4 Actionable Tips for Nonprofits Starting Out With Facebook Ads

Posted by Alyssa Picard on Jan 26, 2021 4:25:35 PM
Alyssa Picard


With over 2.6 billion monthly active users, it's no wonder why so many nonprofit organizations turn to Facebook as a means to connect with supporters, share their mission, and generate donations. In earlier years, brands were able to garner a following on the platform simply through organic presence alone. However more recently, this has not been the case. Due to constant algorithm changes, it has become increasingly difficult for both for-profits and nonprofits to maintain a presence on Facebook. This is why paid advertising has become an integral part of reaching current and potential supporters on almost all social networks.

For nonprofits with small marketing teams and limited bandwidth, this can be a difficult obstacle to tackle. They might not have any prior experience with advertising, and certainly don't have a large marketing budget at their disposal. So where do they start with setting up Facebook ads, and how can they make the most out of their budget? Here are 4 actionable tips to get any organization started:


1) Advertise With a Specific Goal in Mind 

The very first step before creating any type of advertisement is to consider your nonprofit’s goals. Are you running ads to engage your current followers/supporters, to recruit new supporters, or to earn a certain amount in donations? Regardless of what your specific goal is, it’s important to set this in place at the beginning stages so you can choose the correct options in Facebook Ads Manager. Keeping a specific goal in mind for an advertisement also helps later on when analyzing and reporting back on the results- so don’t skip this step! 

Once you come up with a goal, you then have to choose a Facebook Advertising Objective. Facebook has three broad categories of objectives: Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions. Each of these categories represent stages in the buyer’s journey, which can also be translated to nonprofit supporters (you could instead call it the supporter’s journey). Amongst these broader categories, there are more specific objectives based around different business goals. These include:

  • Awareness
    • Brand Awareness
    • Reach
  • Consideration 
    • Traffic
    • Engagement
    • App Installs
    • Video Views 
    • Lead Generation 
    • Messages
  • Conversion 
    • Conversions
    • Catalog Sales
    • Store Traffic 

As an example, let’s say your nonprofit's goal is to increase supporter engagement on a specific social media post. If this was the case, you would want to choose ‘Consideration: Engagement’ as your ad objective. According to Facebook, this objective allows organizations to “Reach people more likely to engage with your post. Engagement includes likes, comments and shares but can also include offers claimed from your page.” In contrast, if your nonprofit’s goal is to increase donations on the site donation page, you would want to choose the ‘Conversion: Conversions’ objective. This objective is meant to encourage your targeted audience to take a specific action on your website, such as hitting the ‘donate’ button. 


2) Define Your Audience 

Once you’ve come up with a goal, the next step is to clearly define the audience you want to reach with your advertisement. Finding the correct audience to target is crucial to the success of your ad, as it allows you to reach those who are most likely to have interest in your organization. One key piece of advice to remember here is to avoid audiences that are extremely broad or narrow in size, somewhere right in the middle usually works best. Check out Facebook’s tips for selecting audience sizes here

When you get to this step, you will need to select which audience targeting option you would like to use in ads manager. These are the 3 options that Facebook offers: 

  • Core Audiences 

This type of targeting allows you to define an audience based on specific criteria you select, such as age, interests, geography, behaviors, and more. This is a great option for a nonprofit just starting out with their first ad, as they might not have custom or lookalike audiences built yet. 

This option also allows you to target based on connections people have to your organization’s Facebook page, app, and/or Facebook event. You can target people who like your nonprofit’s page, friends of people who like the page, people who have used your app, people who have responded to a Facebook event, and more

Facebook_ConnectionsTargetingFacebook Connections Targeting 


  • Custom Audiences 

This option allows you to reach people who have already engaged with your nonprofit, online or offline. These are people that have already shown some interest in your organization, whether it’s visiting your website to check out your mission, filling out a form to subscribe to your newsletter, or attending a recent fundraising event. To reach these people, you can upload contact lists, use data from current website traffic, and/or use data from app usage (if that applies to you). 

Facebook_CustomAudiencesFacebook Custom Audience Targeting

One thing to note here is that if you do choose to retarget individuals who have visited or taken certain actions on your website, you will have to create and install a Facebook pixel on your site. Luckily, this is fairly easy to do. For details on how to set this up, click here


  • Lookalike Audiences 

The third option for targeting, Lookalike Audiences, allows you to reach those who have similar characteristics to your current supporters. This can be incredibly valuable if one of your goals is to recruit totally new supporters to your nonprofit, for example.

You can create lookalike audiences from custom audiences that already exist (customer lists, website visitors, etc.) or from people who have engaged with your Facebook page or videos (e.g., retargeting those who viewed over 50% of a video ad you previously posted). 


3) Craft High Quality Content

Now that you have your goals and a clearly defined audience, you can get to the fun part- content creation! According to recent research from Facebook, people spend an average of 1.7 seconds viewing a piece of content on Facebook news feeds via mobile devices. This incredibly small attention span is why crafting high quality content for ads is crucial. It’s important that any content you’re putting out into the already-saturated space of social media is relevant, eye-catching, and valuable to the audience you’re sharing it with. 

Content offers a perfect outlet for nonprofit organizations to connect with current or prospective supporters by sharing their mission, values, and story. They can utilize it to provide information on their work in the community, share real stories of the people they impact, open up discussions with supporters, recruit volunteers, encourage donations, and more. With the help of advertising, brands can then take this high quality content and showcase it to a much larger, and potentially more targeted, audience. 

Facebook offers many different options for ad creative in Ads Manager: Single Image, Video, Carousel, and Slideshows. We recommend experimenting with a combination of these options to see which ones resonate best with your audience. Static image ads, for example, are great if you’re going for one simple and clear message, whereas carousel ads can show multiple images and headlines that tell a visual story as supporters click through. Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating ad copy:

  • Keep the Text in Visuals to a Minimum 

According to Facebook, images with less than 20% text perform better. Try to keep the text in ad images to a minimum and focus on the main message you want to communicate. This Network for Good Advertisement is a great example of the right way to utilize text in ad visuals. They have a clear message and call-to-action in the image, “10 Creative Ways to Thank Donors”, so that the viewer immediately knows what they are offering: 

  • Tailor Messaging to Your Specific Audience 

Nowadays, marketing is centered around getting to know your customers in order to know how to market to them. In order to reach current or potential supporters, you need to offer up content that they are genuinely interested in to grab their attention. Millennials, for example, are known to place high value on their personal connections to brands. They want to support brands (nonprofits included) that are authentic and purpose-driven. When advertising to a millennial audience, a nonprofit could take the approach of story-telling and utilize real stories of the impact their organization makes. This type of content is perfect for communicating credibility and authenticity, which appeals specifically to this audience.


  • Be Clear & Concise 

As mentioned above, people’s attention spans are SHORT (less than a Goldfish kinda short). Because you have a very small time frame to work with, it’s important to send a clear and concise message to those viewing your ad. If they have to spend time deciphering what your company does or what you’re trying to offer, you’ve already lost their focus. Stick to only one offering per ad, along with short and sweet messaging about that offering. It’s as simple as that! 


4) Analyze Results & Make Tweaks 

Our final tip for advertising on Facebook is to analyze your results and make adjustments as needed. 

Facebook ads manager includes a large array of reporting metrics depending upon your specific ad strategy and creative. These metrics include results, reach, impressions, cost per result, amount spent, link clicks, video views, and more. If you click on ‘view charts’ under any advertisement in ads manager, you can also see charts for metrics on performance, demographics, placement, and delivery. 


Facebook Ad Results: Demographics Chart

We recommend pulling together a report at the close of each ad (or during if it’s running for months at a time). This report would include any KPIs (key performance indicators) that you think best represent the success of the advertisement. Analyzing and reporting the results of advertisements not only helps to stay organized and aligned with your goals, but also allows you to set benchmarks for future ads. If you make tweaks to future ads, you’ll be able to look back at the results from previous ads and understand if those tweaks made improvements or not. To get an idea of what an advertising report should include, check out this article from Improvado on Facebook Ad Reporting Templates.

Curious about how to figure out what tweaks your ad might need? Segmenting your ad results is a great place to start. This feature in ads manager helps to break down your key results by attributes like gender, age, placement, device type, and more. As an example, it could show you that the majority of the leads coming in through an ad were women between the ages of 20-45. Because of this, you could narrow your audience targeting in your next advertisement to women between the ages of 20-45 (the demographic that's actually engaging with your ads). This small tweak allows you to reach the correct people, so that your ad spend is being utilized to its fullest (in turn giving you a better return on investment). 


Final Notes 

Phew- that was a lot of information! Learning how to navigate the world of Facebook ads can be overwhelming at first, but try to keep in mind that you don't need to be an expert just to get started. Like with most things, you learn the best by doing. The more practice you get with creating and launching new advertisements, the more comfortable you will be. We hope that this blog gave some helpful tips to get you started, and encourage you to check out the multitude of other resources that exist on the internet as well (trust me- we have read them all too!).

If one of your nonprofit's goals is centered around fundraising, we also welcome you to look into our nonprofit partnership program. We help expand funding for over 300 different nonprofit organizations across the U.S. through our unique funding model. Nonprofit supporters are able to sign up to take online surveys with us, and can in turn donate their survey incentives back to the causes they support. It's free to sign up as a partner, and we create all marketing content needed to promote the opportunity to your supporters. This program has allowed us to donate over $480,000 to our nonprofit partners to date, and we look forward to seeing that number grow. Click Here to register your nonprofit and learn more, or check out our offerings one-pager using the button below. 


Learn how your nonprofit can earn extra funding with Opinions4Good by clicking here



Topics: Nonprofit, Nonprofit Funding, Social Media, Marketing Tips