What is the Microsoft Ad Grant? What Nonprofits Should Know

When you go to a theater, you naturally pay attention to center stage. In fact, theaters are structured so that center stage can be viewed from almost every seat. The lead actors and actresses are rarely far from this specific location.

Believe it or not, the theater is not that different from the world of digital advertising. Occupying center stage in theater has a similar effect to appearing in the first slot of the search results page – your audience recognizes your unique presence. 

The Microsoft Ad Grant places the advertising spotlight on your nonprofit, so your mission can shine. Through the program, you can promote your organization’s most important web content, effectively driving more donations, volunteer registrations, event attendance, and awareness for your mission. In turn, you’ll forge deeper supporter connections and put your organization on a path toward achieving its goals.

In this article, we will cover all things Microsoft Ad Grant related. For reference, here are the main points we’ll cover:

While the grant can do a lot of good for your cause, know that it takes a considerable amount of work to manage. At any point, you can ease the workload by outsourcing Microsoft Ad Grant management to a professional agency. We recommend partnering with Getting Attention for all of your grant management needs.  

Get started with our recommended Microsoft Ad Grant managers: Getting Attention. Set up a free consultation today.

In the meantime, if you’re ready to harness the power of pay-per-click marketing, let’s dive in!

Here is a general overview of Microsoft Ad Grants.

Microsoft Ad Grants Overview

Also known as the Ads for Social Impact program, the Microsoft Ad Grant is a $3,000 in-kind monthly grant that can be used to create ads that amplify your nonprofit’s web content. Ads can be placed across all Microsoft-owned and operated websites including Bing, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook.com, MSN, and Microsoft Edge. 

Similar to the Google Ad Grant, participants bid on mission-centric keywords and craft ads with compelling ad copy and a landing page. Their ads then have the chance to appear at the top of search engine results for their selected keywords.

The Microsoft Ad Grant became available for qualifying organizations in June 2022. Similar to a coupon, the grant program applies the monthly $3,000 to your existing Microsoft Ads account. Think of it as free advertising cash!

Let's explore the eligibility requirements for the Microsoft Ad Grant.

Microsoft Ad Grant Eligibility

Eligible organizations include nonprofits, public libraries, public museums, and some religious organizations. Universities, healthcare, political, and professional organizations are considered ineligible. 

Here is a list of Microsoft's eligible and ineligible organizations for the ad grant.

If you are a fully registered nonprofit organization, you have already satisfied one of the few eligibility requirements. Microsoft has a few other qualifications that you must meet before applying.

To register for the Microsoft Ad Grant, you must:

  1. 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. 
  2. Adhere to Microsoft’s anti-discrimination policy
  3. Have a mission that benefits the broader community. This includes but is not limited to providing relief to the poor, improving social welfare, or advocating for human rights. 
  4. Only assign grants to eligible staff. This includes paid nonprofit employees and unpaid executive leaders. 
  5. Only use grants for your nonprofit. You are not permitted to share your grant with affiliate or sister organizations.

After you have checked off all of the eligibility criteria, you are ready to apply!

Steps to apply

If you’re familiar with the Google Ad Grants application process, Microsoft’s process shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Lucky for you, the application process is painless. It only contains two significant steps: prequalification steps via Microsoft for Nonprofits and the application for Microsoft Grants. Let’s explore these steps a little further.

Step 1: Apply for Microsoft for Nonprofits.

You will first need to apply for Microsoft for Nonprofits. Visit the Microsoft for Nonprofits application where you’ll complete these four steps: 

  1. Welcome and Policies
  2. Organization Information
  3. Verifying Phone Number
  4. Account Creation 

These steps should take around 10 minutes to complete. Microsoft should get back to you about your acceptance into the Microsoft for Nonprofits program within 24 hours after your submission. 

Step 2: Complete the Microsoft Ad Grants Application.

After Microsoft approves your application, you can now apply for the Microsoft Ad Grant itself. 

This step includes providing additional organization information and information related to your position at your nonprofit. Microsoft requires 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.

The application for Microsoft Ad Grants is composed of two easy steps: applying to Microsoft for Nonprofits and completing the Microsoft Ad Grants application.

Here are some best practices for how to optimize your Microsoft Ad Grant campaigns.

Optimizing Your Microsoft Ad Grant Campaigns

If leveraged effectively, the Microsoft Ad Grant can give your nonprofit center stage on the search engine results page. Once you occupy this coveted position, there are some best practices to help you maintain your lead role.

From keywords to landing page optimization, there’s a lot you can do to make your nonprofit stand out through the program. Let’s explore our recommended tips further!

Choose the right keywords.

To properly optimize your website for your Microsoft Ads, it’s important to have an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) basics. SEO refers to tactics that help your nonprofit rank highly on search engines such as Yahoo, MSN, and Google. It’s the behind-the-scenes work necessary to increase your nonprofit’s visibility online.

Driving more traffic to your site is the end goal of every SEO strategy. One of the best ways to strengthen your SEO strategy is by targeting the right keywords for your organization. Competition for keyword targeting can be stiff, so it’s important to tailor your keywords to your specific content and audience. 

High-authority websites have dominance over certain keywords. For example, including the keyword, “Twitter” for a social media fundraising campaign is not specific enough to your content and audience. Instead, including specifics like location can help you refine your keyword selection. 

For instance, let’s say you work at a environmental nonprofit that wants to drive more traffic to your fundraising campaign to fight climate change. In this case, you might target terms like: 

  • Donate to prevent climate change
  • Give to stop global warming
  • How to stop climate change

Then, you’d link to your specific campaign page, urging people to give. Choosing specific keywords for your mission and campaigns will help you put your content directly in front of individuals most likely to get involved.

Select compelling imagery.

With the right keywords in place, it’s time to make your landing pages stand out with some dazzling images. Often, images communicate messages that words cannot fully convey. Logos, infographics, and edited organization photos should all consistently align with your brand’s message.

Picking the perfect visual can be tricky. Here are some pointers to reference when selecting images:

    • Loads quickly. Lag time matters. If an image takes too long to load, the likelihood of user page abandonment drastically increases. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to resize and compress all images on your site. By doing this, users stay on your site instead of exploring other comparable options. 
    • High quality. When resizing and compressing images, sometimes image quality is sacrificed. Review your images to avoid overly-pixelated or blurry visuals. If you design graphics for your site, it’s best to avoid fine lines and other indistinguishable elements. 
    • Informative. Is your image telling the right story? Select infographics that are up-to-date with your nonprofit’s goals and mission. Be sure your photos accurately reflect your organization’s values. If an infographic becomes overly complicated, look for ways to delete any unnecessary icons or text.  
    • Emotionally-charged. Photographs are digital snapshots of your mission in action. When you use a photo to highlight the passion you feel for your community, it strengthens your mission’s authenticity. 
    • Well-placed. A beautiful photo placed on the wrong page is a missed opportunity. Well-placed images aid in explaining the related written information on your web page. Be sure that your images and text are playing nice with one another. For example, a registration or information page about your volunteer program is the perfect place to feature images of your volunteers hard at work.

As you start choosing and redesigning your graphics, make sure they embody these common qualities. Whenever a user clicks one of your Microsoft Ads, your website will catch their eye, communicate professionality, and ultimately reel them into your content.

Types of Images

There are several types of images you can use to spice up your site. It can be tempting to find one image type and stick with it. However, having image variety provides a full picture of your nonprofit.

Here are some common image types to consider when reworking your site for Microsoft Ad Grants:

  • Infographics. Infographics are a great option to streamline educational information. Maybe you have an engaging concept for a fundraising campaign. Using an infographic to describe your fundraising goals, progress, and how to enter is a great way to educate your users. 
  • Photographs of those you serve. Putting a face to your cause helps users identify who they are benefitting when they give to your nonprofit. Because humans are relational creatures emotional photographs function as a visual connection between your users and your mission. 
  • Photographs of your staff.  Your employees, volunteers, and leadership act as unofficial nonprofit brand representatives. Their smiling faces also tell a story about your mission’s impact. Helping others can be contagious, and an engaging photograph of your staff motivates users to join your cause. 
  • Your logo. As the king of visual cues, your logo is crucial to your online identity. All reputable nonprofits have distinct, unique logos as a part of their branding. Make sure you keep your nonprofit’s logo design minimalistic to maintain quick recognition, and aim to create a design that communicates trustworthiness. Then, feature it prominently on the web content you promote through Microsoft Ad Grants, such as in your navigation bar.

 

Now that you have your visuals in place, let’s examine why you should optimize your landing pages. 

Ensure your landing page is informative

As a general guideline, you want your users to find their desired search information as quickly as possible. Using Microsoft Ads to lead users to your homepage is inefficient and unproductive. It’s better to direct them to a specific landing page that includes just one or two calls to action. 

For instance, maybe your landing page is dedicated to providing volunteer information. To maintain user interest, it’s essential that this landing page is neatly arranged and full of relevant content. Volunteer testimonials, high-quality photos of volunteers, and a call-to-action link like “volunteer today” would be great additions.

As you evaluate your landing pages, ask yourself these key questions:

  • Is my landing page well-structured for a positive user experience? (Does it load quickly? Do all of my links work?)
  • Is the content on my landing page relevant?
  • Do I use eye-catching and informative imagery?
  • Is there at least one call to action on my landing page?

 If you answer yes to these questions, you are good to go! If not, you should re-evaluate your landing pages before promoting it with the Microsoft Ad Grant. For more advice on advertising campaign optimization, check out Getting Attention. 

Get a free consultation today from the Microsoft Ad Grant experts at Getting Attention.


Feeling overwhelmed from juggling your marketing campaigns? Let's explore the benefits of working with a Microsoft Ad Grants. agency.

Working With a Microsoft Ad Grants Agency

Perfecting an actionable SEO strategy and cleaning up your website can feel like hefty tasks. Don’t sweat if your team is not full of tech-savvy individuals. Managing your digital presence is time-consuming, so maybe a more efficient use of your time would be found working with an external partner.

Professionals trained in Microsoft Ad Grant management exist to help you take full advantage of your advertising budget. If you are considering working with an agency to increase capacity, let’s answer some questions you might have.

What are the advantages of working with an agency?

Working with a professional Microsoft Ad Grants manager empowers your team to take full advantage of the program. By partnering with an agency, you can expect:

    • Expert advice. When working with an agency, you take the guesswork out of SEO strategy. Agency experts know which strategies deliver the best results, so you don’t have to waste your time experimenting. 
    • Full-time monitoring. Agencies can help you set reachable goals and track your progress. Having eyes on your online marketing status means that an agency can make quick and meaningful adjustments when needed. 
    • More time to focus on your cause. Running a nonprofit means you have a lot of different aspects to manage. Hiring an agency can take one more item off of your to-do list. That way, when more traffic appears on your site, you’ll be ready for it. 

Depending on the exact agency you partner with, the benefits might run deeper than this. These are just some of the most common ones you may encounter.

What should I be looking for in an agency? 

Each nonprofit’s needs will vary when it comes to managing the Microsoft Ad Grant. Depending on how much of the account maintenance you want to outsource, look for these core services:

  • Ad campaign formulation and maintenance. Juggling several campaigns at one time can be demanding work. Look for an agency that can create new online content while actively monitoring your campaign performance. 
  • Website optimization. Search for a Microsoft Ad Grant agency that knows website optimization ins and outs. From website design to SEO, the right agency will be able to make meaningful improvements and create new pages where needed. 
  • Account hygiene. Outdated and unnecessary data can clutter your site and hinder your load times. A detail-oriented agency will help you sort out any account management issues, monitor performance, and adjust your ads to generate the best results.
  • Grant reactivation. Sometimes unexpected things happen and you lose your grant status. That’s okay. Agencies are there to help you get back on your feet.
  • Keyword research. Keyword research can be tricky business. Look for an agency that specializes in keyword research so you can take full advantage of the Microsoft Ad Grant’s benefits. 

As our recommended agency, the experts at Getting Attention are trained in Microsoft Ad Grant management. This means they are pros at creating impactful online strategies and know what it takes to stand out on search engines. With extensive nonprofit experience, they know how to initiate and maintain a valuable search engine marketing plan.

Check out Getting Attention for more fundraising tips.

Here are some additional resources to consider to learn more about the Microsoft Ad Grant.

Conclusion and Additional Resources

When used productively, the Microsoft Ad Grant gives your nonprofit center stage in digital marketing. A well-branded online identity, refined keyword selection, and efficient landing pages should be top of mind during your ad grant journey. 

Searching for more digital marketing tips? Here are some of our recommended resources for grant management, logo creation, and employer appends: 

How Google Ad Grants Can Help Your Fundraising Want some more information on Google Ad Grants? This guide is for you.

Microsoft Ad Grants: The Complete Guide for Nonprofits. Interested in exploring an in-depth look at Microsoft Ad Grants? Here is a complete guide.

Nonprofit Marketing Ideas: Promote Your Cause Effectively. Looking to jumpstart your nonprofit’s marketing efforts? Here are our top tips. 

 

Your nonprofit’s website is the hub of your organization’s online presence. This is where you host important information about your mission and programming, promote your fundraisers, post involvement opportunities, collect donations, and more. 

Clearly, your website is a critical tool for marketing your mission and connecting with your supporters, whether they’ve just heard of your organization and want to learn more or are regular visitors checking for updates on your work. 

But is your website optimized so that users of all abilities can use it? In other words, is your website ADA compliant? 

This is a critical question to reflect on because web accessibility isn’t just a nice bonus feature on a website that complements a beautiful logo or smooth navigation. In fact, it has increasingly become one of the most important elements of a showstopping nonprofit website.  

In this guide, we’ll cover three frequently asked questions about nonprofit website compliance and accessibility: 

  1. What are nonprofit ADA compliance and web accessibility? 
  2. Why is full nonprofit web compliance and accessibility important? 
  3. What are some quick ways you can optimize your website for accessibility?

Making your website available to all possible visitors allows you to expand your nonprofit’s reach, bolster your reputation, and ultimately pull in more support for your cause, so it’s more than worth the effort to learn about and implement! Let’s begin. 

1. What are nonprofit ADA compliance and web accessibility? 

Put simply, web accessibility is the idea that the internet should be usable by all people, no matter their location, device, or ability. This includes more than just user-friendliness and clear navigation. If the internet (and your website) is fully accessible, then people all over the online world with diverse abilities and devices should be able to engage with it. 

If you want to ensure your own website is accessible, you must consider the needs of all types of visitors, as well as make sure that your site is built with nonprofit web compliance best practices in mind. Nonprofit web compliance ensures that organizations and their websites are aware of and comply with relevant laws—in this case, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires all public accommodations to be fully accessible. Physical offices and facilities of nonprofits that serve the public fall under this category, but legal cases have increasingly considered websites to be public accommodations, too. In fact, as explained in this recap from Venable, in 2019 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that some websites (including nonprofits) may actually violate the ADA if they are not accessible to people who have visual, auditory, and other disabilities. 

It’s imperative that your nonprofit and website keep the ADA in mind when designing or updating your website. If your nonprofit’s website is brought under scrutiny and is found to violate the ADA, you may even face large fines and legal action. 

To ensure your own website is ADA compliant, look to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a set of usability standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.  With three levels of compliance (A, AA, and AAA), your website needs to adhere at least to the AA level to be considered legally acceptable.

2. Why is full nonprofit web compliance and accessibility important? 

Besides the fact that a fully compliant website could be legally required for your nonprofit in some circumstances, there is another key reason that accessibility matters. Without accessibility in mind, websites and other online apps can inadvertently exclude entire populations. Consider a nonprofit website that offers training videos for new volunteers but doesn’t offer any text elements alongside those videos. The videos aren’t fully accessible to people who are hearing impaired. To increase accessibility so that hearing-impaired visitors can get the information from those videos, the nonprofit would need to offer subtitles or a transcript of each video. 

On top of making your nonprofit more inclusive, ensuring your website is accessible can provide numerous additional benefits to your nonprofit. Full web compliance: 

  • Makes your website usable on all devices. The best nonprofit websites ensure that anyone can easily engage with them, no matter what device they use. After all, how your content is displayed can chage a lot depending on screen size and light settings. And with 85% of Americans owning a smartphone and over half of all web traffic stemming from mobile users, your website should definitely be usable on mobile screens.
  • Promotes a user-friendly experience. When your website is easy to use and engage with, people will associate it with a pleasant experience. They’ll keep coming back once they know that your website is effectively serving their needs. 
  • Minimizes loss of website visitors. Furthermore, if your website is hard to use and otherwise inaccessible, you’ll likely see a decrease in online engagement. Fewer people will refer to your website and your bounce rate will rise.
  • Improves search engine ranking. A fully compliant and accessible website can also boost your nonprofit’s search engine optimization (SEO) because search engines will have an easier time reading an accessible site. This can in turn increase your search engine results page rankings and increase the number of visitors to your nonprofit’s website.
  • Boosts engagement and fundraising success. The more people access and interact with your website, the stronger their relationship with your mission becomes, which makes it easier to conduct outreach for your fundraising campaigns.

Taking the time to make your website accessible to all truly benefits your nonprofit’s entire community and beyond. By creating a more inclusive online community, you’ll be able to expand your nonprofit’s audience and see more overall success!

3. What are some quick ways you can optimize your website for accessibility? 

In order to determine if your own website is fully compliant and accessible, let’s review the WCAG’s core principles of accessible design:

  • Perceivable information and intuitive user interface
  • Operable UI (user interface) and navigation
  • Understandable information and UI
  • Robust content and reliable interpretation

Considering these WCAG core principles, your top priority should be improving user experience. Consider the following quick ways you can prioritize user experience to improve your nonprofit website’s accessibility:

  • Make sure that all non-written content also comes with a text alternative. This applies to graphics, images, videos, and audio components of your website.
  • Avoid using sensory characteristics to relay important nonprofit content. For instance, if a field on your donation form is required but only designated as such by the color of the text, usually red, that has the potential to be an accessibility issue for colorblind users. Make sure to also indicate any important content or instructions with text as well.
  • Don’t use any graphics or videos with flashes and other bright lights. This can cause problems for those who are seizure-prone. If you really want to incorporate this type of content, make sure to include a clear warning.
  • Ensure that all page titles are clear and entry fields include the necessary instructions. You want to make your nonprofit website as easy to use as possible for your supporters. They should know exactly how to find your online donation page and should be able to fill out the giving form with ease. 
  • Design an intuitive and easily navigable menu. This is a great place to organize all of your most popular landing pages so that users can quickly access the content they want. 
  • Incorporate key calls-to-action (CTA) throughout your website. Make it easy for supporters to access the page they want by adding a link or button CTAs directing to it. This is especially useful for your online donation form and event registration forms. 

As you leverage these tips, rely on Google Lighthouse to give you an idea of how accessible your web pages are. Lighthouse will give your page an accessibility score out of 100 and then highlight opportunities for you to improve your page’s accessibility. 


Having an accessible and ADA-compliant website should be a priority for every nonprofit. After all, as you use tools like your website to connect with more and more supporters, you’re laying the groundwork for long-term relationships and sustained support for your mission. 

Use what you’ve learned from these FAQs to start improving your website’s accessibility today. You can also work with a nonprofit web design company to hone your website’s accessibility. According to Cornershop Creative, the right partner will understand your nonprofit’s needs, including accessibility and inclusivity, and empower you to make your website a useful resource for your entire community.