A Smarter Way to Fundraise: Explore Classy’s Fundraising Intelligence Suite

10 Tips to Boost Your Nonprofit’s Digital Marketing With Google and Facebook Ads

Google on Laptop

Request a Demo

Learn how top nonprofits use Classy to power their fundraising.

Schedule a Demo
Published February 8, 2021 Reading Time: 12 minutes

This post is written by Eric Linssen, demand generation specialist at Community Boost, a Certified Classy Partner and digital marketing agency that works with nonprofits to accelerate and scale online revenue and impact.

Successful marketing is all about showing up where people are already looking. Today, that means showing up on Google and Facebook. With 2.8 billion daily active users in its app ecosystem, Facebook touches more people every day than any major religion, movement, or book in history. With over $3 billion in donations made on the platform since 2015, your nonprofit’s supporters are there and ready to take action. Your supporters are also on Google, given that 96% of web sessions begin with search and 5.6 billion searches are submitted on Google.com every day. What’s more is your supporters are telling you exactly what they’re searching for—all you have to do is show up as a result.

Use these two platforms to show up where people are and to grow your nonprofit’s supporter base effectively and efficiently.

How Do Google Ad Grants Work?

Whenever someone submits a search on Google, the results populate based on several criteria, including the website, video, image’s relevance, and the search term.

Almost all of these results are organic, meaning they show up solely because Google thinks they represent what the user is searching for. However, advertisers can also pay to have their ad show up ahead of organic results. This type of result is called a search ad and is denoted by the word “Ad” in grey showing up to the left of the result. By paying for your search ad to appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP), advertisers can reach people who are searching for exactly what they offer and show up directly in front of them.

Check out the picture below to see how this works for the search term, “lgbt suicide prevention.”

google ad search for lgbt suicide prevention

If your nonprofit wants to leverage Google Ads, the Google Ad Grant is one of the best ways to make the most of this powerful marketing tool.

The Google Ad Grant is a $10,000/month grant that Google provides to eligible nonprofits to use towards Google Search text ads. There are a few stipulations around how the money can be used, but overall, it is one of the easiest tools that a nonprofit marketer can use to increase cause awareness, drive qualified traffic to their website, and ultimately raise money for their mission.

Over 17 years, the Google Ad Grant has provided $10 billion in digital advertising funds to over 115,000 nonprofits in over 51 countries.

5 Tips to Design a Winning Google Ad Grants Strategy

Tip 1: Define Success Beyond the Click

Because someone sees your ad after inputting their search query, you can’t define success solely as ad impressions (someone seeing the ad) or engagement. You have to look at what someone does after they click through your ad.

In order to gauge the success of your Google Ad Grants campaign, you want to clearly define what success “after the click” looks like for you. Do you want people to click on a button on your landing page? Do you want people to submit a form? Do you want people to click through to the donation page?

After you have defined these goals, you can begin to optimize your website experience and ad account builds. For example, if you have a high bounce rate, you need to change your ads to drive more qualified traffic or redesign your landing page. If your time spent on site is high, but people aren’t taking your desired actions, you’ll want to use conversion-centered design to be clear about your desired user action.

You can also see in Google Analytics how key metrics like bounce rate, key conversions or goals, and time spent on site differ by device. With this data you can decide to optimize your landing page for mobile or desktop. To optimize your landing page for mobile, make sure your page speed is fast and test your user experience on a mobile phone.

Tip 2: Measure What Matters

One of our mantras at Community Boost is the Peter Drucker quote, “What gets measured, gets managed.” As an organization, you can only improve upon what gets measured. Thankfully, digital ads allow you to track beyond the click, which as we just mentioned, is a critical measurement of success. The “beyond the click” information is so important because it helps you optimize your ads in real time so that you can keep learning and growing, gaining new ideas for ads and content.

After you’ve set up your Google Ads account, set up this tracking by making sure your site is tagged properly using Google Tag Manager to reflect progress on all of your key performance indicators (KPI). The actions and goals you’ll want to tag will depend on your organization’s specific goals, but common goals often include “donations,” “volunteer sign-ups,” “newsletter sign-ups,” and “over five minutes spent” on site.

Also, make sure you are taking advantage of free Google tools like Google Analytics to understand how people are interacting with your website. All of this data can bring you to impactful realizations that can help guide your marketing strategy.

Once you have these tools set up, you want to focus on meaningful conversions versus meaningless traffic. Set up conversion goals to track meaningful metrics like volunteer sign-ups, email subscribers, and donations. Put a value on each goal when possible. Tagging the lifetime value of a volunteer or a newsletter sign-up helps you optimize your overall account towards the most impactful and profitable goals.

Pro Tip
Once you have goals enabled, you can use smart bidding strategies like “Maximize Conversions.” These strategies will allow you to spend more than the normal $2 PPC limit on Google Ad Grant accounts because Google is willing to take less advertising revenue to serve someone an ad they think the user will click on.

Tip 3: Reverse-Engineer How Your Target Audience Thinks

You must think about how your target audience thinks and searches in Google in order to effectively scale your traffic and conversions.

Use a variety of resources including Google’s Keyword Planner, Search Term Reports, and even third-party tools like SEMrush to find new keywords based on searches happening in the location you’d like to target.

It is also important to consider search volume (how many average searches a keyword gets per month) and keyword relevance to your nonprofit when deciding which keywords to add to your account. If there is a low search volume, that means no one is searching for certain keywords, so you shouldn’t bother trying to show up for them.

Similarly, if the search volume is very high for a certain keyword compared to other options, but that keyword has less relevance to your nonprofit, that isn’t an ideal keyword to bid on either. The goal is to find a set of keywords that are relevant to your site and have decent search volume around which you can build ad groups.

Finally, think about the mindset of your potential donors and their user journey when they are searching for certain keywords. Make sure that your landing page content and experience are tailored to the keywords and search queries that your potential donors are using. For example, if your page is optimized for “San Diego animal shelter,” then you’ll likely want a section header with those keywords that also answers potential questions or provides an action for someone looking for a local shelter. A few ideas could be sharing your location, suggestions for drop-off donations, or hours of operation, so that someone who is looking for an animal shelter in a specific location can quickly see if your nonprofit is the right one.

Keeping the bounce rate of your pages low keeps your Quality Scores high (a key metric Google tracks when deciding whether or not to serve your ad to someone) and your cost-per-clicks low, which means you will get more out of your $10,000/month grant.

Tip 4: Get Comfortable With Compliance

In January 2018, Google rolled out the largest Ad Grant compliance requirement updates in quite some time. Overall, this has been a good thing for Ad Grantees and the ecosystem, pushing more nonprofits to practice better Ad Grant management.

Familiarize yourself with these compliance rules so that you ensure you’re not violating any of the stipulations of the grant. With that said, don’t be scared to try new strategies and tactics. Become comfortable with the rules and you will find a lot of whitespace in optimizing more aggressively.

Many DIY Ad Grantees are fearful to make consistent optimizations or build out their accounts further. That is the wrong mindset. The monthly $10,000 is free money from Google, so as long as you are staying in compliance and seeing results, remember to always test and iterate. Consider running ads to your newsletter or other valuable content instead of straight to a donation form or volunteer page. Test different bidding strategies continuously. If your account-wide click-through-rate is high enough, try some keyword expansion to keywords you normally wouldn’t target.

The main message here is that no one can predict what will work with a focus group of one. Test, test, test, and test some more. That’s how you’ll uncover goldmines in strategy and make progress against your goals.

Tip 5: Invest the Time and Resources

Digital marketing is unique in the number of options available, how much data there is to refine, and how quickly you can get ads up and running. It’s imperative to invest the time and resources to get more out of your efforts. Account set-up is especially important because Google shows ads based on how valuable users are finding your information, so a poor set-up can knock you down for a while.

Ad Grants accounts build over time. Certain ads and targeting prove effective while others don’t, and continuous learnings compound. So invest the time needed for success upfront. Thoughtful account structure, compelling ad copy, relevant keywords and targeting, and goal-tracking are foundational imperatives.

Once you’ve set up the account though, don’t set it and forget it. Assign a dedicated owner. Ensure bandwidth to audit and optimize your account regularly if you’re managing it in-house.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to manage the account in-house, enlist the help of an experienced agency or consultant. The Ad Grants Certified Professionals Community connects Grantees with professionals in Ad Grants and nonprofit specialization, and this is a great place to find an agency that you can work well with. This is $120,000 per year of ad spend, a tool with the potential to impactfully upgrade your digital marketing efforts and bolster your organization’s overall health in a way that you’ll feel at every level.

This is honestly just scratching the surface of our Ad Grants knowledge and resources we have put together for nonprofits. For more information on how to improve your Ad Grants management, check out the webinar we co-hosted with Classy, “Google for Nonprofits: How to Turn $10,000 in Free Advertising into Online Donations.”

Download Now: The Nonprofit’s Guide to Google Ad Grants

5 Tips to Leverage Facebook and Instagram Ads

Facebook and Instagram Ads are one of the most effective advertising tools that any nonprofit can utilize to generate valuable cause awareness, donations, or volunteer sign-ups.

Not only are these ads incredibly effective, but they are trackable too. After running a Facebook ad, you can see how many people saw the ad, interacted with the ad, clicked through to your landing page, donated, signed up to volunteer, came back three days later and took a valuable action, and so much more.

You can track all of this by ad set:

google metrics by ad set

And even by ad:

google metrics by ad

With this level of tracking, you can make more educated decisions, drive more donation revenue to your nonprofit, and do more for the communities you are here to serve.

If you want a real world example of a nonprofit using the platform to fundraise effectively, check out how one nonprofit Community Boost client used Facebook and Instagram to raise over $493,173 in online gifts during the 2018 year-end period, achieving a 24.3X return on Ad Spend in Facebook during that same timeframe.

Let’s dive into our five tips to boost your nonprofit’s fundraising using Facebook and Instagram Ads.

Tip 1: Personalize Your Ads

Personalization increases relevance and engagement, which ultimately drives trust and results.

Donors are getting bombarded with messages from nonprofits trying to fundraise. Stand out by sharing relevant information to draw their attention.

What makes Facebook special is that you can target people psychographically and you can do it at scale. You couldn’t do this in any other marketing channel back when people bought programmatic, linear, ad-supported television or newspaper ads. You could target people psychographically, by putting ads for golf clubs in a golf magazine, or ads for your faith-based nonprofit in a faith-based magazine, but you could never do it at scale. With Facebook Ads, you can reach millions of people from around the world, who are all extremely likely to align ideologically with your mission, at low costs and from one small app.

To make your Facebook ads stand out, take advantage of this opportunity to hyper-personalize your ad creative.

One way to personalize your ad creative is to speak differently to people brand new to your cause, volunteers, first-time donors, and recurring donors. If you are showing an ad to a current donor asking them to donate again or become a recurring donor, speak to the impact of their past donations, and don’t be afraid to ask more intently. If you’re reaching someone who has never heard of your organization, tell a story rather than starting out with a hard ask.

Beyond this general segmentation, you can also personalize your messaging to different personas in each stage of the donor journey. For instance, we have a client that provides custom surfing equipment to injured veterans. We can go into Facebook and create tailored messaging for veterans who also like surfing, and even towards spouses of those veterans if we get granular enough in our targeting criteria.

This hyper-personalization results in people feeling like they are being heard, and therefore more likely to engage with your ad and your organization. First impressions matter, so make sure you put effort into yours if it is an ad.

Download Now: The Nonprofit’s Digital Marketing Checklist

Tip 2: Measure What Matters

The first step here is setting up the Facebook pixel on your site. The Facebook pixel is a snippet of code that collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. Once you have your pixel set up, you want to create objectives before you launch your campaign. You’re setting yourself up for success by identifying clear metrics that you want to keep an eye on before launching a campaign. Frequency, impressions, clicks, and donations are just a few examples.

Once you launch your campaign, make sure to value your best supporters. Instead of measuring transactions alone, model the lifetime value you derive from your supporters. This helps you make more informed and intentional decisions around how much you’re willing to spend to acquire a new donor.

Also, make sure to attribute value across the journey. To truly find out what’s working in your marketing and what’s not, identify the role of each touchpoint along the customer’s journey. Most of the time, last-touch attribution won’t paint a true picture of how your marketing is working. That false picture will lead to ad spend wasted and less effective campaigns.

Tip 3: Make the Most of Existing Posts

Use creative that you know already works. Because Facebook cares about their user experience as a platform, it aims to show people content that is as relevant as possible. Let’s say you are bidding for a view against someone else who is willing to pay the same amount. If your content has a higher “quality score,” Facebook will show your ad, and potentially charge you less. By re-using organic content that has already performed well, you are doing exactly that and delivering what Facebook deems as “quality content” so you end up spending less per 1,000 people reached and for each person who will click through your ad onto your website.

Tip 4: Always Be Testing

Make sure to always A/B test both ads and ad sets. An A/B test is a test of two ads or ad sets that are exactly the same, except for one variable. By testing these two ads or ad sets against each other, with one isolated variable as the only difference between them, you can see which creative or targeting criteria work best with our audience. For example, you can test running two ads at the same audience, but one ad will have the headline, “Donate to Change a Life” and the other will have the headline, “Donate Today—Change a Life.”

Read Next: 6 A/B Test Ideas to Improve Your Marketing Metrics

Facebook’s algorithm is always changing and we can never fully predict what ads will resonate with donors the most, so A/B testing is essential. Test copy, headlines, images, and targeting to find which combinations lead to the highest KPIs.

Another key tip is to test frequency (total measured impressions/total unique users) to find the frequency that works best with your audience. Some audiences get fatigued more easily by “stale” content and ads, while others love what your organization is doing and will engage more healthily with frequent ads.

Tip 5: Remarketing Rewards

At Community Boost, we’ve seen around 70% higher conversion rates for site visitors who are retargeted. This is your nonprofit’s lowest hanging fruit.

Remarketing refers to communicating with people who have already interacted with your nonprofit. People who had never heard of you often click through an ad because they may resonate with your mission or the story you are telling in the ad. These people often have the intent to purchase, they just don’t follow through for a plethora of reasons or distractions. So, when you remarket to these people who have already signaled that they are interested in your cause, they often convert at much higher rates than audiences of people who have never heard of your nonprofit before.

There are a couple different ways to run a remarketing campaign, depending on the size of your audience.

If you have a small to medium audience and you are just running a normal campaign, you can just remarket to all website visitors. You’d also want to show your ads to users who are active within your Facebook and Instagram space. These individuals are the ones who always comment, like, and share your posts. You can build all of these audiences in Facebook Ads Manager after you’ve set up your pixel.

If your audience is bigger, one of the easiest campaigns to execute is to market to those who have initiated checkouts or went to the About Us page but haven’t donated yet. They have shown real intent but, again, didn’t follow through with their donation. Ask them to complete their donation, share your mission, or take another valuable action.

Remarketing campaigns can result in higher donor retention and much lower cost-per-clicks. This means less money spent on marketing and more money, volunteers, or valuable awareness generated.


The only way to really master your Ad Grant and your Facebook Ads account is by doing, so go out there and start doing to create more effective, scalable, and profitable marketing campaigns. And because you read this blog post all the way through, we’d love to offer you a complimentary 1:1 digital strategy session with the Community Boost team.

woman taking notes on notebook

The Nonprofit Digital Marketing Checklist

Subscribe to the Classy Blog

Get the latest fundraising tips, trends, and ideas in your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing

You signed up for emails from Classy

Request a Demo

Learn how top nonprofits use Classy to power their fundraising.

Schedule a Demo

Turn web visitors into donors before they leave.

Get pop-up functionality, abandoned cart notifications, and more with Classy’s Donation Forms. Request your demo today:

Thanks for
requesting a demo!

Our team will be in touch soon with scheduling options.

Pin It on Pinterest