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Digital Advertising for Nonprofits: Budget, Channels, and Real-life Case Study

Published: 19 October 2023

Updated: 29 January 2024

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Darya is a digital marketing specialist @VIDEN, driving performance and delivering results for brands across paid channels through leading optimization and management strategies.
Digital Advertising for Nonprofits: Budget, Channels, and Real-life Case Study

What if we told you there’s a recipe for nonprofit success? Organizations boldly conveying their messages, attracting a legion of donors, and creating impactful change. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? In reality, nonprofits aim to address society’s needs and tackle unresolved issues. But they can’t do any of that by staying on the sidelines, especially in a world filled with uncertainty and anxiety about the future.

Nonprofit leaders, it’s time to find your voice and shout your true mission from the rooftops. How? Through the magic of digital advertising. Advertising is great for nonprofits aiming to reach the scale required to combat their challenges. To create a world that works for everyone, you need to ignite demand on a massive scale, just like tech giants did.

In this article, we’ll discover how digital advertising can help nonprofit organizations reach their goals. We’ll navigate the channels and platforms that are key to your success. So, keep reading as we show the results of our close collaboration with an American nonprofit organization.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Difference between Nonprofit and For-Profit Advertising
  2. How Much Should Your Nonprofit Organization Spend on Advertising?
  3. Case Study: Strategic Digital Advertising for a Nonprofit Organization
  4. Empower Your Nonprofit’s Mission with Digital Advertising

The Difference Between Nonprofit and For-Profit Advertising

Nonprofit advertising is quite different from for-profit advertising, and there’s a good reason for it. For-profit advertising is all about making money. The goal is to drive sales, boost profits, and see those numbers climb. On the contrary, nonprofit advertising isn’t about raking in dollars; it’s about connecting with people on a deeper level and sparking a positive change in society – to make the world a better place.

The key difference here is the “why“. For-profits are chasing financial gains, while nonprofits are chasing social good. While nonprofit advertising brings a lot of great things to the table, it’s not without its challenges. There are a couple of bumps on the road that you should be aware of:

  1. Potentially negative donor reactionsYou know how some people cringe when they see an ad? It’s not just you; they do it with for-profit ads, too. On top of that, many donors want every cent they contribute to go directly toward your nonprofit’s mission, rather than being siphoned off for marketing. Finding that balance between reaching out and respecting their wishes can be a bit tricky.
  2. Authenticity and connectionIn nonprofit advertising, storytelling is a big deal. It’s how you connect with your audience on a personal level. But when you jump into the advertising pool, authenticity can sometimes get lost in the splash. You want your message to be real, not just another pushy sales pitch.So, here’s the plan: start by choosing affordable and even low-budget nonprofit advertising channels and strategies that won’t put a hole in your budget. Then, make sure your ads are dripping with inspirational content, delivered in an authentic and genuine tone.

How Much Should Your Nonprofit Organization Spend on Advertising?

According to statistics, digital advertising investment by nonprofits increased by 28% in 2023. Overall, nonprofits devoted a greater share of budgets to reaching new prospects than existing supporters. For every dollar spent on retargeting, they spent $1.19 on prospecting.

The rule of thumb states that nonprofits should spend between 5 and 15% of their budget on marketing. But, how much your organization should spend depends on the scale of your nonprofit. For example, if your budget is $150,000, 5% is $7,500. That’s not going to go very far. But if your nonprofit budget is $1 million, 5% is $50,000. That’s a lot more to work with.

How to allocate budget for nonprofit advertising

As a rule, smaller nonprofits should spend a larger percentage of their budget on marketing. The numbers may seem terrifying at first, but it will pay off long-term. However, be sure not to focus too much on a certain percentage. Instead, your nonprofit organization should focus on the goals they want to achieve with marketing. So set a goal, determine the metrics to measure your success, and allocate a certain amount of budget for it. Also think about the channels you can use and if there are any other better ways to achieve the same goals.

What about the Social Media Ad Budget?

Did you know that around 70% of nonprofits are spending money to purchase ads on social media or to boost posts? Larger organizations are also eager to experiment with ads on channels like Facebook or Instagram. When we look at real numbers, 97% of these nonprofits with an ad budget are spending money with Facebook, while 61% are spending with Instagram. And about a third invest in LinkedIn promotion. Twitter and YouTube are getting smaller spending. This means that most nonprofits understand that ad spending is an important part of their social media strategy.

Total budget for social media ads in 2022

Percentage of nonprofits with social media ad budgets

How nonprofits feel social media helps them

You might be looking at these statistics and wondering whether you should follow their example and start with Meta ads. Well, that could be a great option as Facebook has a $50 daily ad spending cap for new accounts. All you need to do is to run a few ads and make payments to Facebook. Once Facebook is sure that your bank card is legitimate and you’re not committing fraud, they’ll increase the limit. Another advantage of Meta advertising is that you could build demand for your nonprofitable organization on a massive scale. You’ll be able to target audiences most receptive to your nonprofit’s goals. Nonprofits can also use Meta’s targeting features to reach specific demographics, locations, and interests, ensuring their ads are visible to the right people.

Another option is to include Google Ad Grants as part of your digital advertising mix. However, Google Ad Grants aren’t nearly as effective as paid advertising. The ROAS for these campaigns is just $0.07 overall. The average ROAS for paid search was $2.75, which is 39 times higher. Even though Google Grant placements are free, the net return is still significantly lower than paid search.

At this point, you might feel confused about where to start. We’d recommend you book a 15-minute strategy call with our PPC experts to discuss your objectives and budget opportunities. We have a proven track record of running ads for multiple nonprofit organizations and know how to ensure every dollar spent pays off. Don’t just take our word for it; let us walk you through one of our recent projects for a nonprofit organization that truly speaks for itself.

Case Study: Strategic Digital Advertising for a Nonprofit Organization

For the past four years, we’ve been working with a few nonprofitable organizations. These charity organizations attract donors by clearly communicating their mission and impact, building relationships with potential donors, and providing transparency and accountability. What’s even more impressive, these organizations operate under the same leadership. Our collaboration began with only one of these organizations. Their primary focus was running Facebook ads, but the results didn’t quite match their aspirations. So, they reached out to us, seeking a transformative review of their advertising efforts.

Here’s what we aimed to accomplish:

  • Continuous donor growth for lower cost. The budget wasn’t a constraint. They were ready to invest more if the performance lit up. The goal was simple — acquire new donors consistently and efficiently.
  • Maximizing net revenue. While growing their donor base, they were determined to maintain a robust Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) of at least 1.5. The objective was to make every dollar invested count.

The task was clear, and we got down to work. But like any great adventure, it wasn’t without its fair share of challenges:

  • Unpredictable revenue streams due to changes in donor preferences and abilities
  • The majority of donors preferred to make donations only during specific times of the year

Our solution was a multi-faced strategy:

  1. Website optimization. We first conducted a thorough website audit, identifying several areas to improve their site’s user experience and conversion rate and increase average donation value (donation value per donor).
  2. Multichannel advertising. The client had been running only Facebook ads. We suggested having not only Facebook campaigns but also showing ads on different platforms, such as Google, Bing, and Snapchat. By being present on multiple platforms, a nonprofit organization can reach a wider audience, increase its visibility, and increase the chances of engagement and conversion. It can optimize its ad spend and avoid wasting resources on ineffective channels.
  3. Google Ads Grant account. We created not only a Google Ads account for them, but a Google Ads Grant account. Ad Grants provide access to $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising every month for text ads. The ads display on Google Search when users look for information related to your nonprofit.
  4. Back-end platform. We utilized a back-end platform to record the exact donation value from all the platforms in one place. It allowed us to create a donor database and download it to retarget the audience.
  5. Worldwide location targeting. The client had already been showing their ads only in a few selected countries. We expanded their target audience globally. Worldwide campaigns CPMs/CPCs are much less than, for example, US campaigns CPMs/CPCs, so we managed to drive cheaper traffic to the website.
  6. Anticipating peak seasons, we proactively devised a promotion strategy, ready to maximize opportunities.
  7. Creatives. Collaborating closely with the client, we optimized their video and image assets by, for example, incorporating compelling calls to action into their ads, guiding users to their websites.

To achieve our goals, we used a variety of tools and platforms, including Meta Ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads, Snapchat Ads for acquisition and retargeting; Google Analytics for data analysis; Google Looker Studio for data visualization; Google Tag Manager for tracking setup; Clickfunnels for recording donations. The results? We managed to reach a wider audience by showing ads on different platforms and targeting worldwide locations. Although we didn’t bid for ROAS for two years, our net revenue in 2021 was one of the highest. Also, in 2022, we focused our efforts on another client from the same organization.

But let’s not leave you hanging without the numbers – our advertising gurus delivered outstanding outcomes:

Digital advertising for nonprofits results

Given these phenomenal results, the client also decided to run PPC and social media campaigns for other accounts and offered us their management. As of 2021-2023, our journey continued, mainly focusing on promoting Muslim accounts.

Empower Your Nonprofit’s Mission with Digital Advertising

Digital advertising for nonprofits requires strategic planning. As your financial budget is limited and only a small part goes for advertising, you should shoot straight. Partnering with a trusted online advertising agency like VIDEN could ease your work and ensure you choose the right promotion channels. Get on a quick call with our experts, and we’ll do our best to help you spread your word and attract more donors.

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