How To Get a $120,000 Marketing Education for Free

by Dan Walsh

Help a good cause and become a crack digital marketer at the same time.

I was on a panel of marketing experts last night. The topic of the evening was how to transition into marketing from another field. Everyone on the panel had started in some other industry and through circuitous professional paths wound up as marketers. We fielded questions about necessary skills, useful tools, and challenges in the industry. Someone in the audience asked how best to gain marketing experience. This can be tough because most digital marketing experience requires liquid capital to spend on paid media. Gaining digital marketing experience can be expensive. Google AdWords isn’t free. Facebook ads cost money too. Every channel requires a budget of some kind. So if someone wants to break into digital marketing, and their current employer won’t take a chance on them, how can they do it without tapping their savings account?

I thought of a few methods, but this first one doesn’t cost you anything accept for the time you give away.

Method One: Give Your Time to a Non-Profit.

Google awards grant money to non-profits as a way to help advertise their mission, raise awareness, and collect donations. This award is $10,000 per month to spend on AdWords campaigns. Yes, $10,000. Imagine the kind of experience you would gain if you had $333 with which to experiment everyday. Imagine how much money you wouldn’t be spending out of your own pocket to get this experience.

Going down this path has many benefits. Not only are you off the budget-hook, but you’d also (presumably) be helping a worthy cause. You also wouldn’t have to worry about building your own website or creating content. Most of the external work is already done, leaving you free to concentrate on growing your campaigns.

Even if you only help your non-profit for a single quarter, you’ve still contributed value to them, and you have $30,000 of ad spend under your belt. You’ll be able to put actual performance numbers on your new marketing resume, as well as have a living breathing campaign in your portfolio of work. Powerful stuff.

Most non-profits are strapped for support and will take any help they can get. Sometimes they already have a grant but don’t have anyone on staff that knows how to use it. This is a great scenario because you can step right in, make a lot of mistakes with what is essentially free money, and still look like a hero. If a non-profit doesn’t spend their money on AdWords campaigns, it disappears into the ether. You can help them utilize this windfall.

If you find a non-profit that you really want to work with but they don’t have an AdWords grant yet – then get one for them! The application is easy, and the only real qualification is that they are an official 501(c)3. If you can acquire the grant for them you’ll become a super-hero because you brought in a $120,000 annual in-kind donation from out of nowhere. That’s amazing.

If you don’t have a non-profit in mind, search around on Charity Navigator until you find something compelling.

Brush up on the AdWords for Non-profits program so you know what you’re talking about when you reach out to offer assistance. You can also apply for a grant at the same link.

I’ll add links to other methods as they become available.