Microsoft Ad Grants: Everything Your Nonprofit Needs to Know
44% of affluent donors believe that the issues your nonprofit addresses are the most important factor in their decision to give to your cause. This means that a potential donor connecting with your organization’s mission is not just a preferred outcome, it’s an essential one. So, what’s the best way to reach these donors?
With the world going online these days, digital marketing is the undeniable answer to building new audiences. In fact, nonprofits raise $654 for every 1,000 website visitors.
If you’re ready to invest in your nonprofit’s digital presence, Microsoft’s new program, the Microsoft Ad Grant, is a great place to start. For qualifying nonprofits, Microsoft offers a monthly grant to use on digital advertising. This means free money for you to improve your nonprofit’s online visibility in significant ways!
The Microsoft Ad Grant has the potential to increase your website traffic and attract new donors and volunteers. Microsoft’s intelligent ad placement saves you money because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
Interested? In this guide, we’ll review the basics of the Microsoft Ad Grant program, eligibility requirements, application steps, and more. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is the Microsoft Ad Grant?
- Who is Eligible for the Microsoft Ad Grant?
- Applying for the Microsoft Ad Grant
- Making the Most of Your Microsoft Ad Grant
Let’s get started!
What is the Microsoft Ad Grant?
The Microsoft Ad Grant is an in-kind monthly grant of $3,000 available for eligible nonprofits. The program enables you to boost your digital advertising presence on Microsoft-owned and operated websites (Bing, Yahoo, AOL, outlook.com, MSN, and Microsoft Edge).
New to the scene, the Microsoft Ad Grant, or Microsoft Ads for Social Impact, launched in June of 2022. It works like a coupon that is applied to your existing paid Microsoft account and covers your first $3,000 per month of ad spending. In other words, it’s free advertising cash!
Maybe you’re thinking this sounds familiar. Your instinct would be right, as Google has a similar program called Google Ad Grants. This program has been around since 2003 and awards $10,000 per month to eligible nonprofits. Let’s explore some more key differences between the grant programs.
Microsoft Ad Grants vs. Google Ad Grants
Besides the monthly amount difference between Microsoft’s $3,000 compared to Google’s $10,000, there are various program restriction levels to consider. Google requires you to create a separate ad account for your grant where they apply the full amount per month. Because of this extra step, they also have a tighter restriction level.
Minimum CTRS (click-through rates), maximum CPCS (cost per clicks), and quality scores are all measurements Google uses to restrict your spending. Microsoft’s program has a lot fewer restrictions than Google’s. With Microsoft, you do not need to create a separate account for the grant allotment, so your grant dollars are treated the same as your normal paid search cash.
Microsoft only requires you to use the $3,000 towards Microsoft-owned and operated products within the platform. These differences in restriction levels may help you make your decision about which program is right for your nonprofit.
Who is Eligible for the Microsoft Ad Grant?
As a nonprofit, you qualify as one of Microsoft’s eligible organizations. Other eligible organizations include public libraries, public museums, and some religious organizations. Ineligible organizations include universities, healthcare, political, and professional organizations.
Microsoft outlines a few other major application requirements. So, before you apply let’s make sure you are up to date
- Hold 501(c)(3) status, which means you are fully registered as a nonprofit organization and the IRS recognizes you as an official charitable organization and exempts you from tax obligations.
- Adhere to Microsoft’s anti-discrimination policy.
- Have an outlined mission to benefit the broader community. This includes but is not limited to providing relief to the poor, improving social welfare, and advocating for human rights.
- Only assign grants to eligible staff. This includes paid nonprofit employees and unpaid executive leaders.
- Only use grants for your nonprofit. You are not permitted to assign grants to affiliate or sister organizations.
Applying for the Microsoft Ad Grant
The application process only contains two significant steps: prequalification steps via Microsoft for Nonprofits and the application to be approved for Microsoft Grants. Let’s break down these steps a little further.
Step 1: Microsoft for Nonprofits
You will first need to apply for Microsoft for Nonprofits. The application process includes four steps:
- Welcome and Policies
- Organization Information
- Verifying Phone Number
- Account Creation
These steps should take around 10 minutes to finish. Microsoft should get back to you about your acceptance into the Microsoft for Nonprofits program within 24 hours after your submission.
Step 2: Microsoft Ad Grants Application
After Microsoft approves your application, you can now apply to the Microsoft Ad Grant itself.
This step includes additional organization information and information related to your role. Microsoft recommends that only current users within your nonprofit apply. The grant application should take even less time than Step 1 to fill out. Confirmation of your Ad Grant status should appear within 10 business days.
Now that you have applied for the Microsoft Ad Grant, let’s cover how to use the grant effectively to empower your mission.
Making the Most of Your Microsoft Ad Grant
The Microsoft Ad Grant can increase your online visibility and help you put your best digital foot forward. An intelligent digital marketing strategy is key to unlocking online leads. Let’s look at a few best practices for your Microsoft Ad Grant strategy.
Create an effective landing page
To use Microsoft Ads productively, it’s important to lead users to the optimal landing web pages. Directing web traffic to your main website in general is not the most efficient way to implement Microsoft Ads. Instead, guiding web audiences to a specific landing page that includes just one or two calls to action is ideal.
Imagine your page is focused on raising awareness and funding for a specific campaign. If your page is full of an overwhelming amount of information, you run the risk of losing a potential donor. But if your page is aesthetic and neatly arranged with campaign-relevant content, your prospective supporters will have an easier time understanding your campaign’s purpose and goals.
Any graphics you include on your landing page should be streamlined and load quickly. Other information to include on this page could be statistics related to your current campaign efforts and goals. Lastly, include a clear “next step” for visitors, whether it is a prompt to subscribe to a newsletter, donate, or register for an event.
To recap, the best landing pages are optimized for user navigation, relevant content, and eye-catching graphics.
Optimize your website to connect with visitors
Now that your ad landing page is tidied up, let’s examine your website holistically. When users find you online, does your website accurately represent your organization? Are you easily recognizable?
A well-designed website is extremely useful for potential volunteers and donors. Here you have a chance to clearly define your nonprofit’s mission and goals. Ideally, your website is a platform for others to understand and resonate with your cause.
When building a website there are some best practices to keep in mind. If you’re a beginner, we strongly recommend investing in a nonprofit CMS (content management system), so that your data is organized and easily accessible. A nonprofit CMS is designed to fit your specific needs. The best part is you don’t need to be a web design wizard to launch one!
With a reliable CMS in place, your next step is to compile your digital advertising materials. Below are some quick how-tos
- Identify your audience. Who is your target website audience? Once you answer this question, you can create keyword strategies and memorable ad designs that resonate with your audience. It’s easy to get swept up in personal preferences and design trends. Put yourself in your users’ shoes to create a campaign that helps them connect to your organization on a deeper level.
- Share your Story. Highlighting your story helps you stand out from the crowd! With your audience in mind, share your nonprofit’s journey. Describe your nonprofit’s history, present activities, and future goals. Volunteers and donors are much more likely to give if they feel they have a connection to your mission.
- Develop a style guide. Colors, fonts, and images, oh my! Think of branded marketing materials as a part of your nonprofit’s digital fingerprint. You want to keep your brand distinct and recognizable. Developing a style guide composed of two or three primary brand colors and a specified font is the best way to keep your digital image consistent.
- Include impactful photos. Keep it interesting! Photos are more engaging for website users and often tell your story better than a perfectly written synopsis. The best photos are taken or created by someone directly involved in your nonprofit. Memorable images are emotionally charged and high quality.
- Feature your donation button prominently. If a user is interested in getting involved, make the process as easy as possible! There’s nothing worse than losing potential donors due to poor website navigation. Feature your donation button prominently to transform user interest into action.
Effective websites are both aesthetically and technically optimized. As a rule of thumb, minimal design is the best design. Cluttered websites do not generate leads. Other technical aspects to consider in website creation include page load time, website security, and intuitive navigation.
Want more web page tips? Check out this resource.
Work with an agency to increase capacity
Maybe the task of optimizing your digital presence seems a bit overwhelming. Or maybe you simply don’t have the time to clean up your website. That’s okay! We don’t expect your team to be full of design gurus and tech experts. If this is the case for you, we recommend working with an external partner.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching for an agency partner. Look for an agency that can deliver the following services:
- Ad campaign creation and maintenance. It’s common to have several campaigns occurring at once. Search for an agency that can keep up with your campaign performance while enhancing your online content.
- Website optimization. The right agency will perfect your existing website and create new pages where needed. They will also refine your keyword usage to drive online traffic and conversions
- Account check-ins. Account creation is only the first part of the process. A dedicated team will take time to follow up with your existing accounts to ensure they target your goals.
Other services include account hygiene and account reactivation. Sometimes you drop the ball, having an external agency to partner with can help you reset as quickly as possible.
The experts at Getting Attention are trained in ad grant management. This means they are pros at creating impactful online strategies. With backgrounds in keyword research, data organization, and grant activation, you can launch and monitor your campaign with confidence.
Interested? Sign up for a free consultation.
Once your digital strategy is bulletproof, you need some stunning visuals to capture your nonprofit’s unique mission. Kwala is a premium nonprofit graphic design service We will research your mission and provide you with a brand look that is completely your own. Plus we only charge a monthly flat rate fee, so you only pay for what you need!
If used effectively, the Microsoft Ad Grant can be a powerful tool to reach both current and potential audiences. Having a streamlined digital marketing strategy and branded visuals are key to making the most of this grant program. When creating your landing pages, always be sure to keep the user in mind and include only relevant information.
Looking for additional digital marketing tips? Below are some of our favorite resources for navigating the world of agency shopping, marketing grants, and web design:
- Google Grants Agency: Picking the Best Partner & 12 Firms. Ready to choose an agency, but aren’t sure where to start? This resource is for you!
- The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Grants for Nonprofits. Want some more information on marketing grants for nonprofits? Here is the ultimate guide.
- 14 Essential Nonprofit Web Design Best Practices. Creating your website and want a couple of design pointers? These 14 tips are for you!