Most of us are no strangers to the whip smart mega platforms of Google. We pretty much set up camp there. But the Google waters run deeper than YouTube and Gmail- particularly for nonprofits.

In this article we’ll talk about how Google might benefit your org in a variety of roles – from sugar mamma, to wingman, to personal statistician.  

The Nonprofit Advantage

Nonprofits function differently and contribute differently to our world than for-profit organizations. Google, in deference to this fact, has created a program called Google for Nonprofits that lavishes highly discounted or free products on 501(c)(3)s.

These tools can help you reach new supporters, work more efficiently, or spur supporters to donate to your cause. Tapping into their programs can give you some great visibility and save you money.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a fantastic example of a nonprofit that has used Google services to further their mission:


 Here’s how it works:

Using Google Apps can cut your IT costs and enable staff and volunteers to work together as gracefully as swans in flight. It hosts on-the-cloud services that allow you to collaborate in real-time with staff in Kathmandu or coordinate between the field team and headquarters.

It also provides volunteers and staff the tools to work from home. Oh, and, brace yourself – It’s free for nonprofits.

Here’s just a glimpse of the Google Apps suite:

  • Free Email. Google allows you to create as many email addresses as you want for your staff with your own organization domain, so it matches your website: ([email protected]). It’s easy for anyone with opposable thumbs to administer, no tech knowledge required.
  • Shared Calendars. Each team member will have their own calendar, which you can sync to other calendars for a bird’s eye view of your organization’s own little niche of time and space. Team members are able to mark each other’s calendars as well. This feature is accessible from virtually any device.
  • Real-time collaboration tools. You can upload your Microsoft Word, Excel or Power Point document, share it with colleagues across the country, and view their comments or updates in real-time. Anyone who has ever attempted to consolidate corrections from 15 different versions of a proposal or report, knows what a miracle this is. With Google, everyone can see the same updated document at the same time.
  • Online storage for your documents. Google offers hefty storage capacity with 30GB worth of email or documents (and more if necessary) which are updated in real-time, and accessible from anywhere.
  • Online video meetings. Reduce your carbon footprint, conduct meetings in your flip flops, stay in touch with your team…the advantages of video meetings are endless. Your team can use “hangouts” to get together wherever you are – across the country or across the world.

Take a look at the full Google Apps suite for everything Google offers.

You can reach and engage your supporters through online advertising with Google AdWords, without paying a red cent. Once you set up your campaigns, they will run indefinitely and continue to drive traffic to your website, as long as you check in regularly. You can bid up to $2 for each keyword, and spend up to $329 per day.

Google Adwords helps you:

  • Draw in new donors, volunteers and supporters when they’re searching for something related to your mission on the Google search engine
  • Raise awareness about everything you do by choosing relevant keywords and creating unique ad groups for each of your different programs, campaigns or causes
  • Promote key events or fundraisers
  • Promote advocacy campaigns
  • Boost your website traffic

Upleaf has set up Adwords accounts for multiple clients, and up to tripled website traffic in some cases as a result. After 2.5 years with a Google Grant, one client had received nearly 95,000 visits to their website from Adwords, an in-kind donation from Google valued at over $90,000.

Not too shabby for a free service.

Hopefully you’re already using YouTube to tell the story of your organization or cause. Video presence is pivotal to online fundraising and community engagement, and YouTube is Grand Central Station.

On YouTube as on AdWords, Google grants a very special and useful privilege to nonprofits:

Clickable Calls to Action. Most YouTube channels can only embed links in their videos to other videos on YouTube because YouTube doesn’t want viewers to navigate away from their site. But Google has made an exception for nonprofits, allowing you to place a call-to-action overlay directly on your videos and link to external sites.

Now you can show a powerful, compelling video and ask people to take immediate action while they’re watching. They can, for instance:

  • Click from a video directly to your website’s donation page
  • Click from a video to a Facebook Cause
  • Click from a video to sign up for email updates
  • Click through to a petition to take immediate action

Help your audience visualize a cause through Google’s mapping technologies. Words and photographs are powerful in their own right, but nothing trumps a map for easy spatial conceptualization. Mapping tools like Google Earth and Google Maps allow you to make your cause more visible and real to your donor base. A few ways you can use these features to engage your supporters:

  • Create a custom map of your project sites in 10 minutes with Google Maps
  • Create a narrative Google Earth movie and make it available on YouTube
  • Collect data in the field with Android devices and Open Data Kit and map it

Check out Google’s online tutorials to help you make the most out of their various mapping tools.

Monitoring and evaluation is absolutely critical to every nonprofit online strategy; otherwise you’re just shooting arrows in the dark, never seeing where they fall. Google Analytics is one of the best tools out there to help give you insight into the action people are taking when they get to your website, what is driving them there, and what content on your site is most compelling to them.

With Google Analytics you can:

  • Measure engagement of supporters on your site
  • Monitor traffic to your site from partners and other key sources
  • Identify trends in content preferences
  • See who is visiting your site and from where in your state, country and the world
  • See what devices people are using to visit your site
  • Determine which of your AdWords ads are really buzzing
  • Identify and understand how volunteers, donors and stakeholders interact with your website
  • Track the effectiveness of your social media strategy

Once you have gathered this sort of data, you will be well on your way to hitting whatever bullseye you have established for your organization.

So there you have it, a run down of Google’s potential role in the adventures of your nonprofit.

To further inspire you, here are some stories from other organizations doing amazing things with Google for Nonprofits.