Nonprofit 411: Driving Diverse, Desired Target-Audience Actions with Online Advertising

306ae18By Gail Snow Moraski, Principal and Digital Marketer, Results Communications and Research

Anyone who’s held a discussion with me about marketing and development activities knows I’m a huge fan of online advertising. Because search engine networks, such as Google AdWords, and social media platforms, such as Facebook, allow advertisers to execute campaigns where they only pay when a target-audience member clicks on a “pay-per-click” ad, advertising on the aforementioned networks/platforms can be quite cost-effective, particularly since you still get valuable, awareness-generating “impressions” for free!

Because many nonprofit organizations aren’t looking to receive compensation for their services, individuals charged with marketing and development activities may assume online advertising doesn’t make sense for them. It’s very reasonable to think that our “featured” marketing vehicle only makes sense for for-profit businesses looking to generate product and service sales. With the ideas shared below, I hope to shake up those preconceived notions and shed light on why I believe there is a role for online advertising in a nonprofit’s marketing and development toolbox.

Fundraising Application

As I’ve shared with nonprofit contacts, while the individuals who comprise their target audience may not be directly searching for the contact’s upcoming fundraising event(s), those individuals may still be searching on terms that have some relevancy to the  fundraising activity. For example, let’s say an organization holds an annual holiday high tea to support development goals. The organization would likely benefit from running search engine (“paid search”) ads targeted to women, aged 25+ and residing in relevant geographies, who are entering terms in a search engine which indicate they are trying to identify local, charitable, holiday events to attend with their girlfriends, sisters, moms, etc.

In addition to running paid search advertising to create event awareness and ticket sales among “searchers”, the organization should consider running display/image ads on a variety of social media platforms and/or search engine “display” networks, like Google AdWords Display. In lieu of presenting ads to individuals based on their “search” behavior, social media and display networks offer the option to have ads presented to individuals who have certain interests, read about certain topics, or who visit certain Web sites (“placements”).

The type of targeting selected to promote an event may be very closely or very loosely tied to its nature. For example, if an organization is selling tickets to a cooking class “fundraiser”, it would make great sense to target individuals who have an interest in or read articles about cooking, or who visit cooking Web sites. But, in the case of our high-tea fundraiser, there may not be an obvious “interest” or “topic” target to pursue, and targeting may simply consist of having ads presented to women who meet an organization’s geography requirements and who visit Web sites known to have large female readerships.

The above scenario should apply as well to causing individuals to make donations. Presenting ads to audiences whose demographics and interests make them good donation targets should serve to create awareness or reminders of your organization, and therefore, support donation-making.

Driving Non-Monetary Actions

Online advertising can also be used to cause target audiences to take important non-monetary actions. For example, display/image ads presented to appropriate individuals can cause a note-worthy percentage to click to “sign up for a weekly e-blast,” “learn more about volunteering” or “complete our survey to help us serve our constituents better.”

When putting together your marketing and communications plan for a campaign – whether its purpose be to grow funds, volunteers, e-communication sign-ups, or awareness – be sure to give ample thought to what campaign objectives might be achieved if you included online advertising as a tactic, and the opportunities that might be lost if you forego this cost-effective tactic.