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Donate to Charity Through PPC

This is something that I have come across today and had a dig into it as I couldn’t believe my eyes. I have seen it before but not taken much notice of it but if you search for “donate to charity” or “donate to a charity” I was gobsmacked by how much PPC was going on in that sector.


There are charities paying Google, and an inhouse PPC person or agency, to advertise in the Sponsored Links to try to get people to donate to them. Now this kind of makes sense that you are raising awareness of your charity and encouraging people to give to your charity rather than the other one … but is this the best use of peoples donations?

I then thought, well hang on, this is obviously a charity keyterm so Google must be cutting some slack on the PPC costs for these type of terms that actively encourage people to give to a good cause. We looked in to the Cost per Clicks for these terms and I am totally shocked…

“donate to charity” Position 1-3 £7.66
“give to charity” Position 1-3 £3.15
“donate to a charity” Position 1-3 £10.88


I support a few charities and the latest thing we did was to donate a website and support to FOP Action, but on a wider scale I tend to support Kids, Meningitis or Cancer charities and mainly UK based ones that will help people on our own doorstep. But next time I see the really sad NSPCC advert with an abused child on there asking for “just £2 a month” I’ll be less likely to give as it seems that SO much of their donations go to TV advertising and on huge PPC costs. … not to mention the junk mail and free pens they seem to love sending you all the time.


  • Kean

    The adverts should instead advertise for ‘just £2 a month’ we can stock 12 homes with free pens for a year where otherwise the homeowners would be too lazy to go out and buy themselves.

  • James

    Charities are big business, some of the London offices these guys have are unbelievable.

    PPC for donations isn’t much different to the guys in town centres bugging people to donate on the street. Most of these guys are working on commission.

  • Arjun

    OMG! Those PPC rates are just extortionate! I’m having to rethink paying those 2 pounds a month to these charities. I wish there was a charity that we could trust to spend our donations in the right way. Shame, marketing is such an integral part of these charities.

  • Fraser Edwards

    You might find a number of the ads are affiliates too. As an example it’s £18 per lead on DGM for a new direct debit donor to the NSPCC.

    Making money from a charity has always seemed odd to me.

  • Becky

    At the end of the day its the big G who is raking in the profits on the back of these charities too!

  • Richard Shove

    We’ve been looking in to this recently for a charity client and they offer grants for charities – so it won’t all be wasted donation money. Either way, the can’t exactly rely on people just randomly donating. This is no different to paying someone to stand in a high street asking for donations in my opinion.

  • Michael

    I managed a campaign ones for a charity. This was funded by Google Grants. So they didn’t invest in PPC by themselves but were granted a daily budget by Google because they are a charity.

    Advertising with “free money” makes it easy to raise bids because very single donation comes with a ROI of infinity and beyond!

    Not sure whether every charity can get this, but don’t start accusing them on spending peoples donations 😉

  • AccuraCast

    Don’t be shocked. Not all the charities pay for these positions. Look up Google Grants and you might get a clue!

  • Richard Kershaw

    I used to work in the charity sector. Google gives charities big and small enormous grants for PPC costs.

    One mid-size charity I know of gets grants of £300,000/year credited to their AdWords spend. They are using Monopoly money, not donations.

    I’m certain that NSPCC and Cancer Research UK, for example, will be on the scheme and claiming free AdWords credit.

    If I recall, their bids are actually capped.

  • Becky

    Thanks for helping clarify the situation .. makes me feel slightly better that my donations aren’t being wasted. In the Google Grant documentation they have:

    “However, you should be aware of a few important budget constraints on your advertising campaign:

    * The maximum cost-per-click (CPC) that a Google Grantee is able to choose is $1.00, and some keywords may not be available to you at this amount. ”

    Not quite sure what this means and don’t quite understand how the NSPCC seems to be always top of the pile without any form of auction taking place.

    Does that also mean that the TV adverts that the NSPCC are funded from somewhere to?

  • Mike

    Never knew that charities got free adwords stuff – is there a process for charities to apply for this ‘monopoly’ money?

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  • Richard Kershaw

    Becky – There’s still an auction for the keywords, just that the adveritisers spending grant money have capped bids.

    As usual with AdWords, well strucuted campaigns and decent ad copy can outperform higher bids + poor campaigns.

    The ‘restricted keywords’ aspect stops the charities from, for example, spending their grants driving money to secured loan affiliate programmes…

    Mike – yes, it’s called Google Grants. I know of a number of UK charities, big and small, that are on the scheme. The size of grants seems to be rather arbitrary. I know of one large healthy charity that gets a fraction of the spend that a much smaller healthy charity gets.

  • Will Critchlow

    I had a similar thought process a while ago (though haven’t got the first-hand experience of the grants process mentioned by other commenters).

    On the other hand, I realised that these charities do have large regular marketing budgets (billboard, TV, radio etc.) and our experience for regular business clients is that the ROI on PPC is greater than any of these – so shouldn’t we be pleased as charity marketing budgets move to PPC & online?

  • Kash

    Hi all,

    I’m so pleased I found this article and thread. I am a founder member and volunteer for a 11 year old UK registered charity and every penny we raise goes towards buying kidney dialysis machines (we have bought over £1,000,000 worth) and also running our 17 free dialysis centres in Pakistan.

    Any expenses we personally bear, so last year I spent several hundred pounds on Google adwords as my yearly contribution – and we unfortunately didn’t get a single donation from this source 🙁 looking at the figures I can see why now – my bids were nowhere near as high as £7.

    Now that I am aware of Google Grants, I will be applying today..

    Thanks and regards

    The Noor Foundation UK

  • Steve Laidlaw

    Its one of those frustrating ‘never gonna change’ situations.
    As James rightly said, the ineffectiveness of managemet of funds of so many of these charities is beyond belief- why would a charity need multi million £ capital centre offices? makes me wonder how much of my £15 a month i donate via direct debit is actually getting through to poorly children??

  • Becky

    @Steve , yeh its a bit of a catch22 situation. They need to promote themselves and raise awareness of the charity through various advertising mediums to get people to donate to them. It perhaps would be better if they advertised how much of your £2 a month, or £15 a month actually goes to the people in need, or goes back into the marketing pot.

    I’m not sure if anyone has any knowledge of what happens to the costs of the TV advert production of the air time .. is that subsidised?

  • Becky

    Update: According to a Tweet I received from @theNSPCC it costs £0.02 in every £2.00 for the advertising.

  • Accura Cast

    @Kash If you need any help with this, please do contact us. Our UK office has helped a number of charities get significant grants from Google, and runs the campaigns for the charity for FREE!

  • Ben

    Hi Becky,

    Not sure if you have heard of us, we are a national children’s charity called Caudwell Childen. We are different to many charities in that we have one major benefactor who funds the charity’s administration and management costs every year, meaning that when £1 is donated to us, 100% goes to help a child in need…and in fact, because of our negotiations with equipment and therapy suppliers, we can turn that £1 in to over £2’s worth of support!

    We pride ourselves on our transparency and the thousands of children’s lives we are able to change every year.

    For more information about the Charity please visit or contact me directly.

    Thanks, Ben

  • Claire

    It shows that charities HAVE to resort to advertising measures to get donations. I can’t believe so much attention has been brought on this subject. How ridiculous – in our current economic climate when donations are less than before are you really surprised?