The Nonprofit's Guide to Facebook Ads

December 12, 2019 Eve Heidemann

When the changes to Facebook's newsfeed were announced in early 2018, it was the final nail in the coffin for brands and organisations who had long relied on the social media giant as a kind of free advertising platform. From here on in, nonprofits who want to get their message in front of the right people on Facebook need to make the channel part of their advertising strategy and budget for it accordingly.

If you're not yet familiar with Facebook advertising, it's time you read our simple how-to guide:

What are Facebook ads and why should charities care?

Facebook ads are paid content placements that allow you to promote your cause to the audience of your choosing, either through boosting your own posts or the placement of highly targeted ads. Because Facebook has such rich data on its users, it allows you to drill down into 100+ different characteristics to select the ideal audience for your campaign, from age, gender and location through to interests and behaviours.

Not only can you direct your efforts at people who are most likely to be interested in your cause, you can also experiment by trialling small, low-budget campaigns with new potential supporters. Importantly for nonprofits, Facebook advertising doesn't need to be an expensive exercise: you set the budget and parameters so you're always in complete control of what you are spending.

Facebook advertising: the basics

The first thing you'll need to do, if you haven't already, is set up an official page for your cause (Check out Facebook's Nonprofits guide for more info) and then create an ad account. When you're ready to set up your first campaign, Facebook's Ad Manager will walk you through the process and ensure your campaign is optimized for success. Here's a quick summary of the various steps you'll take along the way.

1. Establish your campaign goal.

To kick things off, you'll need to set an objective for your campaign - this will help you to measure its success. Do you want to boost event registrations? Increase engagement with your cause? Find new supporters? Encourage email signups? Depending on which campaign objective you choose, Facebook will recommend ad placements and options for you.

2. Name your campaign.

The next thing you'll be asked to do is create a name for your campaign - this feature is handy if you're running multiple campaigns at the same time as it allows you to easily differentiate between them.

3. Define your audience.

This is the fun bit. You can pinpoint your target audience based on any of the following criteria:

  • Location. Drill down into specific countries, cities and communities.
  • Demographics. Target specific age brackets, gender, educational backgrounds
  • Behaviours. Set criteria around audience purchase behaviours, device usage and more
  • Interests. Narrow your audience depending on their hobbies and other Facebook pages they follow.
  • Connections. Select people based on who their friends are.

A note of caution: avoid being too specific when defining your audience. Customising your audience is important, but be mindful that the more criteria you add in, the smaller your audience becomes.

4. Select your ad placement.

The term ad placement refers to where on the page your ad will appear. Which ad placements are available to you is dependent on the campaign objective you've chosen, but options include sponsored newsfeed posts, standard ads which appear along the right hand side of the page, Instant Articles within Facebook's mobile app and Messenger and in-stream videos.

If you choose to tick the 'automatic placements' tab (highly recommended for beginners), Facebook will do the hard work for you and make a selection based on which format is likely to perform best with the audience you've chosen.

5. Set your budget and schedule.

This is where you dictate a limit for the total amount you're willing to spend on the campaign. You can do this either by setting a daily budget, in which you set an average amount per day to be spent on your ad set, or a lifetime budget, in which the overall amount is distributed evenly over the duration of your campaign. If you're new to Facebook ads, the platform recommends starting with lifetime budgets so you know exactly what you're working with budget-wise.

You'll also need to set a schedule for your campaign at this point. There are two options here. You can choose to run the campaign continuously from a selected date until the campaign's budget is exhausted (or you choose to end the campaign), or set a defined start and end date. The latter option is compulsory for campaigns with a lifetime budget.

It's a good idea to set a low budget initially so you can see how your ads perform - and even test different options to see which ads are the most effective. Once you begin to see results you can then choose to increase (or decrease) your budget accordingly.

6. Create your ad.

Finally, you'll be asked to upload your creative assets ie. imagery or video files. If you're promoting an existing post, you can simply select that from your page. Once you've submitted the creative, you'll be provided with a preview of your ad to show you what it will look like on different devices.

7. Press go!

Happy with how it's all looking? All that's left to do is click Place Order - and watch your experiment unfold.

Once you're up and running, you can keep track of how your ads are performing by regularly checking in with Ads Manager. Remember, you can tweak your campaign by modifying your audiences and budget at any time.

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