How to Build a Digital Advertising Program for Your Nonprofit
The U.S. has more than 1.5 million nonprofits. A new website is created every 3 seconds. Reports show that nonprofit websites are harder to find on search than ever before. And donations are down (or at least they were in 2022 and have been trending that way so far this year).
When creating a successful digital program today, it’s important to have a realistic understanding of the digital landscape. There’s no sugarcoating it, it’s tough for nonprofits to break through the noise and create connections with new audiences. So, how can nonprofits capture that attention of potential donors?
Paid Advertising to the Rescue
Recent studies show more than 60% of nonprofits have an advertising budget. Additionally, 50% of nonprofits who do run paid ads plan to increase their ad budget this year.
These stats mean several things. If you’re not advertising, it’s likely that organizations who are trying to solve similar problems are. In other words, new audiences are seeing those organizations more than your organization.
The competition around ads is only going to increase as organizations increase ad budgets. To stand out, nonprofits have to be creative with their targeting, ad types and messages.
Organizations see value in advertising. Nonprofits don’t increase spending on things that don’t work. Today, a paid advertising program is not a nice to have, it’s a must have.
Building a Smart Paid Advertising Program
There are several things to keep in mind when creating a paid advertising program. While throwing money at a post or an image may pay off every once in a while, having a strategic advertising program can make all the difference in your growth.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to paid advertising.
1. Know the Needs of Your Audience Throughout Your Funnel
It’s important to understand your donor funnel. At a high level, this will likely look something like this:
- Awareness. At the top of the funnel, people do not know you or your mission.Therefore, they need to know the broad strokes of your mission and impact.
- Consideration. Potential donors move down the funnel once they know your organization and mission. At this point, they are considering if they are going to support your organization. Therefore, they need to know how your mission fits with their values.
- Conversion. Once people have decided to support you, they move to the conversion part of your funnel. These audiences need the final nudge that makes support a no-brainer.
- Champion. After the first donation, that relationship shifts to creating lifelong supporters.
Think of paid advertising as several campaigns that need to work together over the course of a year. Start early and at the top of the funnel to introduce your mission to new people. Be bold in your copy and memorable in your visuals.
Over the summer and in the early fall, find ways to help them build trust moving audiences from awareness to consideration. This could include new ad types that are trust based — podcasts or influencers are a couple of examples or messages that focus on proof points and emotive storytelling.
This allows you to make the ask when it comes to the giving season. This will include more direct messages and ad types that make donating frictionless.
2. Define Realistic KPIs
Being successful at introducing your organization to a new audience (awareness) looks very different from asking someone who knows you to donate (conversion). Each step in your funnel has a different KPI that should be tracked and that when defined will be a leading indicator for overall success.
Do not always expect a one-to-one (ad dollar to donation dollar) metric to define success for paid advertising. Calculate the true cost of donor acquisition and compare that to the lifetime value of that donor. You’ll often find the cost to acquire a donor is greater than their first donation, which is why the funnel cannot stop at conversion. Looking at KPIs that are leading indicators for donations provides important directional data to evaluate your paid program.
3. Always Be Testing
Advertising is a great way to learn. It’s cheaper than focus groups and research, and provides real, affordable field data. Knowledge is often as important as a donation, so make sure that knowledge is included in all campaign KPIs.
To do this, identify the questions that you want to answer during the campaign planning phase and map the KPIs to these questions. This means that the variations that are being tested (ad creative, ad targeting, ad type or any other element) should have a clearly defined aspect that can be tested. For example, static display ad versus animated display ad should include the same message and visuals so that you can learn what works and what doesn’t.
Paid advertising can move your mission forward because it can increase awareness, consideration and conversions. From programs like Google Ad Grants, to low-budget items like boosting social posts and video ads, to display, high impact and other more experiential ads, there are entry points for all budgets.
It is said that the only failure is the failure to act, so don’t fail your mission. Get started with paid advertising today.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Joe Frye is the account group director for nonprofit and cause at Town Hall Agency. He has spent more than a decade helping organizations make an impact and connect their missions with individuals. He has led award-winning projects and campaigns for organizations including PBS, Partners of the Americas, the Identity Theft Resource Center, Showtime Networks, Duke University, UNESCO and many others.
Joe's experience at the intersection of technology, data and creativity provide a unique perspective that allows organizations to create impactful digital ecosystems, increase donations, grow membership, improve member retention and increase overall revenue.