Have you noticed the adverts which appear at the top of Google search result pages? They are created on a platform called Google AdWords. Companies pay millions each year so that their adverts are the first things people see when they use Google.

Google for Nonprofits is a cornerstone of Google’s corporate social responsibility strategy. It allows charities to fundraise, collaborate and share information by using free Google tools. One of these tools is Google Ad Grants – free advertising through AdWords worth $10,000 per month.The AKU Society has been using 

Ad Grants for many years. Google advertising was an important part of our recruitment campaign for our ongoing international clinical trial 

SONIA 2. In 2015, it helped us recruit 138 patients – half of the known AKU patient population in Europe. Without it, we may have been unable to find enough patients. Our trial, like so many other rare disease drug trials, would have failed.

The AdWords software allows you to make adverts and target them at certain keywords – the words or phrases you think people might search for on Google. AdWords runs an auction when there is a space on a search result page. Anyone who has made an advert for the relevant keyword can place a bid. Charities can place bids worth up to $2, thanks to Ad Grants. If your advert is clicked on, your free advertising budget goes down.

For example, when patients search Google for ‘black urine’ (a symptom of AKU), they might see an advert for our website at the top of the page. This is because we have created an advert targeted at the keyword ‘black urine’. If we are lucky, our advert will win the auction. We hope that patients with AKU symptoms will find out about us by clicking on our adverts. In the run-up to SONIA 2, we ran adverts in 21 languages to find patients from all over Europe.

We would highly recommend Ad Grants to any charity looking to expand their reach. First, you have to sign up with Google for Nonprofits. To do this, you have to be based in one of the more than 50 eligible countries. You also have to meet the country-specific eligibility rules. In the United Kingdom, you have to be a registered charity. This allows you to apply for Ad Grants.

At the same time, you need an existing AdWords account, which gives you a Customer ID. Logging into your Google for Nonprofits account, click on ‘Enroll’ beneath the Ad Grants product. Enter your ten-digit Customer ID when asked. Google will then review your application and reply in a few days.A word of warning – 

AdWords monitors your ‘click-through rate’. This is the percentage of viewed adverts (‘impressions’) which receive clicks. If your click-through rate falls below five per cent for a long period, you risk being shut down!