by David Tandet

A fundraiser friend in Santa Barbara was complaining about the difficulty of making more people aware of the non-profit she was doing pro bono work for, while keeping the organization’s costs down.

“Have you tried Google Grants?” I asked.

“What’s that?”

“Just the best thing since sliced bread. Your 501(c)(3) might be eligible. If so, Google will donate in-kind ads,” I said. “Jonathan O’Brien mentions the benefits of in-kind contributions in Right Before You Write.

“You mean like an AdWords account – the type of thing for-profit companies pay money to get? What’s the catch?” my friend said.

“No catch,” I said. “Just some requirements – like having a website to start with.”

“Duh.”

“No insult meant, Tess. But I didn’t know how much you knew about AdWords.”

“Okay . . . why do you need a website.”

“Well, the whole idea with AdWords is that someone searches on Google for a topic they’re interested in.” Tess’s cell phone rang but she let it go, not moving to answer or even turn off. She was intent on learning about this newly discovered source of possible funding. “Look up ‘smart phones’ for instance.”

A gentle breeze rearranged a few strands of Tess’s hair around her cheek. Her eyes were laser focused on my lips. I’d waited for that look a long time. But she was only interested in hearing more about Google Grants. A breadcrumb blew off our table and a squirrel hopped from the restaurant patio’s white fence to a tree a few yards down the sidewalk. Tess pretended to turn off her phone as a courtesy now, but I knew she was turning on the record app. She didn’t want to miss anything I said about Google Grants.

“The ads you’ll see – down the side of the page for instance – are all paid for by the companies whose sites you’ll reach when you click on them.”

“And Google gives those out to any 501(c)(3)?” she said.

“Not any. Search ‘world hunger’ and you’re sure to see a bunch. But you can be sure those agencies don’t get more than 50 percent earned, commercial revenue. Maximum cost-per-click you can choose is 30 cents per click, and monthly ‘ad-spend’ is capped at $10,000. There are a bunch of other requirements as well. But your non-profit? I know you can do it and make it work for you. Heck, ‘Shop UNICEF’ experienced a 43 percent increase in sales over the previous year once they began using it. And there are extensive online instructions. Even a blog,” I said. “Joe Picard of the Cal State Chico Research Foundation had this advice for non-profits: ‘Do it!’ ”

“Okay,” Tess said. “You know, I really didn’t know what it meant to click until now.”

As usual, Tess was ending our conversation with a flirtatious remark, which I couldn’t help smiling at. Of course the information I’d given her was so valuable that I suggested she pick up the entire lunch check anyway.

“But that doesn’t really make sense, does it?” she said. She brushed her hair back from her cheek. The wind blew it right back where it had been.

“It makes perfect AdSense to me,” I said. The squirrel came back around the patio looking for more crumbs falling from tables of departing restaurant customers. Adopting my most selfless non-profit mindset, I tossed him one to make sure his mission succeeded.

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