4 Types of Paid Advertising That Increase Donations

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Published August 21, 2017 Reading Time: 4 minutes

While there are many ways to advertise online for free, attaining vast organic reach through channels like social media can be difficult and relies heavily on timing, post popularity, and social algorithms. That’s why a budget for paid advertising can increase your reach and improve results.

Many nonprofits hesitate to hop on the paid advertising bandwagon, but native ads are becoming widely popular and are arguably now just as important as conventional forms of marketing. This is especially the case if you’re trying to reach a younger demographic.

Here are four types of paid advertising that can increase your donations.

1. Social Targeting

Social advertising helps you pinpoint the exact people you want to reach, whether that’s by demographic, keyword, online behavior, or interests. For example, using Twitter, you can create an ad that only shows up to followers of nonprofits similar to yours, or to people who have recently tweeted about issues related to your cause. It’s important to be hyper-specific—it’s better to reach 10 people who are likely to donate than 1,000 people who will scroll straight past. This guide to advertising on Facebook gives good grounding in the subject.

Here are a few of the most popular paid advertising networks you should look into:

  • Google Adwords – offers CPC ads that are highly targeted
  • Facebook – its ads work like display ads; good for top-of-funnel marketing
  • LinkedIn – used primarily for B2B marketing
  • Bing – similar to Google Adwords, but less competitive
  • StumbleUpon – best for attention-grabbing content

Download Now: Classy + Facebook—A Guide to Boosting Fundraiser Retention

2. Sequential advertising

Sequential advertising provides a way to show your (highly targeted) audience a group of ads in a certain order, even following them between devices. The algorithm can detect which ads the user has already seen, so you eliminate the risk of ads being seen more than once (a common cause of ad fatigue).

For nonprofits who want to build deeper relationships with their audience, sequential advertising works particularly well. Its storytelling structure means that you can build awareness gradually before bringing in a call to action—perfect for lesser known organizations. Let’s consider how you might go about this over the course of three sequential ads:

  • Ad 1: Begin by introducing your organization.
  • Ad 2: Build on what the audience now knows and introduce your campaign in more detail.
  • Ad 3: Summarize both the organization and the campaign, and include a clear call-to-action that lets the audience know how they can help.

Sequenced advertising can be set up on Facebook using the Ads Manager, from which you create and select the ads you want to sequence. Currently, this is the only social channel to offer a sequencing option.

3. Retargeting Ads

Most of us have had the spooky experience of visiting a website, only to find that you see ads for that same website popping up everywhere you look shortly afterwards. This retargeting reminds us of those purchases we didn’t make the first time around.

Whether you’re starting your own online store or raising donations for your nonprofit, retargeting can re-engage shoppers and donors that would otherwise have been lost. Sometimes all it takes is that simple reminder to go back a second time.

The key to successful retargeting is audience segmentation. This allows you to pinpoint users with relevant ad messages, making the retargeting experience highly personalized. You can set up segments by URL within your retargeting platform, whether that’s through AdRoll, Perfect Audience, or Chango. Consider how you will adapt your CTA based on the action you want your audience to take, whether that’s completing a donation, signing up to your newsletter, or buying a product they previously viewed.

4. Video Ads

Video is increasingly being uploaded natively to social platforms such as Facebook, and these channels are prioritizing this format above all others. Whether it’s educational, a direct appeal, a behind-the-scenes look, or the outcome of a successful campaign, a video is a powerful medium for nonprofit storytelling and increasing donations. There are various targeting capabilities than enable you to get your video in front of people who support your cause.

Facebook video ads are very similar to normal ads, and they’re not that expensive either. You can display a video ad either in the newsfeed or in the right-hand sidebar. Again, you will start in the Ads Manager. Select “get video views” as your primary objective. You can then tailor your audience according to their age, location, gender, demographics, behaviors, interests, and connections.

The Anatomy of an Effective Donor Ad

An effective donor advertisement is based on the following principles:

  • Eye-catching visuals – Your ads need to resonate with your target audience and compel them to take action. One thing that’s been proven time and again is that visuals drive engagement across all social platforms, so top quality imagery is key.
  • Quality content – A good way to engage the reader is with a question, since it leads them to consider their own views rather than forcing an agenda. Another approach is to stick to a clear moral viewpoint that will resonate with their own beliefs.

People are also more inclined to share positive or inspiring stories than negative ones. See if you can find an angle that will inspire, rather than guilt, people to take action.

Don’t be tempted to boost a post that was ignored by your followers the first time around. Instead, choose posts that caused a stir or were popular.

  • Minimal obstacles – The thing that many nonprofits seem to get wrong is the number of obstacles they put in the way of their donors completing the desired action. For example, if you want people to donate, you should send people directly to your donation page, not your main website homepage. Make sure you have a clear CTA that is direct and simple to achieve.

The Follow-Up: Create a Google Analytics Goal

If you’re using paid ads to increase conversions, then it’s important to create a Google Analytics goal to hone in on your donation page. When you’ve put the hard work into convincing someone to donate, the last thing you want is for your donation page to be putting people off.

An analytics goal allows you to track the events you want to take place on your website, like the average time spent on your donation page, or the number of people making it through to your thankyou page. The work doesn’t stop once someone clicks through to your donation page, so if this is where people seem to be dropping off, you may need to rethink your user experience.

Regardless of whether your nonprofit is big or small, paid advertising can be a cost-effective and easy way to accomplish your marketing and fundraising goals. Even a small budget, if targeted in the right way, can create impressive results.


Victoria Greene is a brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. She works with ecommerce businesses to create fresh content and targeted marketing strategies that yield successful results.

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