Book & Guide

Facebook Ads for Nonprofits: The Complete Guide [2022]

Introduction To Nonprofit Facebook Ads

Nonprofits, no matter their size, operating budget, and mission, have similar goals. You constantly strive to recruit new supporters, engage your current supporters, and retain donors from year to year. At CauseVox, we know this isn’t an easy task and have put this guide together to help you amplify your impact with nonprofit facebook ads.

You’re using all your resources, from staff time to a limited (and ever-dwindling) marketing budget to keep everything from your email marketing to direct mail “on point.”

Thankfully, social media has emerged as a nonprofit marketer’s best friend over the past few years.

As you know, social media allows us to connect with followers on a level we weren’t so easily able to before. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram give our supporters a chance to see what our organization is really about. It’s a “backstage look,” so to speak.

Through social media, we’re engaging supporters with thoughtful, inspirational, educational and motivating content, including stories, images, and videos. We’re receiving messages and feedback in real-time, and responding quicker than we were ever able to before. We’re encouraging dialogue and thus, change about issues that matter.

Plus, social media is allowing our supporters to share our message with their friends and families, a major benefit of social fundraising!

Simply, put, social media has been good for nonprofits.

But, as with all things, social media is ever-changing and we’re constantly being forced to adapt. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram were built to establish and grow personal relationships. As such, newsfeed algorithms have changed so that you, as a nonprofit, are less visible to your social media audience than your donor’s Great Aunt Millie.

All this means that your posts aren’t showing up as often as they used to in your supporters’ newsfeeds. Unless, of course, your supporters are linking and sharing your posts!

And that’s the reason we’ve compiled this guide featuring everything you need to know about Facebook and Instagram ads. By using the advertising features on these two social media powerhouse platforms, you’ll guarantee exposure to the right audience, at the right time, and with the right fuel to encourage action.

Guide Outline

How Do Nonprofit Facebook Ads Work?Facebook ads

The Basics

Facebook has featured ads, formerly called “sponsored posts”, since 2009. Since then, the available options and features have rapidly changed to accommodate the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm updates implemented over the years.

You don’t have to be a corporation or a business to use Facebook ads. In fact, just about anyone from nonprofits and small businesses to political causes can advertise using Facebook.

And, you can target just about any segment of Facebook’s 1 billion + users with Facebook ads, from your current followers and friends of followers to “males, aged 20-29, owning luxury cars, and living in Milwaukee.”

Regular Facebook ads are viewable on desktop computers, while promoted and boosted posts can be seen on mobile devices and desktops.

To start advertising with Facebook, it’s best to have a Facebook business page. If you haven’t yet set one up, start here. It’s important to note that nonprofits choosing not to create a Facebook page have limited advertising options (more about this below).

Facebook Ad Options

Facebook has two primary advertising options and a ton of secondary advertising options for nonprofits.facebook ads

Promoted Posts

Promoted posts are labeled as “Sponsored” and sit directly in the Facebook Newsfeed or in the right-hand column of a Facebook page. They can be used to drive people to your website, promote a campaign, or sell merchandise for your cause.

To set up a promoted post, you must have a Facebook business page.

Promoted posts within the Facebook Newsfeed are virtually identical to a normal Facebook post aside from 2 distinguishing features:

    • The word “Sponsored”
    • A call to action button (such as “Like Page” as seen below)
      Facebook ads
      Promoted post in right-hand side

      Facebook ads
      Promoted post within a personal Facebook Newsfeed

Boosted Posts

Boosted posts are similar to promoted posts, except that you wouldn’t use the Ads Manager program to create and track the marketing campaign. You are required to have a Facebook Business page to boost your post.

If you’re interested in increasing your reach for a particular post (especially since the algorithm change), this is the quickest and easiest way to do that.Facebook ad

Prompt to “Boost Post” on a normal Facebook business page post

How Do Nonprofit Instagram Ads Work?

The Basics

Instagram’s popularity is continuing to grow and as of mid-2016, this visual, image-based social media platform reported over 500 million users. Demographics of Instagram users differ from that of Facebook. In fact, the average Instagram user is female and between 18-29 years old.

While attracting millennials is a good idea for any nonprofit, that’s not the only reason why advertising on Instagram is a good idea. One of the best things about Instagram is it’s ability to help you tell your nonprofit story by means of an image, video, or slideshow.

When you use Instagram ads, you’ll be able to:

  • Share your story
  • Raise awareness for your cause
  • Allow people to engage with your content
  • Give your audience motivation to act with a call to action.

Just as with Facebook ads, you can target your Instagram ads to reach your desired audience, from the young millennial women we just talked about to other, more varied audiences.

Remember that while Instagram posts can be viewed on a desktop, this site is more frequently accessed on mobile device. Therefore, it’s best that you choose media with the right resolutions (more on this below).

To begin creating Instagram ads, you’ll need a Facebook business page and a Facebook ad account. If you’re already using Facebook ads, then you have these. If not, start creating your page by following the instructions in this link.

Note that you do not need an Instagram account to create Instagram ads. However, we recommend creating an account if you haven’t already so you can easily respond to audience engagement.

Instagram Ad Options

All Instagram ads are placed within the Instagram Newsfeed and are distinguishable by the word “Sponsored” and a call to action button. In the screenshot below, you can see “Sponsored” in the top right corner, while the call to action “Learn More” is located under the image .

Facebook ads
Instagram Ad

You do, however, have 3 format options.Facebook ads

Single Photo Ads

Single photos can be formatted to be situated as a square or landscape.

When choosing to use a single photo, consider the message you want to get across. Ideally, the photo should be easily digestible, such as a fact, statistic, or a photograph that speaks for itself.

Videos Ads

Use videos to introduce powerful images, complete with sound and motion. Videos can be up to 60-seconds (previously, the limit was 15).

Social media users are watching more and more short videos online, so this is a good route to go to get your audience’s attention, especially if you can convey a short client story or otherwise emotionally connect your viewer to your mission.

Carousel Ads

Carousel is a swipeable image feature.

If you’re looking to tell a story through a photo sequence, such as detailing a volunteer service project or your latest client-focused programming option, carousel is your best tool.

Facebook & Instagram Ad Elements

Here are some of the most important and useful features of Facebook and Instagram ads.

Targeted Audience

With Facebook and Instagram ads, you can narrow down your desired audience based on the following criteria:

  • Location
  • Demographics: Age, Gender, Language
  • Interests: Based on “Liked” pages and connected apps
  • Behaviors: Based on activity on “Liked” pages and apps
  • Connections: Those that follow your page, friends of your current followers, etc.
  • Partner Categories: Data for additional target criteria that is collected off of the Facebook platform. When you use this service, you can target anything from credit card users to luxury car owners based on 3rd party data.

Objective-Based “Call to Action”

You’ll choose an “objective” for your ad campaign depending on what you hope to gain from the ad. The call to action that appears on that ad will match your objective.

Facebook ad objectives that nonprofits use include:

  • Brand awareness: Increase awareness of your nonprofit
  • Clicks to your website: Bring people to your website
  • Lead generation: Recruit new supporters
  • Page “Likes”: Recruit new supporters and engage current supporters by clicking “Like Page”
  • Post engagement: Get people to perform a task
  • Website conversions: Bring people to your website to perform a certain action (such as donate)

Facebook ad calls to action include:

  • Contact Us
  • Like Page
  • Donate Now
  • Learn More
  • Download
  • Sign Up
  • Watch More
  • Subscribe

Nonprofits often use the following objectives with Instagram ads:

  • Clicks to website: Bring people to your website
  • Website conversion: Bring people to your website to perform a certain action (such as donate)
  • Video views: Increase the number of video views
  • Reach and frequency: Increase and predict reach
  • Page post engagement: Encourage post comments, “Love”, etc.
  • Local awareness: Reach those located near your nonprofit

Creation & Data Collection Options

Choose between 2 programs create your ad and review your analytics

Ads Manager

For most nonprofits, this is the easier, preferred option for creating and tracking your ads. Ads Manager is user-friendly and contains a number of features that nonprofits can use to create quality ads such as relevant objectives and standard media options.Facebook ads

Power Editor

Power Editor is used by businesses and nonprofits that produce a large number of Facebook ads. This ad management tool offers more advanced features, such as the use of special characters and intricate slideshows. You must use Google Chrome to access Power Editor.Facebook ads

Facebook & Instagram Ad Best Practices

Now that you know the structure and purpose of Facebook and Instagram Ads, let’s discuss some of the best practices you should know as you create your own ads.

Keep the following tips in mind moving forward:

Use Your Call To Action Wisely

Do you want to get people to your nonprofit’s website or encourage them to donate? Think about the purpose of your ad before choosing a call to action button.

Likewise, reiterate what you want your ad audience to do within the ad’s caption if appropriate. Below, you can see that The Home Depot uses actionable language with the word “browse”, setting the audience up to follow the call to action button “Shop Now.”Facebook adsKnow Your Audience

Figure out who you’re trying to reach well before you create your first social media ad.

To start, look at statistics on your average donor from your donor database (or CRM program) or through a service like Google Analytics. The same goes for any other group you’re trying to reach, such as potential volunteers or prospective peer-to-peer fundraisers.

Focus on some or all of the following attributes:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Geographic location
  • Education
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Family size

Then, brainstorm text and call to action that will appeal to that particular demographic.

Remember Your Brand

As in all nonprofit marketing, include your logo, nonprofit name, symbol, hashtag, or other brand-specific detail that sets you apart from others and encourages your audience to remember your organization down the road.

Keep It Short

You’ll be shocked at how quickly your ad will be will seen and processed by your audience, so you must get your audience’s attention in a matter of seconds (or even fractions of a second). Therefore, keep both your headline and ad text short.

Marketing experts suggest using no more than 5 words in your headline and keeping your text content direct.

facebook adsChoose Meaningful Images & Video That Meet Ideal Ad Specifications

Again, think through the ad’s purpose before selecting an image or video for your ad. For example, if you’re encouraging donations than you may want to feature a picture of a person who has been helped by your organization.

Also, check your image and video specifications before finalizing your ad. You can find these on the right column in Ads Manager after you select “Create Your Ad.”Facebook ads

Engage With Your Audience

When you promote or boost a post within the Facebook Newsfeed, you’re able to respond to and/or “Like” audience comments. We encourage you to communicate with those who take time to engage with your posts.Facebook ads

Know Your Limitations

Recognize and adapt to any limitations your nonprofit may have. For example, if you know your nonprofit’s website isn’t optimized for mobile, don’t use mobile ads that direct people to your website.

By putting yourself in the shoes of your intended audience as you begin creating your ads, you’ll be able to catch intricacies such as these before your audience does.

Creating A Facebook Ad & Instagram Ad

Before you jump into creating a Facebook ad, determine your main goal. Like we mentioned earlier, most nonprofits have 3 primary goals:

  1. Recruit new supporters
  2. Engage current supporters
  3. Retain supporters from year-to-year and campaign-to-campaign

You’ll base your Facebook ad campaign objective on your campaign goal, which will likely be related to one of the 3 listed above.

For this step-by-step guide, we’ll use the objective of brand awareness which, in the case of a nonprofit, would help to increase awareness of the cause/brand.

Before you begin, be aware that Facebook has specific guidelines regarding ad content. Review this page before creating your ads to avoid having your ad rejected.

Here are the steps to create a Facebook Ad in Ads Manager.

Adding Your Accounts To Business Manager

  1. If you haven’t already, connect your Facebook page and Facebook ads to the Business Manager. Do this by selecting “Pages” and “Ad Accounts” from the Business Manager drop-down menu and inputting your information.

    Facebook ads
    Drop-down menu on Business Manager
  2. If you have an Instagram account, add it to the Facebook business manager program by going into Business Settings and selecting Instagram Accounts.

    Business Manager “Business Settings” button
facebook ads
Instagram Accounts in drop down menu
Facebook ads
Input Instagram information

Creating Your Ads

  1. Choose objective and name your campaign

    facebook ads
    Selecting objective
facebook ads
Objective description and campaign name
  1. Choose target audience depending on who you want to reach with this particular ad campaign
    facebook ads
    Audience criteria

    facebook ads
    Example of detailed targeting
  2. Select ad placement.

Choose between “Automatic Placements” or “Edit Placements” and select any of the following ad placement locations:

  • Facebook (depending on your objective, you can choose between a right-hand ad, a post within the newsfeed or both)
  • Instagram
  • Audience Network (3rd party sites contracted with Facebook)

    Facebook ads
    Ad placement choices
facebook ads
Edit placements options
  1. Determine your budget and distribution schedule. Select “Advanced Options” to choose specific budget/bidding criteria. As a beginner, we suggest selecting “Automatic” bid amount.
    facebook ads
    Budget & Schedule options

    facebook ads
    Advanced options
  2. Select “Continue” at the bottom of your screenfacebook ads
  1. You have 2 options when choosing a design. You can create your own post or use an existing post.

Create your own post with the following options:

  • Carousel: Scrollable images
  • Single Image: 1 image
  • Single Video: 1 video
  • Slideshow: A video created from up to 10 images

When creating a new post, select the type of media you want to post and upload. Note the recommended specs in the right column.

facebook ads
Create your own post design options
  • Use existing post

    facebook ads
    Existing post design options
  1. Work your way down the page and complete media-specific prompts. For example, when you choose the video format, you’ll select a thumbnail and create a caption. Then, preview the ad using the drop down options in the right column.

    facebook ads
    Ad preview
  2. Review the post

    facebook ads
    Review post screen
  3. Click “Place Order”

    facebook ads
    Place order button

10.. Ad is reviewed by Facebook per the advertising policies.

  1. Wait for your ad to run and analyze your results using Ads Manager.

    facebook ads
    Ads Manager analytics

Facebook & Instagram Ad Examples

Nonprofits are getting comfortable using Facebook and Instagram ads, and there are hundreds of thousands of rockstar examples out there. Here’s a few to help get your creative juices flowing.

The Bottom Line

Advertising using Facebook and Instagram is a great idea for nonprofits.

Chances are, the majority of your intended audience is already using Facebook to connect with friends, family, businesses, and causes they relate to. When you choose to use Facebook Ads (depending on your primary objective), you’re potentially getting in front of an even larger prospective donor base and encouraging engagement and action from your current supporters.

In addition, the process of creating and tracking Instagram Ads is almost identical to that of Facebook Ads. Thus, if you’re attempting to broaden your audience and appeal to younger supporters, Instagram is a good platform to use.

Consider a donor’s lifetime worth when choosing to run a Facebook and/or Instagram ad campaign. A page “Like”, a share, or a click to your website may not seem like substantial milestones at present, but they can be the start of a long-term relationship.

Every interaction with donors is important, but you must get “in front” of them before you can develop that bond. Capture their attention first, and then hook them with your amazing nonprofit story, your genuine fundraising appeal, and your impact-driven results.

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