[Guest blog] 4 easy steps to optimize paid social ads for nonprofits

[Guest blog] 4 easy steps to optimize paid social ads for nonprofits

Paid social ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms can be extremely effective in driving awareness for events, fundraising, and other important initiatives for nonprofits. At icepop, we tend to see many nonprofits missing important steps to optimize their ads on these platforms. This blog walks you through what steps and why you need to take these steps to be successful.

Tracking with pixels 👾

All major advertising platforms have pixels or tracking codes that can easily be added to your website to help track ads’ performance. These pixels let Facebook and other platforms track what happens on your website after a user has clicked on an ad. This is important not only for advertisers to see each ad’s performance but also for the advertising platforms to better target their ads. It’s in the best interest of the platforms for advertisers to succeed to continue spending money on the platforms. The pixel helps these platforms track sign-ups, purchases, donations, and more to understand which people that saw the ad ended up taking the actions the advertisers wanted them to take.

Pixel setup guide from Facebook

After successfully setting up a pixel, advertisers can use the Conversions campaign objective:



After selections conversions, advertisers can choose objectives like donate, lead, and more for Facebook to optimize and track for:

Targeting 🎯

There are two strategies to target folks at a high level to see your ads: Prospecting and Retargeting. Prospecting is focused on finding new people that are not familiar with your organization. Retargeting is a focus on showing your ads to folks who are familiar with your organization.

On the retargeting side, advertisers can create custom audiences to market to in 2 ways: a. Uploading email addresses to Facebook as a custom audience or, b. Creating a custom audience using the data the pixel is tracking on the advertiser’s website. Using either option, advertisers re-engage folks who are already familiar with their brand quickly and inexpensively.

When it comes to Prospecting campaigns, there are many ways to find new people to educate about your campaign. Interest-based audiences, geo-based audiences, and more, but one of the most effective ways is to build a lookalike audience. Lookalike audiences are audiences generated by advertising platforms based on Custom Audiences. For example, a nonprofit organization could upload a list of a couple thousand people who have donated in the past to Facebook into a custom audience and then build a lookalike audience of a million people based on that custom audience.

If you’re using Facebook, make sure to separate your Prospecting and Retargeting efforts into separate campaigns and to turn on Campaign Budget Optimizer (CBO) on each campaign so that Facebook can help spend your budget in the most effective manner.

Creative 🎨

After setting up a pixel and a few audiences to run ads against, it’s important to think about the creative strategy. It’s important to test multiple creative assets to understand which resonates and performs the best with each audience. There are 2 types of creative assets we’ve seen do well for nonprofits:

1. Impact & Education - This type of creative focuses on the impact people will make by contributing to the nonprofit. 

2. Social Proof - Based on normative social influence, advertisers take advantage of the fact that folks want to conform to what other people are doing. Showing the support your nonprofit has already garnered can help drive more people to feel empowered to be involved.

It’s also important to note that both video and static assets should be tested if possible.

Placements and ad formats 🤩

First, let’s define placements and ad formats:
a. Placements are where your ads show up - think Instagram story or Facebook feed.
b. Ad Formats are ad unit options advertisers can use in each placement. See Facebook’s Ad Formats here.

For the most part, we advise companies and nonprofits to use automatic placements to take advantage and test all of the potential placements the advertising platforms have to offer.

Regarding Ad Formats, Carousel, Video, and Image tend to be the ones that make the most sense for nonprofits to leverage.

With proper tracking in place and good audiences seeing strong creative in good ad formats and ad units, your ads are bound to be more effective the next time you run an ad campaign.

Givebutter made a $100 donation to Jordan's charity of choice, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, for this guest blog.

Written By

Written by
Jordan Banafsheha
Founder of icepop, a performance marketing firm with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, working with top brands from around the world.