Google Grants and Budgets
January 15, 2011 by Yugen
Apart from the odd patch here and there, the snow has largely melted off as the temperature picks up and January now feels like the best of an English summer time (aside from the fact it gets dark at 5pm). The road is in good shape for anyone who hopes to come up this weekend.
Graham and I were working on a budget for 2011 yesterday in preparation for the board to approve it this coming Sunday afternoon. It was impossible to actually make it balance. We were realistic in terms of projected income and expense, yet by the end of 2011 we predict a drop in our cash position. Hopefully, we fill find ways to scrimp and save, although our expenditure has already been cut back to the bare bones in recent years. There is also a chance that we will get some more guest groups to sign up which might boost our income somewhat. Donation and membership income is fairly stable and neither of these tend to increase dramatically. Although we are a Zen Training Center and it can be assumed that this is a spiritual venture, free from the tyrannies that plague the 'real' world, the fact is that we are operating a business. It is a non-profit business, but a business none-the-less, with all the problems and strains that go with it.
On a positive note, I applied for a Google grant many months ago and received an email yesterday informing us that we have been awarded the said grant! I have been running a Google Adwords campaign for the last 6 months or so, with a daily budget of $4. Our new daily budget from Google is $330! This is close to $10,000 a month in free advertising. We most likely won't be able to use the whole budget, but it is available for us to grow in to. The idea is that when you do a Google search, whatever you search for will trigger keywords in adverts that appear on the right hand side of your screen. Some look pretty spammy and I have no idea who actually clicks on them, but sometimes a useful one comes up and people certainly do click them. Each time your ad is clicked and the user is taken to your website, you pay (or in our case now, Google pays). Some words or phrases have a higher cost than others, such as 'meditation retreat center' costs $3 per click for a chance to appear on the first page of search results. Google Grant recipients can only bid $1 max on each keyword or phrase, hence limiting how often you will appear on the first or second page of results. I spent today creating a variety of ads, targeting different geographical locations, promoting different aspects of what we do here. Specific ads for sesshin and retreats, ads for renting out the facility to guest groups via the www.yokoji.org website, ads for the media center (where the podasts and videos are) and ads for the Yokoji Long Beach Zen group. It will take up to a few months for Google to approve the account and for it to go online, but it is a very exciting opportunity since we just had to budget virtually nothing for advertising this year. It is hard to tell what effect it will have, but hopefully it will bring Yokoji to the attention of some more folks out there. It is also the first grant we have received in a long time that I know of. One of our board members, Craig Zenkei Courtright is looking into other grants that might be available to us. As long as I don't have to write the proposals (the Google one was a single page on their website), I'm all in favor of applying for as many grants as possible!
Travis Suiryu will be heading down to Long Beach tomorrow to lead the Saturday program and up here we will be doing the monthly Day of Reflection which is open to all at no cost. I will be going to Long Beach the Saturday after to lead the program which means I'll have to think of something to talk about for the dharma talk! It will be my first one outside of the dharma combat ceremony, so I better do some preparation or it will fall back on the old "so... any questions?"