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Marketing for a nonprofit organization involves more than just branding. There is a cause that is being promoted and there is a specific purpose that benefits society at large. Nonprofits leverage many of the same marketing tactics as other businesses do, although have a unique challenge—they need to influence their target audience to provide payment towards a cause, without providing a tangible product or service in return.

Digital marketers often feel overwhelmed when it comes to the nonprofit sector because marketing an emotional connection or set of values can be more difficult than selling a good or service. The challenge is also overcoming the preconception that most donations are wasted and do not reach the cause at hand. As such, encouraging audiences to donate is just as, if not more, difficult than convincing consumers to make a product purchase. Nonetheless, it is important to understand why and how advertising can have a positive impact on charitable causes in order to see its value. Programmatic advertising in particular can offer an immense benefit to marketers in the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit organizations or foundations support a variety of causes ranging from humanitarian, religious, scientific to literary initiatives. This results in a variety of targeting options available for advertisers to leverage. Before identifying who your target audience is, it is important to identify your goal. Campaign goals will be different from one nonprofit to another, so you need to think about the following questions:

  • What is the organization trying to accomplish?
  • How much money do they need to raise?
  • What type of cause are they trying to inform the public about?
  • Are they trying to get volunteers to sign up? If so, how many?

Donors identify with causes they can relate to. Advertising nonprofit ideologies help to spread awareness about a particular cause and can help to connect donors with a group of volunteers or a specific charity. It provides a source of education and helps people understand the cause itself, how they can contribute, why their contribution makes a difference to society and who the volunteers and charities are.

To many in the nonprofit ecosystem, marketing and advertising can be considered an overhead cost. Since these costs may be perceived negatively by those who are donating, charities naturally gravitate towards spending as little as possible. However, the reality is that these organizations rely on awareness initiatives to encourage donor support—making marketing efforts a positive investment for the greater cause. In fact, a study conducted by Google with Millward Brown discovered that “75% of donors turn to online resources to look for information, and 76% of donors go online to research in less than a week after viewing an ad”. It is an opportunity for the general public to be made aware of a cause, and may result in more money fundraised for the organization overall.

Audience Targeting for Nonprofit

Prioritizing your goals will help to identify the primary audience who will ultimately support the organization’s mission and, in turn, help to meet your goals.

Leveraging your programmatic partner to promote a cause is the best way to spread awareness, gain brand recognition and garner support. Leveraging 3rd-party audience targeting along with custom 1st-party segments are ideal to capture an audience reading about related content about your cause through keywords and phrases. These tactics are particularly effective for your prospecting efforts and for spreading general awareness.

Once you have set your goals and have an idea of who your ideal audience will be, you can explore lookalike and retargeting audiences as pivotal tactics in your marketing mix. These audiences typically are intended to further engage with a specific cause. We’ll take a deeper dive into both targeting options:

1. Lookalike Audiences help to expand the reach of your cause to new people who have similar characteristics as your current or ideal audience. The goal is to increase your reach and as a result, your donation rate. For example, you can build a lookalike audience off of the “donate now” button. This would capture a group of people who have the same online behaviour as those who have clicked this button—inferring that they may also be inclined to donate. The likelihood of donation from this group is increased, as they share commonalities to your donors, although they are not already familiar with the charity or foundation itself. It is a great way to effectively and efficiently use limited advertising funding to find the people who matter the most!

2. Retargeting audiences ensures the cause you are raising awareness for is always top of mind for those who have either recently visited your site or watched a video ad. Donors typically take about two weeks researching a cause before performing an action such as making a donation. Therefore, retargeting is a vital part of your digital strategy because it re-engages with people who have shown interest and are likely to donate after they have completed their research.

Ad Formats for Nonprofit

After identifying your audience, the next step is to determine which ad format to use in order to reach your targeted audience throughout each stage of the funnel.

Inspire and Inform with Video and Connected TV

Video has increasingly become a crucial medium for nonprofit organizations to tell their stories. It is all-encompassing as it captures imaginations, connects people and stirs emotions. It is personal and educational. It informs people and inspires action. As Connected TV (CTV) has become more widespread, it is imperative that you work to leverage video on this channel to increase your reach and capture your prospective audiences where they are viewing content.

Empower Donors with Native Advertising

Native ads are a highly cost-effective and impactful format that enable paid content distribution that is outside of the Walled Gardens. It is a great format to help inform and educate people about a specific cause—an ideal channel for nonprofits looking to inform prospective donors. Its non-intrusive nature and alignment with content make it particularly favourable for millennials who are frequently consuming content on their mobile device.

Encourage Donations with Interactive Display Ads

Interactive display banners, meaning HTML5 or animated banners, with a clear call to action (CTA) are highly effective when leveraged with a retargeting tactic. The ads can capture attention and remind your engaged audience to perform a desired action. The animated aspect of the banners is eye-catching and provides an opportunity for storytelling—all with the goal to remind prospects why they should donate or volunteer for your cause.

The Proof is in Programmatic

Nonprofits are always looking for ways to convey information with donors, while also extending their reach to find new ones. If you keep each of these tips in mind when building your nonprofit campaign, you will quickly see the importance and impact of programmatic advertising has on raising awareness for a cause and essentially positioning consumers to think of the cause like a brand.

For more on how programmatic can help you achieve your nonprofit campaign goals, reach out to your StackAdapt Representative.