Digital marketing students immersed with real clients, real budgets

Contact: Cindy Wagner
Scott Cowley

Dr. Scott Cowley incorporates the Google Nonprofit Marketing Immersion in the curriculum for advanced digital marketing students at WMU.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—What would you do with an extra $10,000 to boost your organization? Western Michigan University digital marketing students found out firsthand by participating in Google’s Nonprofit Marketing Immersion Program. The program pairs student teams with qualifying nonprofit organizations around the country and gives them a generous grant to apply toward Google search ads that benefit their clients. 


“Students gain experience while nonprofits gain a new perspective from teams of eager students,” says Rachel Cook, a spring 2021 graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration who, along with three other Western digital marketing students, worked with Restore to Empower, a nonprofit in Fayetteville, Georgia. “These organizations are getting a team of creative individuals who are striving to develop the best work not only for the client but to advance their own portfolios as well.”

At WMU, Dr. Scott Cowley, assistant professor of marketing, integrated the Google Nonprofit Marketing Immersion into the senior capstone course in Western’s digital marketing and eCommerce major. He guides teams through training and advertising certification before students ultimately lead and manage their projects.

“We are always trying to give students in our program resume-building experience and a taste of what their digital marketing careers might involve, and Google’s program is a legitimate campaign experience,” says Cowley. “The students were good sports and really dedicated in this initial trial, and we learned many good lessons in the process.”

Some of those lessons came from industry experts. Robert Brady, a pay-per-click marketing expert from Righteous Marketing, streamed in multiple times to coach the students through the technical setup of their campaigns and with client management.

“Our faculty and professional mentors help us develop the technical, communication and leadership skills we need to produce results,” adds Nathan Mansour, a summer 2021 graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration who worked with the Choral Consortium of San Diego. “Our job is to let our imaginations do the work.”

Teams worked with nonprofits around the United States and some teams were able to go above and beyond for their clients.

Featured Nonprofits

Rachel Cook

Rachel Cook helped launch a new website designed to increase donations for a nonprofit in Georgia.

Restore to Empower offers educational programs for underprivileged, at-risk youth and disadvantaged and abused women.  The organization didn't have much experience in advertising as a way to generate donations, but the team of Western students quickly saw that they could help with much more than just the digital ad campaign.

“Our team’s nonprofit lacked a sufficient online presence or a cohesive website for optimal search engine optimization,” says Cook, whose role was to connect with the nonprofit advisor, hand-pick campaign groups, and assist with planning and creating a new website. “Our team crafted a new website that created an ideal environment for search engines and ad generation. After the new website was launched, Restore to Empower experienced an increase in volunteers, donations and website traffic.”

Nathan Mansour

Nathan Mansour helped the Choral Consortium of San Diego achieve an 8% click-through rate on a Google ads campaign.

Choral Consortium of San Diego advocates in support of the arts, promotes member choral engagements, organizes community-wide choral events, and offers training. Their goal was to bring more awareness to the organization, its mission, and events.

“Choral Consortium of San Diego is a niche organization. One of the biggest challenges we faced with the project was coming up with the right keywords,” says Mansour, whose team got hands-on practice with professional keyword research tools such as SEMrush while planning their campaigns.

The team set a goal of a 5% click-through rate from their Google ads. After placing ads with strategic keywords, the team achieved a click-through rate of 8%.

“We had full reign over what we did and how well we did it. It was up to us to make it great which feels good when you see numbers going up and money spent,” says Mansour.

For more information about the digital marketing and eCommerce program and experiential learning at WMU, visit the program website.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.