Advertising on Social Media
for Non Profits

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Facebook Advertising for Nonprofit Organizations

For nonprofits, social marketing can be difficult to break into, especially when it comes to dealing with Facebook advertising. Some numbers can tell us a lot about how nonprofits perform and what they pay for Facebook advertising.

Nonprofits by the numbers

According to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud report, in 2013, the average figures for non profits were:

  • CTR (click-through rate): 0.205% (vs. 0.171% US avg.)
  • CPC (cost-per-click): $0.19 (vs. $0.24 US avg.)
  • CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions): $0.52 (vs. $0.67 US avg.)

*Percentiles as compared to other industries

According to the same report in Q1 of 2015, they looked more like this:

  • CTR: 3.72% (vs. 0.84% US avg.)
  • CPC: $0.18 (vs. $0.39 US avg.)
  • CPM: $6.63 (vs. $3.30 US avg.)

But what does all this mean for your organization? Effective Facebook advertising for nonprofits basically boils down to four main areas: your advertising objectives, choosing the right bid type for your message, targeting your constituent audience effectively, and driving conversions with your ads.

Choosing the right objective

Facebook advertising offers several objectives to ads that you will be creating. They essentially allow you to narrow down the result of your ad, whether you want people to visit your page, go to your events, or click through to your website. Your objective can affect how much your ad impressions or clicks will cost you as well.

According to the Salesforce report, the Page Post Engagement objective, advertisers using the CPM bid type will see “relatively inexpensive impressions ($1.36) to an audience with a lower propensity to click on the ads, resulting in a higher CPC. With CPC bids, the cost per click is the lowest at $0.18, but the users are just clicking on the ad, not engaging with it in other ways.”

The M&R Social Media Benchmarks Report for 2015 shows a good breakdown of where companies are spending their money, which can give you a good picture of what to focus on for your advertising objectives. On average, companies spend their advertising budgets on:

  • Lead Generation Advertising: 38%
  • New Donor Acquisition: 31%
  • Paid Search Advertising: 23%
  • Existing Supporter Conversion: 4%
  • Branding: 4%

When creating a campaign, keep these objectives in mind.

Choosing the right bid type

Your bid type is linked to both your objective and your budget. Deciding how much to spend on advertising can be difficult, and a vast array of numbers and suggestions float freely in the blogosphere when searching for guidance on this issue. But let’s focus on the data. M&R found that “overall, nonprofits invested $0.04 in digital advertising for every dollar raised online.” Though the number can vary between $0.01 and $0.14 on the dollar depending on the industry, the study found that their top performing groups spent an average of $0.12 digital advertising for every dollar raised online in 2015.

With average non-profit figures of $0.18 CPC and $6.63 CPM, your budget can seriously limit your reach online. But choosing the correct bid type, in conjunction with an efficient objective, can drop your costs and increase your ads performance in a big way.

If you’re interested in an overall boost of your Facebook presence, bidding by CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) would be the logical option. If your organization is more focused on driving traffic to your website, a CPC (cost-per-click) bid would be optimal. If you want ad recipients to buy or sign up for something on your website (usually called a conversion), bidding by CPA (cost-per-action) might make the most sense for you.

Facebook gives you a wide range of pricing options. You can choose to set a budget for a specific goal or a period of time, you can pay for clicks, presence or actual, measurable actions. Some suggest starting with a lower figure and adding more money to your budget as you measure the effectiveness of your ads. The general consensus, though, seems to be testing is key. Set a budget you’re comfortable with, find your audience, and test, test, test! The more specific and efficient you are with your ad reach, the less your campaigns will cost you.

Accurately targeting your audience

The next key to efficient and effective advertising is your audience. According to M&R, “digital advertising budgets are largely devoted to identifying, acquiring, and converting new donors, with lead generation and new donor acquisition together accounting for 69% of total investments.”

If you’re a nonprofit, you’ve got an advantage! Most nonprofits have existing email lists, and you can use this to target your audience and deliver your ads to people who will actually care about them, which is the best and easiest way to make your dollars count. M&R found in the same report that for every 1,000 email subscribers, the average organization has 355 Facebook fans, 132 Twitter followers, and 19 Instagram followers. Nonprofits with larger email lists spend about 13x more on digital advertising than those with smaller lists, but this cost lies in reaching far more people.

Regardless of its size, matching your email lists and donor files to Facebook profiles has several advantages. You can reach an audience of people that you already have a pre-existing relationship with, helping your organization with donor retention and reactivation. This in turn can have a big effect on cutting costs in advertising, as a refined and specific audience usually leads to more efficient ad spending.

Adding your lists will also give you more accurate access to your fans’ Facebook friends, giving you a very specific and low-cost audience to source new engagements and likes from. As one article puts it, “friends of friends are frequently the most cost effective likes to add on Facebook.”

Driving conversions with your ads

If you’re more focused on driving traffic to your website for the purpose of signing up for your newsletter, registering to volunteer, signing a petition or donating to your organization, your campaign objectives and ad set bid types should reflect it. But ad campaign set up doesn’t get you all the way to cost effective, efficient, high-conversion ads. Luckily, there are several things your organization can do to boost your ads’ effectiveness and conversion rates.

First, let’s lay out the stats. A “good conversion rate” is an elusive figure. The figure varies wildly by industry, and the median percentage is not necessarily a measure of what you should be aiming for. A WordStream study shows us that the bottom 25% of accounts on Facebook have a less than 1% conversion rate, which by all accounts is pretty grim.

The report also shows, however, that the overall average is 2.35%, the top 25% reached an average of 5.31%, and the top 10% an average of 11.45%. According to Formstack, nonprofits have one of the highest form conversion rates at 15% (4% higher than the overall average). Boiled down, this means that while a 5% conversion rate puts you in the 75th percentile of Facebook accounts, a rate of 10%-20% is perfectly attainable and although rare, not entirely unrealistic. That being said, if your organization is just starting out, try shooting for an average conversion rate of 10%.

So what affects your conversion rate? Some factors are similar to those for other ads. M&R found, unsurprisingly,that “higher spending on paid advertising was correlated with higher growth in the number of website visitors per month. Groups that spent more on advertising [have] more aggressive donor conversion strategies overall.”

Besides the factors that affect the ad effectiveness as a whole, conversions depend a lot on how appealing your ad is. Is your newsletter actually worth signing up for? Should people really donate to your cause? And, most importantly, does your ad attract and hold the attention of those it may appeal to? The 2015 Salesforce report showed that advertisers from nonprofits and other organizations had the most interesting and attractive creative for their ads, averaging the highest click-through rates for Q1 of 2015. So as a rule, try to turn your ad into a story worth following. The value of a well crafted narrative and a relatable image can’t be overstated. Make an effort to make your audience care! Another ethos-based strategy is to use your own pre-existing audience to your advantage. Facebook users’ preferences and actions online are susceptible to those of their friends and others in their social network. Simply seeing a friend’s name in an ad can lead to a higher conversion rate. Don’t miss an opportunity to work your target audience for new leads and higher conversions.

More technical factors apply as well. Formstack found that when looking for form conversions, “the type of form you use can make a difference. Contact forms, for example, only have a 3% conversion rate… [whereas] contests and surveys…convert at 28% and 21%, respectively. Event registrations convert at 11%, and participants are likely to be qualified leads.” Native links and videos (links to outside websites that you post inside the Facebook status window) will also receive preference over other ad types, part of Facebook’s complex system of visibility and ad efficiency.

Enough numbers! What’s all this mean?

As long as this report is, it distills down to a simple message; as a nonprofit, you’re not exempt from having a social media presence or the advertising budget and efforts that must accompany it if you want to achieve a reasonable degree of success and visibility. That being said, you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to do well on social media, and you don’t have to have an enormous endowment to make a killing with your social media advertisements!

If numbers and measures aren’t your thing, the key to cheap, efficient and effective advertising is the following threefold approach.

Be specific.

Find your target audience and pinpoint them to what might seem like an absurd degree. Set your objectives and your budgets for specific goals, and test them against one another. Your ad is a dart, not an atom bomb. Go for the soft spot!

Be creative.

You’re not trying to sell people cars. You’re not a cell carrier or a furniture warehouse, and your ads should reflect that. You have a mission statement and a cause, and if your ads are going to be successful, you need to find people who care and make them care even more. Craft a story. Weave a tale. Hook your audience and reel them in.

Be thorough.

We can’t say this enough. TEST! Test, test, test. Make an ad, then make another with a slight change. Make an ad and send it to a few different audiences. Try running your ads at different times of day, with different frequency, at different bid rates and types. Then test them against one another. The more you experiment, track, and measure, the cheaper and more efficient your ads will be.

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