Tag: digital advertising

Last week, I shared the following message in our monthly newsletter:

Do you remember when Mitt Romney famously declared, “Corporations are people”? Well, when it comes to Facebook, that person is a big jerk. One that individuals and organizations have a complicated relationship with.

Whether it’s the Cambridge Analytica data leak, election interference by foreign powers, or an unwillingness to stop the spread of conspiracy theories and hate speech, Facebook seems to consistently pick the wrong side of history.

On a personal level, I acknowledge that Facebook is the primary channel for staying connected to friends and family members for many folks. And as we’ve quarantined these last few months, that connection may have been a lifeline for many.

On a business level, Facebook’s advertising platform is unparalleled. Sure there are other digital platforms, but they lack Facebook’s reach and efficiency. For small businesses struggling to survive the pandemic, advertising is a crucial connection to customers.

But some corporate advertisers have decided that Facebook’s unwillingness to deal with the racism and calls for violence by its users warrant a boycott. They’ve pulled their advertising through July. It’s an attempt to force Facebook to change its hands-off approach, but realistically, does anyone believe Facebook — specifically Mark Zuckerberg — will make any meaningful change?

NTEN doesn’t. That’s why we’ve already pulled our ads from Facebook and Instagram. We’ve also stopped posting to both sites. This is, admittedly, symbolic. I doubt Facebook noticed when our tiny ad budget was pulled. It also doesn’t cost us anything. NTEN can not only survive but continue to grow without Facebook’s assistance. That’s an organizational privilege I know not every organization shares.

We may return to posting (but not advertising) eventually, but the truth is, we’re not sure what the point would be. By the very nature of Facebook’s intentional design, organic reach has declined over the years, necessitating spending money on advertising. NTEN has many great things to offer, but none of it generates funny or moving videos that go viral. Why should we spend our limited time and resources chasing diminishing engagement? And why should we provide Facebook with more content and dollars?

Besides, Facebook has never been all that beneficial for nonprofits. What it cares about is business advertising. Whatever it offers nonprofits is just a slapdash paint job on the business offerings. I’m sure its employees care about philanthropy. Still, it’s clear that as a company, Facebook cares only as far as public relations go.

While it doesn’t cost us anything to leave, it would cost us a great deal to stay. Probably like your organization, NTEN spent a lot of time identifying and articulating our values. Supporting Facebook would not only be antithetical to our values, but it would also actively undermine them.

So that’s where NTEN stands. What about you and your organization?

That wasn’t an empty question. Many folks responded to say that it started a really important conversation among their communications team.

Community members shared how important Facebook is for their organization:

  • “We raised close to $280k in April alone.”
  • “I came from that part of the world, where for so many of us, the internet means Facebook.”

Folks shared some of the reality they are in:

  • “How can someone whose job requires a constant social media presence also balance a personal life that is begging for less?”
  • “Plus there’s the reality that, for nonprofits, when donors give via the FB platform they remain anonymous to the charity — making stewardship and ongoing cultivation impossible. So fundraising that way becomes transactional, never transformational.”
  • “This is a good reminder that not only do we need to evaluate our technology use because this space changes more and more rapidly each day (as technology tends to do); but that some of these platforms are more than just tools and have become the infrastructure for influencing culture and institutions alike in our larger community.”

And comments about what else to use:

  • “Are you putting the attention that went to Facebook into particular other services which you feel better about?”
  • “Is there another option that provides instant connections to our supporters?”

And, of course, one of the big questions regarding our decision: “Do you really think that nonprofits pulling their ad revenue would even make a blip on their balance sheet?”

As I said at the beginning, this is complicated! For organizations that do a lot of community mobilization, offline event organizing, or community fundraising, Facebook likely has been — and may continue to be — an essential part of your digital toolkit. And, using Facebook to advance your mission is certainly something I respect.

But being easy to use means it’s also easy to overlook the data and privacy implications for those you serve, the policy impacts on your content and community, and the opportunity cost on your resources. Whether you’re advertising your programs, organizing your community, or raising money for your work, I hope your organization will have an informed conversation about Facebook’s benefits and drawbacks.

Because many folks want to continue this conversation, and because many factors may influence how an organization chooses to use Facebook, we’re organizing a discussion for later this month. We’ll post registration details for the free event in the coming days and hope you’ll join us then to raise more questions and add to the conversation. Once the call is scheduled, we’ll share the details on Twitter and LinkedIn, so please follow us there.

Over the past couple of years, there has been an obvious, and sometimes extreme, decrease in organic reach across all social media platforms. If you are following best practices by monitoring your performance on a monthly basis (read our #MakeItSocial publication if not), this will not be news to you. To be clear, organic reach is NOT dead, but newsfeeds are prioritizing content from family and friends, and those that spark conversations as opposed to ‘reactions’ such as likes and loves. In this article, we take a look at why you should be paying attention to paid media and making it part of your overall social media strategy.


Social media success starts and ends with your community — they are your organization’s biggest asset. If you’re not reaching the right people, you’re not going to see the engagement you’re looking for.

As social media managers, we need to put an increased focus on our social media community; learn from them, and understand what’s resonating with them to ultimately mobilize them to take the desired action. Social paid media can help you do exactly that. Here a number of the benefits you’ll see by allocating some budget to your social media activity.

You can reach more of your following and people beyond your following

According to recent research by Social Media Today, organically, your content is going to reach roughly around 6% of your following. With paid media, you can reach a much larger percentage of your following, as well as people outside of your following. This will increase awareness of your organization and will help to increase the engagement rate on your content.

You have greater control over who sees your content and when

Newsfeeds are no longer in chronological order, and they haven’t been for a while now, so while you are posting relevant and timely content, it may not reach your audience’s newsfeed when you want them to see it. With paid media, you can target the right audiences and schedule it so that they see the content on the day you would like them to see it.

You can deliver the right message to the right people at the right time

If you have multiple audiences that you need to speak to for different purposes, you’ll be creating multiple posts in order to get your message or ask across. With paid media, you don’t need to put all of this content on your social feeds; you can make sure that the right posts get to the right audience through strategic targeting.

You can learn more from your audience

The data pulled from social paid media allows you to learn a lot from your audience and the actions they take with your content. This information goes beyond the best time of day to post, or the number of clicks your link had. You can look at the devices they were using, the number of landing page views, whether it resulted in a Page follow. Paid media allows you to carry out tests to further understand what messages work best for different audiences, whether they are more receptive to video content or stills, what calls-to-action drive the best performance, and much more.

You can track traffic to your website

If you have implemented a Facebook pixel and Twitter tracking onto your website (a small piece of code that lets you track clicks through to your website), you will be able to report how your social media content is driving traffic to your website. If you get very technical, you can also report on whether this converts into a donation or sign up – which is great for measuring ROI and impact. This will help you to report more meaningfully on the impact social media has on supporting your organization’s overall goals. With pixel tracking, you are also able to create audiences for retargeting based on certain actions they take on your website. To learn more about this, here’s a guide on creating Lookalike audiences.

Increasing engagement on your page through paid should also help with organic reach

If you are continuously increasing the engagement rate of your content by reaching the right people with strategic paid media targeting, you are essentially increasing the overall engagement with your page, and therefore (technically), you should see an increase in your organic reach as a result. As we mentioned, organic reach is not dead, you just need to pay a little more attention to what your audience wants to see from you to get that engagement rate up!

Paid media works in real-time

Unlike other advertising platforms, social paid media is real-time, so if something is working really well, you can put more budget behind it. At the same time, if something just really isn’t working, and it is far too expensive, you can turn it off straight away. You pay for what you get, and you don’t have to commit to the full budget if your learnings tell you it’s not driving the results you need. This is extremely useful if your budgets are limited.

Budget tips

As an agency, we are often asked what our recommended paid budget is for social media campaigns. Our answer to that will always be the same: how long is a piece of string? Just kidding, it’s actually — what are your goals?

In order to work out what budget you need, you should first understand what it is you are trying to achieve and work backward from there. You’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t need to have a huge budget to start increasing your reach or engagement rates. By this, we mean you can put as little as $15 on a post, and you should start to see a lift.

We understand that budgets can be limited, and more often than not, you’re expected to deliver a lot with very little. So, we’ve put together our top tips for a successful paid media strategy on a budget.

Understand your goals (objectives)

As with any strategy, understanding what you are trying to achieve is the first step. If you are trying to increase video views, make sure you select video views as your paid objective. If you are trying to drive traffic to your website, make sure you select traffic as your objective. Social media can do a lot for your organization, but when budgets are tight, you need to prioritize your goals.

Consider your calls-to-action

As with any ask, making your call-to-action clear and concise will drive better results. If you are asking your community to watch a video and share and visit your website, the likelihood of them taking any of these actions decreases dramatically. Make one ask per post and make it clear to your audience what you would like them to do.

Consider if you have had interaction with your audience before

Most of us wouldn’t walk up to a stranger in the street and ask them a favor. You should think about your paid media activity in the same way. With paid media, you are reaching a person’s newsfeed because you have paid to be there, not because they have asked you to be there (that is unless you are targeting your followers).

Therefore, this could be the first time you have interacted with this audience. Think about how you would approach this in person — introduce your organization, tell them a little bit about who you are, and why they should pay attention. Make sure your content is eye-catching, engaging, and gets your message across quickly.

Post with a purpose

If your content isn’t relevant for your audience, paid media will not be able to make it a success. Ensure that every post has a purpose and that your audience can relate to it – think quality over quantity. Make sure that your content follows best practice; that your tone of voice is on brand, your copy is short, and your message is clear.

Make sure your assets are fit-for-purpose (social-first)

Make sure the asset you are using in your post is in the correct dimensions for the platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn., etc.) and ad format (Video, Carousel, Instant Experience, etc.) Our sister company, Lightful, has a great article on image guidelines for social media platforms.

Don’t be afraid to test

Test, test, optimize, and test again — trust us when we say this is the way to get more for your money. Don’t be afraid to try new objectives, new formats, new copy, new creative, and new audiences. You’ll get to know your audience better and to understand what mobilizes them to take action. This will ultimately drive lower cost-per-action, meaning more results and therefore stretch your budgets further.

And it’s ok if you mess up

The best way to succeed in paid media is to test, test, and test some more. It’s ok if you don’t get it right the first time. The second time you try it, results will be slightly better, and by the fifth time, you’ll be well on your way to being an expert. Remember, it’s not always the numbers the count – it’s the learning that you get along the way.

So, in summary, there are lots of opportunities with paid media, and you don’t need bottomless pockets to see success — from easily (and cheaply) increasing your reach and engagement to enhanced reporting, understanding your audience better, and having greater transparency on your social media ROI.

Don’t be afraid of it; start with small budgets to test the opportunities and continuously learn from the performance.


Want to learn more about digital advertising on a budget? Enroll in our week-long online course, Pay-to-Play: Digital Advertising to Drive Impact. NTEN members always save 50% on all courses.

In prior articles about Google Ad Grants, I’ve primary shared technical advice, particularly in light of new compliance requirements. Yet for nonprofits that aren’t as familiar with Google Ads, there’s an opportunity to take a bigger picture view.

Google Ad Grants gives you up to $120,000 per year on the world’s largest advertising platform, which allows your organization to send users from Google’s search engine to your website when they search for a term that’s relevant to your cause.

Given this basic function, how can your nonprofit use this tool? Start by amplifying your strategic initiatives.

Mission-based goals

As a nonprofit, you exist to do some good in the world. And you need outreach to make your mission successful.

Children’s Eye Foundation uses Google Ad Grants to spread the word to parents that many eye conditions thought to be permanent can be treated if they’re caught early enough. With the Google Ads that link to this page on the foundation’s site, more people all over the world can learn how to treat their children’s eye conditions.

Volunteer, job, and board positions

Use a Google Ad Grants campaign for your open positions for volunteers, jobs, and board. The tool is especially useful for taking your job listings nationwide for people searching with terms like “nonprofit jobs” or “Membership job.”

Selling products or services

The most common use of Google Ads is to sell. To qualify for Ad Grants, Google requires that your nonprofit website be mission-focused, but they don’t ban commercial activity entirely. If you do sell products or services online, such as textbooks, set up ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics so that you can see the data on the web visits that lead to sales, and improve future sales by appropriately informing the maximize conversions bidding system.

Maximize Conversions Bidding is what Google calls a “smart bidding” strategy. Instead of setting a specific maximum that you’re willing to pay for a click, you instruct the machine to bid what it thinks is necessary to get more conversions (the desired action that you want a person to take, such as a purchase, an email list signup, or a contact form submission). Valid conversion tracking is mandatory for any accounts enrolled after January 1, 2018, for it to be compliant (older accounts were grandfathered in).

Online auctions

Similar to sales, Google Ad Grants can promote auction items. Creating a Google Ad Grants campaign for your auction item is the digital version of attracting more buyers in the auction hall. Getting more bidders in the game, particularly those who are searching for the item you have, will help you sell that item at a higher price.

Many nonprofits will sell one unique item as part of a fundraiser, such as a football signed by an NFL player.

This one is a bit tricky, since most people don’t often search for how to become members of a nonprofit. However, if there are member benefits to joining your organization, bid on Ad keywords related to the benefits your provide.

For example, a Friends of the Library keyword might be “discount books” and a member benefit would be 10% off at the store or an invitation to a members-only pre-sale.


“Things to do in NYC” gets searched 135,000 times a month. Take advantage of web traffic in your geographical area by promoting your events to generate more revenue.
Classes and videos

Another thing you can promote is a class, whether in-person or online. If your class isn’t behind a paywall, you can embed the video on your site and set up pre-roll ads for the video. Google has forbidden Grantees from using AdSense ads, but have not restricted video ads, at least at the time of this publication. If you do pre-roll ads, be sure to monitor compliance rule updates, as Google may take further steps in restricting other types of advertisements for Grantees.


A common misconception is that Google Ads are great for getting donations. Though you can and should build campaigns for your donation page, a better development strategy is to use Google Ad Grants to build your lead list and actively pursue those leads.

Those who access your site through Google Ad Grants are likely visiting for the first time. Expecting them to donate as a first-time visitor is the digital version of bumping into a stranger on the street, making small talk, and then asking them to support your nonprofit. If you’re looking to use digital marketing for fundraising, check out my recent article on Facebook’s Giving Tuesday promotion.

Go beyond these recommendations

Don’t feel limited by this list. If there’s a project or strategy unique to your nonprofit, go for it. Though there are a variety of circumstances that will affect your level of success, Google Ad Grant campaigns can be created to raise the visibility of any page on your website.

Now in its fifth year, the 2019 report has data from hundreds of organizations from more than 20 countries, and features in-depth guides and expert advice. With actionable ideas for every organization, it’s a valuable resource for nonprofit digital teams hoping to improve their results in 2019.

Learn how to better measure the ROI of your fundraising efforts, simple ways to improve cross-team communication, and how to think outside the #nptech box to find software solutions that fit your organization.

Download your free copy here.

Report webinar on February 28

Interested to hear directly from the research and report partners? Join Care2, hjc, and NTEN for a webinar to discuss report findings on Thursday, February 28, at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET. We’ll recap trends and strategies, and highlight best practices and expert insights along the way.


Though it varies by situation, I think that in most cases, sticking with AdWords Classic is the better bet. Here’s why.

Too much automation can lead you off track

The Classic version of AdWords can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many choices. However, those choices exist for a reason: they let you home in on reaching people who are important to you. And hiring a vendor or in-house staff person who understands Google Grants is worth the cost as their knowledge will help you deliver your ads to the right people. This is particularly true when it comes to keyword selection.

If you managed a Classic account prior to 2018, you may have gotten a taste of how the machine determines your appropriate keywords. For those who are unfamiliar, Classic accounts used to include keyword suggestions in their opportunities tab. They would often come in batches of as many as 25 suggestions for an Ad Group on a daily basis, for which you could pick and choose your favorites or add all of them in the batch.

These keywords that were decided by the machine weren’t very relevant to what was in the advertisement and landing page, but it was very convenient to be able to add so many in so few clicks. They may not add much per keyword, but they weren’t doing any harm.

Then Google radically changed their compliance rules, and those keywords started doing a lot of harm. All these keywords that were added due to the machine’s recommendation now made it harder to stay compliant because they had extremely low quality scores and click-through rates.

Given the lack of relevance for machine-generated keywords in the opportunities tab as recently as 2017, you should not expect the machine for AdWords Express would be more relevant in selecting keywords. For those who suspect that I’m making a big logical leap in comparing the opportunities tab in Classic with the automatic keyword selection in Express, I’m doing this as a comparison for those who only have exposure to the Classic version as it is something you’d be familiar with and remember from less than a year ago. But this same argument can be made when looking at the actual keyword selections of the machine in AdWords Express.

A few of my clients have come to me with Express accounts, asking that I change it to Classic and use my own judgments in selecting keywords that are right for them. I saw in their accounts that the keywords that the machine selected didn’t capture the nuance of what someone would type when looking for my clients’ programs.

One thing to keep in mind when you use AdWords Express is that you can turn off certain keywords, but you cannot add new ones. Those are added by the machine based on your business product or service. Further, you can’t decide how many keywords the machine will add. Because you cannot import the keywords you had in the Classic account to Express, switching to Express to bypass the new rules won’t let you perfectly replicate your 2017 pre-rule success.

When to make the switch to Express

However, I must recommend AdWords Express for one situation and one situation only: as a stopgap. For all its limitations, it has three very valuable features:

  1. It lets you bypass many compliance rules.
  2. It sends traffic to your website for free.
  3. It doesn’t preclude you from using a Classic account at a later date.

So if you are really struggling to stay compliant and you know that you can’t commit the time or money to it in the immediate, make the switch to AdWords Express as a stopgap. Having an Express account is far better than having a Classic account that has been suspended for several months with no end in sight.

I must emphasize that this should be a temporary measure. To make sure it is temporary, you should add reassessment tasks in your schedule. For a fiscal year that matches your calendar year, you should meet with stakeholders in July to discuss how to handle this problem, build a plan in August, and incorporate funding for the plan in the organization’s budget in September.

Without these deadlines, you likely won’t do it. And I’m not trying to be critical in saying that, just honest about what I’ve noticed in how people work. I have a set of unopened headphones that I could sell for $200 but they’re depreciating in my closet right now because this task has no deadline and I can always do it later. This is why many people who heard about Google Grants years ago have yet to do the work in looking into how to apply. However, this opportunity is too valuable to postpone indefinitely. I recommend you be better than me.

If you work in a communications role at a nonprofit, you probably have news and social media alerts set up for keywords relating to your organization’s work – for example, a housing nonprofit might have an alert for terms like “homeless,” “couch surfing,” or “sleeping rough.” But what if the people you’re trying to reach don’t use those words? What if they don’t use words at all?

I’ve been running some experiments in emoji search, both individual and in groups that give added meaning.

Sophia Guevara NTEN author quote about nonprofits adopting their own emojiThe first search I conducted on Twitter was using a “handshake” 🤝. I was able to find posts of users who had tweeted using the same emoji. I decided to complicate the search by adding two and then three emoji together. The second search was a “handshake” and a “briefcase”. There were still a lot of results until I added the third emoji, a graduation cap. One result: a tweet about a diversity event.

Searching emoji on Facebook was less fruitful. Searching for “trophy” 🏆, I came up with three video results that had made use of that emoji in their description. Using the “fries” emoji 🍟 produced a nacho fries recipe. On YouTube, a search for the “donut” emoji 🍩 resulted in a video of donut economics.

Is your nonprofit optimizing for emoji search?

Online marketing consultant Jayson DeMers wrote in an article for Forbes last year that searching for emoji in a search engine would bring up posts that used that emoji, but also posts relating to the topic that emoji represented.

Right now, with emojis usually used as an embellishment for written text, it seems frivolous to think about emoji search or its impact on SEO, but linguists predict that emoji communication will only get more popular and perhaps may even become a language of its own.

After learning more about emoji searching on social media channels, I wondered how one could propose a new emoji or associate an emoji with their own brand. The Unicode Consortium has developed a formal process to do so.

The Oakland As found success adopting the baseball emoji. Is there an emoji that your nonprofit should use?


There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


2018 Digital Outlook ReportDo you have the strategies you need to launch your nonprofit into the stratosphere? NTEN, along with partners Care2, hjc, and Resource Alliance, have produced the 2018 Digital Outlook Report, which includes data collected from over 500 nonprofit professionals in more than 20 countries.

The theme of the 2018 report is expand your nonprofit’s universe, and it encourages nonprofit professionals to explore new worlds of digital marketing and fundraising innovation.

Key points include:

  • Pundits claim that no one uses email anywhere and that its time has passed, but the report shows that for fundraising success, it’s more important than ever that nonprofit emails reach their intended inboxes.
  • A focus on mobile is central to improving a nonprofit’s digital strategy.
  • Tracking, analytics, and proper attribution have been an Achilles’ heel for most nonprofit organizations, so the report focuses on the benefits of digital tracking and attribution.

With in-depth guides and expert advice, we’ll walk you through three areas that may be uncharted terrain for your organization: mobile optimization, tracking web conversion, and email deliverability.

Providing actionable ideas for every organization, the 2018 Digital Outlook Report is really a must-read for any team hoping to improve.

Download your free copy here.