about 10 other radically famous people). What surpassed her?

A high-schooler who wanted free chicken nuggets for a year.

Now, that is viral content, which no one should expect their nonprofit to produce. A steady stream of relevant and engaging content is far more important than viral content. Some of my most valuable content for my clients has come from the following:

• Reports (data, stories, etc.)
• News
• Local events
• Competing local organizations (seriously!)
• National organizations with a similar focus
• Local celebrities
• Local reporters

When should you post?

This is the ongoing debate, and you’ll never get a final answer. My general rule of thumb is to tweet earlier in the morning (before noon), which is backed up by this Buffer study. But honestly, it’s not as important as when you tweet as how often you tweet.

The biggest thing about Twitter is consistency. You want to make sure that you’re tweeting at least 2 times a day, and hopefully far more than that. Twitter, unlike Facebook, doesn’t ding you for posting too much, which means you have much more freedom to post when/how much you want.

The bottom line: Twitter is about volume, not length. If you find a local news story you think is interesting, pull out quotes, facts, or insights and break it into 4-5 tweets to share over two days. You’ll get multiple bites out of the apple, and will be sharing solid content with your followers.

Other quick tips for boosting engagement:

Don’t link your social accounts
It can be tempting to link your social media accounts, auto-posting a Facebook post to Twitter, or vice versa. But I urge you to not do it! Every social post should be written in a slightly different way, depending on the channel. Twitter posts, of course, have a limit (though that limit has now been doubled to 280 characters, as of September), which should always be respected, to avoid horrible-looking links at the end of your post.

The one exception, however, is Instagram. Ever since Facebook bought Instagram, they work quite nicely together. If your organization has an Instagram account, feel free to auto-post your Instagram photos to Facebook (or Twitter).

Remember links!

Twitter is all about links. Make sure that most (if not all) of your tweets have a link giving people a chance to visit your website, or the original piece of content. And since tweets can be longer now, you have more space to include a hashtag and a link, which doesn’t limit your content too much.

Get verified

Getting verified on social media seems like a headache, but is actually a fairly easy way to stand out among other accounts. It adds that little checkmark on your profile and lets people know that you’re legitimate. Buffer also has a great step-by-step guide for how to get verified.

This is a post I wrote for Williams Whittle, a PR firm in DC that specializes in nonprofits and associations. 

How Nonprofits Can Use Marketing Funnels to Gain New Donors 

An organization’s most important audience is their donors. Donor support makes your nonprofit possible, and they need to be the primary audience for timely information, updates, and gratitude from your organization. But how do you grow your donor base? How do you create a flow of new donors to support your fundraising?

You create a marketing funnel that turns community members into donors.

Your organization has a wide community. You have social media followers, email list subscribers, event attendees, friends of board members, friends of staff, etc. Not all of these people are donors, but all of them have a vested interest in what your organization is doing. And by engaging them through communications, you can move them along the funnel and turn them into donors.

First step: Collect contact information

The absolute first step to a good marketing funnel is by capturing contact information. Most often this is an e-mail address, but it could be a mailing address or phone number, depending on what type of next step you’re looking for.

Try using an incentive to get them to share their e-mail address with you. This could be as easy as a splash page on your homepage or offering a free document download if they give you an e-mail address. That download could be an infographic, a report, or something else that correlates to your cause.

For example, Buffer offers a free e-book called 25 Actionable Social Media Strategies You Can Implement Today. This is a high-value piece they created, but you must provide them with an e-mail address to get it. That way, they know you’re 1) interested in marketing and 2) know they do good work. By doing this, they have perfectly set you up as a potential client in the future.

Second step: Connect them to your mission

The second step is the proving ground. This is where you show them that your organization knows its cause, is doing great work, and is being successful. This is where you offer proof points, success stories, and stories showing donor impact. Make sure you have 2-3 touch points with them (not just emails you’ve sent, but e-mails they’ve opened or clicked on,) before making an ask.

The Storytelling Nonprofit posted a great list of 5 Nonprofit Newsletters to Learn From. These organizations show how to constantly engage your community in non-fundraising ways, pulling them closer to your mission.  However, make sure you’re not asking for money yet! Your donor is still getting to know you, don’t jump the gun by asking them before they are ready.

Third Step: Offer them an opportunity to support you

So you’ve contacted your donor, they’re opening your emails and liking your Facebook updates. The next step is to pop the question. Give them ways to get involved in the organization, but volunteering, attending an event, signing a petition, or donating to the cause.

Once you ask, and they take the next step, you are in. You have successfully cultivated a new community member who is ripe for fundraising. Good job!

And the best part is that if they decline, it’s not game over; you’re just back to the second step. You still have more time to prove yourself, to grow your relationship with this person, and to make sure they are committed to your cause. Do your best to learn what works (A/B testing, or other ways to evaluate your communications), and then try again!

This is a post I wrote for Williams Whittle, a PR firm in DC that specializes in nonprofits and associations. 

Why Summer Is the Best Time to Start Communications Planning

Sunshine, beaches, barbecues, the vacation you wait for all year…these are all the things that nonprofit professionals look forward to. What’s even better, most of us aren’t as busy because the constant craziness of event registrations, blog posts, interviews, and social media pushes dies down in the summer.

This calm actually makes the summer one of the most valuable times of the year for communications folks. It means we get to sit down and actually think for a moment, if we give ourselves the chance to do so.

However, I will be the first to say that the timing of this “summer” thing sort of sucks. Most communications plans run January-December, which leaves the majority of the planning to happen in November or December (also known as end-of-year-craziness-Ragnarok for nonprofit staff). For this reason, I suggest my clients shift the bulk of their planning to the summer, instead of December. You know, that time of year when you’re busy huddled under your desk crying into a donated box of White Blend wine.

This blog post will outline how you can use the summer to jump start your planning, making December suck way less. Heads up, I’ve designed some of these tips so that you can even do while on a beach (that’s called strategic planning, my friends).

Get in touch with usually busy people
Sometimes there are people who are impossible to get together with, such as board members or partner agencies. You’ll have to contend with competing vacations, but summer can be a very useful time to get in front of people whose calendars are complete madness during other times of the year.

 Read some great books
There are some incredible books about communications and marketing that will help you in your job. Read up anything by Social Media for Social Good by Heather Mansfield, Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, The Story Wars by Jonah Sacks, and if you’re up for a book that’s VERY helpful but dry, I would recommend Strategic Communications Planning for Effective Public Relations and Marketing by Laurie Wilson. There are countless other books, so do some research and find some you think would help you in your job!

Reflect on your biggest wins of the year
Now that you have some space, take stock of the year and what went really well. What social media posts were memorable? What e-mails had the best opens? Visit your website statistics and see what pages were visited most, and what biggest channels lead to your site (social media pages, e-mails, etc.). Write these down.

Reflect on your biggest gaffes (or missed opportunities) of the year
This happens to all of us. You launch a report and forget to put a link to it on your organization’s home page, missed a deadline for submitting a session to a conference tailor-made for your organization, or didn’t start planning your giving day fundraising early enough (these are definitely not personal examples).  Write down a few of the biggest things that could be better next year.

Consider what professional development you need
The best way to get professional development funded by your organization (if you have the budget for it) is to make a long-term plan about how you want to grow. When you’re considering the next year’s communications plan, think about skills you need to develop and do some research about the best ways to do that. Is it a conference, an online course, or coaching? Something else entirely? Consider your learning priorities and make a plan.

Benchmark some metrics
One of the hardest aspects of writing a communications plan is figuring out the numbers. How many more Facebook likes should we put down? How much will we increase our website visits? Instead of coming up with a blind number, conduct a mini test for the next few months. Track the numbers you think you will include in your plan, and then check up on them every month. Here’s a blog post giving you some ideas of where to start in evaluating your communications.

And of course, there’s nothing better for your future communications planning than nachos. Definitely remember the nachos.

4 Event Marketing Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making

Every nonprofit needs to pull off great events, but you can’t have a great event without getting people to come, and that requires marketing. You don’t need a big budget for marketing, but you do need to spend time planning your outreach. This blog post will help you avoid the biggest pitfalls of a nonprofit marketer.

Trying to accomplish everything in one event

The biggest mistake you can make is to be too general in your event goals and objectives. One event can’t successfully accomplish fundraising, donor engagement, volunteer appreciation, and launching of a new program. Identify the most important goal and objectives for your event, and then plan who the most important audience is to achieve that goal. Once you have those written out, your event planning and your event marketing will be easy!

Expecting people to show up at your event

As a nonprofit staff member, you are so pressed for time that it can be easy to be so focused on planning an incredible event that you overlook making sure people know about it. It’s imperative that when you are putting together a great event, you first think about ways to entice people to come. Think of creative ways to market your special event, featuring activities, foods, or experiences not usually seen at your events.

One of my clients had a fundraising event and hired a chef to make paella. So, their first e-mail invitation had the subject line: Paella and Cupcakes. It had a great open rate, and got many people to attend their event.

Once you have some great taglines and creative incentives, write out a calendar with every marketing strategy and tactic. Then you have a clear course of action to make sure you get a great turnout!

Overly relying on your mailing list

Most nonprofits don’t have an extensive enough audience to rely on for every event. So it’s important to see how you can cross market to other nonprofit audiences. Talk to your partners to see if you can commit to helping each other market events, or see if there’s a nonprofit association who will help posting your event. Also ask your board and volunteers to send out personal invitations to friends and family, further expanding your audience.

Ignoring your attendees after the event

The day after your big event is a wonderful one. You’re bathing in the warm glow of planning a successful gathering, you’re finally able to sleep, and you’re feeling good. Unfortunately, this time is a vital moment to continue marketing.

One client I worked with had an annual event that raised about $80,000. However, it was a luncheon, and they had a fairly high no-show rate. So, I recommended they send three e-mails after the event: one to attendees who donated, one to attendees who didn’t donate, and one to no-shows. This way they were able to capitalize on the energy of the event to get some extra donations. That simple step made them over $2,000 in additional donations.

So, before the event, write e-mails to send to segmented audiences: 1) attendees 2) people who registered, but didn’t come. If it was a fundraising event, remember to segment attendees between those who donated and those who didn’t.

And finally, make sure every person who attended your event is added to your mailing list so they continue to hear about all the great things your organization is doing.

By avoiding these pitfalls, you can ensure that you message reaches as many people as possible and your event is a success!

This is a post I wrote for Williams Whittle. Check them out!

5 Reasons to Invest in Nonprofit Communications

Many of us in communications are competing for unrestricted funding (the birthday cake of the nonprofit budget) and we need to give clear reasons for why our department deserves the resources. At that moment, how isn’t as important. Your boss, board, or donor will want to know the why. Why are we investing in this? Why are we on social media? Why is it important for us to build connections with reporters?

This blog post will give you a list of reasons to invest in communications, either with time or resources. Not all benefits will apply to all nonprofits equally, but some will be key points you can go to your boss or your board about why to invest in communications.

An effective communications department will have three key outcomes: consistent messaging, better storytelling, increased audience. For this post, I will be linking these three outcomes to five aspects of your nonprofit’s work, improving your ROI.



Consistent Messaging– This strengthens your organization’s pitch to get donors and funders. By determine good, effective messaging, you distinguish yourself from the crowd and clarify your purpose and programs.

Better storytelling– We all know the most effective fundraising comes from stories. By developing an effective way to get stories from your front lines to your appeals, you get high quality content more efficiently.

Client Outreach

Consistent messaging– This helps your organization in clarifying what your role is in your community. More people will understand what you do, which will help more people take advantage of what your nonprofit does best.

Increased audience– By investing in outreach programs to connect with your community, you will raise awareness of your organization and develop closer ties with influencers who can connect you to clients. You will also have a bigger audience to pull from when you start a new program or are looking to survey your community.


Consistent messaging: Messaging is key to any advocacy push, and only by using it consistently does it gain traction. If you are running a campaign, having consistent messaging from your organization builds credibility and awareness, aiding your advocacy efforts.

Increased audience: When a nonprofit invests in e-mail, social media, and web, the effectiveness is often in the increased number of people who see the content. This means you are consistently growing the number of people who are already listening to you. And that is what makes your voice move your mission forward- an audience who is listening to you.

Better storytelling: Persuasive advocacy hinges on effective storytelling. Personifying data and budget lines is imperative when you are testifying or writing op-eds. By improving your storytelling, you are building up your stockpile of persuasive stories that help you effect your mission.


Consistent messaging: Over time, consistent messaging pays off in a big way. When your organization is clear about what it does, it attracts the right types of job candidates and proves stability and focus, which is what good employees strive for.

Crisis Response

Increased audience: When your organization is putting money into building your newsletter list and website visitors, you’re also preparing for a crisis. This could be a last-minute event attendance push, an executive transition, or a city council vote. Consistent, effective communication builds your audience (including reporters), providing you with a highly valuable resource in the times when you need it most.

Consistent messaging: Consistent messaging is key to building trust with your audiences. By using consistent messaging, you deliver on your promises about who your organization is and what it does, giving your audience a reason to stand by you through tough times.

This is not at all an exhaustive list, but it does give you a start to come up with a convincing (and accurate) argument for why your nonprofit should invest in communications. Good luck!

I originally wrote this post for Williams Whittle. They are awesome. 

The Missing Link in your Storytelling Strategy

It’s easy to find advice on how to write the perfect story. We’ve all read those blogs and we’ve attended those webinars. But the truth is, writing the story is just one piece of the puzzle.

Every story has a lifecycle. Collection, writing, editing, sharing. And this process takes an enormous amount of time.

What do you do after it’s written and shared? How do you make sure that you’re using the story effectively? Or that in a few years, you can revive it to do an update? How do you make sure you’re not retelling one or two stories over and over again?

If you’re asking any of those questions, you need a storytelling strategy.

This strategy (which hopefully fits in your communications plan) should make the most out of every story you produce. It makes sure you aren’t retelling the same, tired tales over and over, but it also ensures you aren’t producing one-hit wonders that you never use again.

The key aspect of this strategy is to have a place to keep your stories (And no, it’s not your blog or your website). It’s a place where all your stories are catalogued to easily copy and paste, tailor to different audiences, and even filter depending on demographic data pertinent to your clients.

It’s called a Digital Story Bank, and you need one. Using this spreadsheet, you’ll be able to save time and increase the efficacy of your stories.

This is a simple Excel document that allows you to collect all your stories in one place, customize each story depending on audience, and filter your stories based on crucial data. It’s fully customizable and doesn’t require any new software. Just a simple solution made by someone who’s worn all the hats. And you can download it for free.


Increase efficiency by saving long- and medium-length stories to reuse again and again


Make each story more effective by customizing it for three core audiences and goals


Use drop downs to help you filter stories based on crucial information on demographics, saving you valuable time when grantwriting

Visit my Free Digital Story Bank page to download it. While it won’t completely create your storytelling strategy, it will give you a place to start. If you need more help creating one, drop me a line. I’d be thrilled to help your best stories get to your most important stakeholders.