4 Reasons to Start Thinking About Your Ads Program as Year-Round — Not Just Year-End

Year-end is a great time to run paid advertising to reach your fundraising objectives. As my little brother would have said circa 2004, “no, duh,” right? Stay with me here.

It’s easy to think of November and December as the only time of year you should invest in paid advertising. You’re going to make the most easily-seen return from your dollars during these key moments. But taking a year-long, always-on view to your investment is likely to pay itself back in ways you might be missing.

Here’s a look at what you can achieve when you start thinking of advertising as an evergreen vehicle to hit your fundraising goals:

 

1. Ads are an efficient tool to convert new leads and upgrade current donors based on origin source.

 

Now more than ever, users are taking repeat actions on the same platform by which they originally joined your list. So, those new email leads you’re bringing in from Facebook list growth campaigns likely need to see another ad asking them to give on the same platform. The same is true for donors who originally converted via Facebook ads and are now eligible to upgrade or renew. When you’re thinking about your welcome plan for leads and donors alike, don’t stop with just email — incorporate ads as a key part of your strategy to convert and upgrade quickly, taking a close look at origin source to guide you. P.S. Don’t stop hitting your targets via email in addition to ads. We’ve seen that when you double up on touchpoints, the donors who give are doing so at an average gift that’s 21% higher than those who only see one ask.

 

2. With an always-on view, you can establish a true control.

 

Having been client-side for most of my career, I was skeptical like you probably are, too, when hearing about how Year 2 is bound to be more efficient than Year 1. Scary as it is to stick with it through the months where the return isn’t as immediately visible (read: any month that isn’t November or December), it’s worth it. Keeping your ads in-market during this time will help you chip away at defining true controls to take into next year-end if you employ an iterative approach to understanding what’s working for you at a channel, audience, aesthetic, and messaging level. And your future self will thank you for giving your team the benefit of having true year-over-year comparison markers seen when you avoid the temptation to turn things on and off cyclically. Yes, digital is a space where you can quickly make changes, AND digital is a space that also benefits from consistency.

 

3. Ads will help you take a different view at how to re-engage and clean up your email list.

 

Unengaged email list dwellers are a bummer. Before you toss them into your suppression file for good, throw them into a re-engagement campaign that spans channels, including ads, and let their actions there dictate future steps. Those advocates you brought in from that great action campaign you ran last June may not have been compelled to give when seeing fundraising asks in their inbox — but pushing them through ads to another compelling opportunity to speak to their legislators or download an e-book (which is cleverly followed by a donation form) could get them in the door as donors and avoid you having to take them off your list at all.

4. You’ll grow your internal communications muscle.

 

Two true statements: 1) Advocates often make the best donors. 2) Convincing internal teams that you should do advocacy when you’re not already engaging in this way is hard — really hard. If you avoid doing the legwork to make sure you have an engagement plan ready for mission-critical moments, 2016 and all that came with it suddenly happens to you and you’re stuck without a roadmap (deep breaths). Engaging in advocacy doesn’t have to mean that you’re naming and shaming politicians, or crossing brand lines that would mean fundamental shifts. Oftentimes, it means simply being present in key places like social media to remind your constituents that you’re here to protect what’s dearest to them. Use the out-months of the year to have foundation-setting conversations that align your fundraising and communications teams around what you will say and won’t say about key topics — and test your mass-market messaging by running lead-generating action campaigns that will help you understand what resonates so you can really lean in when the moment strikes, collecting more great advocates along the way.

None of this stuff is easy. That’s why we’re here to help with all of it.