Making The Most Of Your Online Advertising Budget

I know from experience working at a nonprofit that money for advertising is always tight. I am often confronted with tough decisions of what type of advertising would get the most bang for my organization’s buck. The answer? It depends on what your goals are.

Email Capture

If your organization is looking to acquire new email addresses, it’s best to look at where you’ll get the lowest average cost-per-lead for the highest quality leads (leads in this case being email addresses). That can be a balancing act. Traditionally, the best cost-per-lead you can acquire is from traditional vendors like Care2 or that actually contract per-lead pricing, usually somewhere around $1.75 per new email acquired. If you’ve run campaigns on these traditional vendors in the past, however, I suggest you run a report to see if the leads you’re acquiring from those vendors are really high quality.



Usually that means calculating how long the list of new users you acquired took to pay back in donations what you originally invested to acquire them. If you see over all of your vendors that it usually takes about two years to get back your investment, you can use that as your average benchmark. Then if you find a vendor where the list you acquired only took a year in donations from those users to get back your investment, those were high quality leads! Next, balance the quality of the leads you acquired against the average cost-per-lead that you originally paid. Was it worth it? Often if you use traditional vendors quite frequently, you can start to see some list fatigue and the quality of your leads decline.

If you find yourself in need of some fresh high-quality leads, look to non-traditional vendors. Niche vendors with smaller bases might not be able to quite as large contracts, or take a bit longer to fulfill contracts, but the leads they deliver are often much higher quality. You might also try experimenting with Facebook advertising. In Facebook you will likely see a higher average cost-per-lead, but with some research on the correct targeting, you can find your niche audience and acquire some high-quality leads directly. 


If your organization is looking to increase donations (let’s be honest, who isn’t), I traditionally fall back to search advertising. Your average cost-per-donation is going to be lowest with search advertising, because the users are already in “search mode” and are looking to donate or get more information about donating to a nonprofit. Once the user is in search mode, you just need some enticing, well-written ad copy (that’s tested!), and a good, relevant landing page to guide the user from initial search to donation. This is particularly true at year-end!

If you have additional budget to test getting donations through avenues other than traditional search advertising, you might try display remarketing. Normally, I am hesitant to use tight budgets for display ads because the user is not in search mode, but is actually browsing the internet or on Facebook checking the latest baby pictures. However, display remarketing ads can be quite a bit more effective, as the user is already familiar with your organization and therefore one step further down the process to donating.

If you’re not familiar with remarketing techniques, it’s a process whereby you cookie people who have visited your site (or particular pages of your site), then show those same users targeted ads while they’re surfing the rest of the internet. You’re probably most familiar with these type of ads if you do any online shopping. Most large retailers use remarketing, so that if you were looking at a pair of shoes on their website yesterday, you’ll see ads with those same pair of shoes today saying “come back and buy me!”

If you want to try display remarketing ads, you can either do it through a vendor (either an agency of using a tool like Google), or you can try it yourself in Facebook. Remarketing in Facebook is just like traditional Facebook advertising, but instead of choosing interests and demographic data to target your ads to, you build your audience through cookies by placing a remarketing tag they provide on your website. After placing the tag on your website, just give Facebook a day or two to build the audience, and you can start showing those users ads directly on Facebook!

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