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Commercial advertising definition

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# 1
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I have questions regarding the poorly defined Ad Grants policy of "Mission-based campaigns":

 

  1. We serve an eligible nonprofit with a website that has a Shop section with branded t-shirts and such. Would linking to the shop or targeting shop-related keywords get us banned from Ad Grants?
  2. We serve an eligible nonprofit that publishes and sells historical research. Book publishing & selling is the central activity of the nonprofit. Is advertising the individual books or the nonprofit's bookshop in violation of Ad Grants?
  3. These two clients also have donation pages (non-property donations). Are these pages always legitimately marketable?

 

Thanks!

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Accepted by MosheTLV (Top Contributor)
April 2017

Commercial advertising definition

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# 2
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Hi @Suley O,

 

The answer to your queries is included in the help page that you referenced above: "If you intend to promote products or services, the sales and/or proceeds must directly support the nonprofit."

 

Do not expect Google to send their financial auditors to your clients. That's up to the IRS and other US financial authorities, as is the annual or interim confirmation of a nonprofit status. However, Google as any other US citizen may give signals to authorities should they experience signs of noncompliance.

 

Best,

Lakatos

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Accepted by MosheTLV (Top Contributor)
April 2017

Commercial advertising definition

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# 2
Top Contributor

Hi @Suley O,

 

The answer to your queries is included in the help page that you referenced above: "If you intend to promote products or services, the sales and/or proceeds must directly support the nonprofit."

 

Do not expect Google to send their financial auditors to your clients. That's up to the IRS and other US financial authorities, as is the annual or interim confirmation of a nonprofit status. However, Google as any other US citizen may give signals to authorities should they experience signs of noncompliance.

 

Best,

Lakatos

Re: Commercial advertising definition

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# 3
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@Lakatos

The help document I'm linking is a bit vague. From the description, I think all these use scenarios can potentially be legit, or I wouldn't bother asking.

 

Now, if we are going by the IRS definition of unrelated business income, the answer to my 3 examples would be as follows:

1- Branded t-shirt (unless it is a nonprofit to further t-shirt adoption!): Violation

2- History books part of mission as specified in charter of nonprofit: Not a violation

3- Donations: Not a violation

 

Still, as you said, Google is not IRS. Plus, Ad Grants program is worldwide, and there are countries that are much more lax on legitimate revenue streams for nonprofits. What is the yardstick Google uses? I'm just worried Google can act arbitrarily. There are people on this forum who claim they were forever banned for including commercial keywords suggested by the keyword tool which lead to noncommercial content. That is pretty serious stuff.

 

What is the general advice here? "Steer clear of commercial anything at any cost", or "Google will listen to reason"?

Commercial advertising definition

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# 4
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@Suley O

As @Lakatos pointed out, "If you intend to promote products or services, the sales and/or proceeds must directly support the nonprofit."

 

Historically, within the Ad Grants program, the phrase was "100% of the proceeds" and it really still stands today. The main intent of the policy is not to prohibit nonprofits from selling products that support their mission but from selling products that support third-parties. For example, many nonprofits might set up a Zazzle store or an Amazon store, these would not be allowed. On the other hand, there are several grantees that sell T-shirts, books and other items without issue because the sale of those products are done on the nonprofit's website, in a way that is mission-based and the proceeds from those sales directly support the mission of the nonprofit.

 

As to why some grantees might have been banned from the program for selling commercial items, I cannot speak to those particular cases except to say that quite likely they were in violation of the "mission based" policy and that the items that they were selling did not directly support the nonprofit and/or their ads were not mission-based and focused solely on the selling of product. I will also say that abuse of the program is not tolerated.

 

So my general advice is to focus on the mission of the nonprofit, have ads that are mission based and if the sales of products and services tie in with the mission of the nonprofit and if 100% of the proceeds from those sales support the mission of the nonprofit then you should have nothing to worry about.

Commercial advertising definition

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# 5
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Thanks @RobertCoats, your answer is a relief.

 

One reason you gave for bans ("and/or their ads were not mission-based and focused solely on the selling of product") was exactly what I wanted to clear up. My second example of a nonprofit that sells its historical research as books is set up in such a way that the mission takes the form of a commercial product. I was worried that advertising for the product in that case might violate the rules, but from your answer, I gather that mission takes precedence if the proceeds go to the nonprofit.