Skip to content

Getting the Most Out of Your Nonprofit’s Digital Marketing

Getting the Most Out of Your Nonprofit’s Digital Marketing

Nonprofits continuously juggle raising awareness of their organizations, activating supporters, and fundraising for their cause — online as much as offline.

The tools available to online advertisers are becoming more intuitive and accessible, which 1) ensures nonprofits everywhere are getting the brand awareness they deserve and 2) makes online fundraising the easiest, most cost-effective way to raise money from anyone who has an internet connection. Although this is good news, it also increases competition across the board. Whether you are experienced in running paid social media campaigns or are a new player in the game, you should always stay up to date with the tools and trends in online marketing and utilize them in order to benefit your nonprofit. Consider these tips as you map out your marketing plan for 2017.

Trends in Digital Marketing & Online Fundraising for 2017

Facebook is King | With more than 1.49 billion monthly active users, it’s no surprise that Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide and will continue to reign in the coming year. 79% of online adults use Facebook, while Instagram (the second most social media platform) follows far behind with just 32% of online adults. As more people continue to engage on Facebook, more marketers will continue to share content on the platform, making the concept of ‘paying to play’ a center piece of your digital presence. As a nonprofit, the content you have to share should outshine the content of your corporate competitors, yet sadly organic reach is dead. The natural reach of your posts without any paid advertising falls by the wayside due to Facebook’s algorithms that push paid and popular posts to the top of user feeds.

Importance of Video | Videos are most effective in grabbing the attention of users, which is why Facebook increasingly prioritizes video during ad distribution. Their algorithm picks up on the success of videos and pushes them into feeds most frequently.

Some of you might have YouTube accounts for your nonprofit pages already — don’t let these die! Instead, upload the same video twice to both platforms: Facebook and YouTube. Uploading videos directly to Facebook will ensure your video auto-plays while a user is scrolling, plus you’ll be able to reach two different potential audiences: your supporters on YouTube, and your supporters on Facebook.

Keep your videos short while running ads for them: 30–60 seconds for Facebook videos and 15–20 seconds for video ads on Instagram.

Giving is Growing | Total online giving is projected to grow 4.3% and the vast majority of online giving will be done by individuals as opposed to foundations or companies (which most frequently do their giving via grants, scholarships, personal checks, and more.)

Email is not Dead | But this isn’t to say that these groups or at least members of these groups aren’t keen on donating online — your mailing list can be capitalized on to help feed the success of your digital marketing and social media advertisements. And your presence on email should not be mutually exclusive of your presence on socials — the perfect balance between the two will help to sustain your current supporters while maximizing your reach to potential new supporters.

Why Invest? And Where?

It’s clear that advertising on Facebook and Instagram has become one of the main components in online advertising today, particularly between a company and the consumer. So when you ask yourself “why should I invest in social advertising when i’m not selling a product?” you should consider two things: the first is that 55% of people who engage with causes on social media have said they’re inspired to get more involved… that’s over half of the users who are served ads from nonprofits on Facebook!

The second: is that any post you share on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, is likely to reach 10% or less of your current online audience. If your pages have 5,100 fans altogether, your post might reach 500 of them. Whether they engage with the content once it’s put in front of them is a different story.

Investing in Facebook advertising ensures that you are casting a wider net to potential donors and supporters of your nonprofit than you would if you were posting organically. The size of that net will depend on how much or how little you’re willing to spend, but no matter the spend, you can guarantee that your ad will gain some traction.

Facebook advertising also ensures that you’re covering all of your bases. You can easily gain access to the informational nature of Facebook and the moment-capturing nature of Instagram all by using Facebook Ads Manager to craft campaigns.

Deep Dive: Ads Manager

Facebook Ads Manager is the backend platform provided to any Facebook Business Page and therefore any individual with admin privileges to a Business Page.

Since Facebook owns Instagram, most of the components of how an ad will look on Facebook are mirrored on Instagram. In fact, unless you unselect Instagram as a placement option within ads manager, your ad will run on Instagram automatically. On both platforms, you can run Image ads, Video ads, Carousel ads, and Slideshow ads.

Here are how 2 carousel ads might look on either platform. Note —pictures speak 1,000 words! Get creative with your messaging and brainstorm ways to get your goals across without explicitly stating them.

Once a user clicks on either carousel ad, they will be sent to a third party website (like your campaign page) where the user can find out more about your nonprofit. Facebook gives you a little bit more to play with in terms of headlines and the amount of text you can use in the description, but all in all they’re pretty similar. So how do these differ?

Instagram Vs. Facebook

Due to the limiting nature of Instagram, there are far less ads being served on its platform than there are on Facebook. Instagram has a fixed feed of photos or videos that are displayed in mostly chronological order all in pretty much the same format. A handful of ads are thrown in here and there as the user browses through their timeline.

Facebook on the other hand has an infinity scroll full of links, photos, videos, ads, shared content, news articles, and more, all of which are placed higher on someone’s feed depending on the popularity of the post and whether or not the content of the post is relevant to the user. Naturally, there is more room for ads to be served on Facebook than on Instagram, but you can use the limited amount of ads on Instagram in your favor if you target them correctly.

Microtargeting is extremely effective and accurate for these platforms, as you can define a target audience by location, age, employment status, annual income, marital status, interests, hobbies, and more. Keep in mind that Instagram has always been more popular with young adults and teens, so it might not be the best place to serve ads where the call-to-action is ‘Donate Now’! Consider running volunteer recruitment ads on Instagram or a brand awareness ad where the call to action is quick and easy. To figure out which call-to-action is best suited for you, browse through the objectives available to you in Facebook Ads Manager.

Awareness and Consideration Ads are going to be the most beneficial to your nonprofit. These ads have calls to action like Contact Us, Donate Now, Learn More, Shop Now, and Sign up which are especially great for getting users to learn about your campaign, purchase tickets to your gala, volunteer for an event, etc.

You most likely are never going to use Conversion Ads unless your objective is to sell products in an online marketplace. Stick with the Awareness and Consideration objectives highlighted in green above to ensure you’re getting the most out of your spend.

You should also always unselect “Audience Network” from your ad placement options. Audience networks are third party apps like games or Android apps that are intended to help reach a larger audience but end up creating false click through rates and engagement with your ads.

A lot of successful advertising on Facebook comes with continuous trial and error. Don’t be afraid to start a Brand Awareness ad and replace it halfway through with an ad for Video Views. With testing like this you’ll be able to figure out which ads speak to your supporters the most without using up your entire digital marketing budget.

Map Out A Budget

It’s hard to say just how much you should be spending on a digital marketing campaign for your nonprofit since each of your campaign’s is going to be radically different from your neighbor’s. When mapping out your budget, take your nonprofit’s size, digital reach and overall marketing objective into account. You may find yourself saving a year’s worth of social spends for that end-of-the-year capital fundraising campaign and that’s okay.

In a perfect world, nonprofits would be spending roughly $1,000 on each online campaign they set out to run. This $1,000 would be used for running all sorts of different video ads, photo ads, and link ads served on both Facebook and Instagram. Of your total budget allocated, whether it’s $1,000 or not, 80% of your budget should go towards the call-to-action while 20% should be set aside strictly for brand awareness and posts that will guide interested parties to your site strictly because they like your messaging and not because of a call-to-action.

Set aside a minimum of $300 strictly for video promotion. LoaCom recently ran a video ad for a fundraising campaign that ran for a total of 2 weeks off of $330. With that $330, we were able to put the video in front of 25,000 people in the Santa Barbara County area and surrounding cities — it harnessed over 15,000 views and collected more than 600 likes and shares of the video. That engagement helped shed light on the fundraising campaign it was promoting and also brought 300+ new people to the campaign page to make a donation.

Know Your Audience

One of the most important aspects of advertising online is to define your target audience. You might have already built a sea of online supporters who directly reflect your intended target audience, or you might have fans and followers who don’t exactly match up with who you think your target audience should be. Facebook and Instagram both offer Insights features which will allow you to see the demographics of who your posts are reaching and who is engaging with you most frequently.

Get the most value from your ad spend by reaching only the people that matter to you. If your followers and supporters are primarily high school students, chances are you’re not going to successfully target them on Facebook or email.

On the other hand, it’s good for you to know that donors between the ages of 40–59 years old are now the most likely to give on Facebook and via email. Consider this as you select demographics and craft your email campaigns.

Targeting Likely Supporters

What really sets Facebook apart are the myriad of targeting options and hacks you can use to reach your audience and successfully convert users into donors or supporters. Some of the more unique ad targeting options for Facebook include:

  • Pinpointing potential interests of your target audience within ads manager
  • Creating lookalike audiences of users similar to those who might’ve watched a video of yours or that like a page similar to yours (maybe you’re the local chapter of a national organization — tap into this!)
  • Creating a custom audience of everyone on your MailChimp list. Once these contacts are uploaded, you can select this audience as you craft your ad campaign and serve ads directly to your current supporters.

Your current supporters are very important… they can reach friends who care, get the word out through Facebook, easily collect donations on your nonprofit’s behalf, and find new supporters. Utilize these connections, especially during fundraising campaigns.

Fundraising on Facebook

A new feature on Facebook was created specifically for nonprofits to assist with fundraising online. This platform is Facebook for Nonprofits and it made it’s debut at the end of last year, making now the perfect time to become familiar with how it works.

In order to begin fundraising on Facebook, you need to complete a simple application process and prove to Facebook that you’re a verified 501c3. They’ll take your information and process it within 2 weeks. Once you’ve been approved, you’ll have the opportunity to change your call-to-action button on your Facebook page to a ‘Donate’ button.

You can have your call to action be ‘Donate’ without going through this process, but the button will send users to your 3rd party campaign fundraising site either on your website, through Crowdrise, GoFundMe, or whichever platform you’ve decided to use.

With this new donate button, users can make a donation directly on Facebook, streamlining the donation process. Once they’ve donated they can share on their timeline that they’ve made a donation, which will encourage others to do the same.

Facebook Fundraisers

You can also create a Facebook Fundraiser for your campaign, which will look similar to how events on Facebook look and feel. Your nonprofit and the supporters of your nonprofit can directly invite people to these Fundraisers and collect donations straight from the page.

Left: Facebook Fundraiser Page for the Humane Society; Right: Personal fundraising page of a fan of the Humane Society

Fundraising ambassadors, or strong supporters of your nonprofit, can fundraise for your nonprofit individually and set their own fundraising goals. Once you have a Facebook Fundraiser ‘live’ on your Facebook page, any Facebook fan can create a fundraising goal and call on their friends and networks to donate to your nonprofit.

This fundraising element is relatively new to Facebook so take advantage of it early on! Have your core staff or Board of Directors be the guinea pigs and set up your own fundraising pages, then Draft a newsletter that has a step-by-step process for how it works and circulate it through your master lists.


The webinar for ‘Getting the Most Out of Your Nonprofit’s Digital Marketing’ was hosted through on January 24, 2017. The full webinar can be watched here:

Resources from the Q&A session are listed below.

How to Separate Your Personal Facebook page from your Facebook Business Page

All Facebook Business pages are required to have at least 1 admin for the page — if you create the Business Page for your nonprofit, you automatically become the admin for that page. When you create a Page from your personal account no one can see that you’re the admin or that your personal account is associated with the Page. Nonetheless, there are a couple of different ways you can remove your personal account from your Business page.

  1. Removing Yourself as an Admin | You can remove yourself as an admin only if someone else is assigned an admin role. If you’d like to hand over the admin privileges to someone else in your organization, first make them an admin and then erase yourself from the Page’s roles. You can learn how to do that here.
  2. Using Business Manager | Facebook created Facebook Business Manager in order to separate “work from play”. The platform is meant to allow you to function as your nonprofit’s page without crossing wires with your personal Facebook page. Although the platform is not very intuitive, it is great for separating your nonprofit’s account, interests, fans, and followers from your own.

Don’t use an Alias! | Facebook requires all Business Pages to be linked to a personal account so that they can administrate the Page. It’s against Facebook Terms of Policy to create a personal account for a business — you have to create a Page. You can learn more about Facebook’s Terms of Service in their Help Center.

Google AdWords — Where to Begin

Google provides some great tutorial videos and how-tos for AdWords beginners. You can find them here.

Facebook Live

Facebook Live is a great resource to use to get eyes on all of the wonderful things that happen behind the scenes in your nonprofit. Although this article is outdated, it’s explanation of implementing Facebook Live for nonprofits is super helpful.

Custom Audiences of MailChimp Lists

Use Facebook’s Custom Audiences feature to target Facebook ads to your MailChimp subscribers who use Facebook. Custom Audiences syncs directly with the lists in your MailChimp account, and is available to any business or organization that advertises on Facebook. Here’s a how-to!

Helpful (and free!) Digital Tools

  • Canva — Easy to use graphic design platform.
  • Hootsuite— Social media account management platform.
  • Tweetdeck — Twitter account management platform.
Left: Facebook Fundraiser Page for the Humane Society; Right: Personal fundraising page of a fan of the Humane Society
Share This Story​

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Better World content straight to your inbox.

No spam, just the good stuff.

"*" indicates required fields

Select Subscriptions*