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Your Guide to Social Media Advertising for Nonprofits

Not all social media channels are created equally when it comes to engaging with your audience—meaning your planning and execution needs to be nimble and flexible based on your goals and the audiences you want to engage with. Similar to your organic social efforts, you want to make sure you’re promoting paid social ads across channels where you can meet your audience as they go through their daily, digital routines. Here, we’ll break down social media advertising for nonprofits, and guide you along with the best practices to bring your plans to life—and bring in new supporters.


Consider Your Audience

Before you begin planning your paid social campaigns, consider which channels would best reach the audiences you want to engage with and help you achieve your goals. If your campaign is focused on reaching multiple audiences, you can adjust your messaging and creative to each segment on each channel, creating a strong, holistic paid strategy that shines a spotlight on your campaigns in a more integrated way.


For example, if you’re launching a campaign focused on reaching high schoolers and their teachers, consider the audience demographics and where each audience spends the most screen time. Maybe you focus your teacher efforts on Meta with a strong campaign running across the Newsfeed, while engaging with the student population through Stories, TikTok, and Snapchat.


Determining your core audiences and what platforms they spend their social media hours on can help you optimize your budgets. This ensures you’re not wasting spend on areas that won’t drive results.


Align Your Paid Presence With Your Organic Presence

Within many organizations, organic and paid social media teams are siloed, leading to two distinct branches between planning, strategy, and execution. By breaking down these silos and, instead, creating strong consistency between the organic and paid social media efforts, you can create a solid, integrated marketing foundation for your future social media advertising efforts.


Not only will this help build your credibility among your audience, it can also increase the reach and consistency of your brand awareness efforts. As an added bonus, aligning your strategy between paid and organic campaigns can help ease the burden of your creative team and resourcing by utilizing the same messaging and graphics across efforts.


Leverage Trends When Applicable (Or Create Your Own!)

One of the beautiful things about running advertising across paid social channels is the myriad of trends you can engage with to break through the social clutter and make an impact on your audience. We’re not saying that every ad needs to be on-trend, but it doesn’t hurt to lean into what’s going viral. This can help improve your clickthrough and engagement rates and better solidify your organization in the minds of your audience.


On the flip side, if you have a solid idea that’s trend-ready, consider launching an integrated organic and paid campaign that highlights that trend to drive full coverage and maximum impact. We worked with the It Gets Better Project to develop the #FavoriteTeacher trend that helped increase awareness and engagement for their 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices. campaign. 


Use Your First-Party Data

When you talk about remarketing to an audience, a lot of folks may think you just mean website remarketing or remarketing to a customer list. Both of these are accurate—and cost-effective—ways to engage with your audience through ads, but what if you want to reach individuals who haven’t visited your site yet or signed up for your email list? Consider using on-platform social data to engage your audience to learn more about upcoming initiatives or to inspire action.


Whether it’s targeting folks based on specific hashtags, or user behaviors—like folks who have visited your social page or commented on your social posts or remarketing people who took specific conversion actions on your website—leveraging your first-party social channel data can be a great way to mobilize those who have interacted with your organization on the channels they frequent most.


Take Advantage of Platform-Specific Tools For Better Performance

Once you’ve identified your key audiences and picked the channels you want to run ads on, consider leveraging on-platform tools that each channel offers to drive stronger results while being conscious of limited budgets and resourcing.


For example, Meta and TikTok both offer on-platform lead forms. These can be customized to match forms on your website, allowing you to garner leads with fewer clicks and a lower cost-per-lead. We worked with Global Citizen Year on a recruitment campaign for their 12-week virtual academy program and deployed on-platform lead forms through Facebook and Instagram placements—helping the campaign capture 46,000+ leads.


Track, Test, and Test Again

The key to maximizing your return on investment is ensuring your campaign is set up for success on a foundational level. Installing pixels, and making sure the conversion actions you want are tracking are all vital to being able to report on success.


Additionally, we recommend testing messaging, creative types, and audiences to see which perform the best and drive results with your budget in mind.


Are there organic posts that are performing well and going viral? Consider adding them into the mix to strengthen consistency and drive results.


Like your organic strategy, don’t be scared to iterate on what you’re doing and adjusting to what’s working well, while also ensuring you are continuing to test new ideas to drive additional success.


Community Management

If you are running a strong organic social media strategy, it’s likely you have a community management workflow in place. Because your paid social efforts are running on social platforms, your target audience can react, like, comment and share your ads. Having guidelines in place so your marketing team knows how to monitor and respond to comments left on the ads can help strengthen your organization’s credibility, goodwill among your audience, and help remove or respond to negative comments.


Additionally, the response you get from your audience through comments on your paid social ads can help you address any concerns or confusion about your campaign. For example, someone could leave a comment asking for clarification about an upcoming event you’re marketing. You can address the comment in the moment, but maybe you update some of your ad verbiage or landing page copy to help address this question head-on and combat any additional confusion.


Checking the comments on your ads on a weekly basis can help you get a pulse check beyond what the KPI reporting shows—and help you provide a better experience for your audience.



Though similar on the surface, there are many differences between boosted posts and paid social ads on Meta. A boosted social media post is technically a paid ad, as you put the budget behind it, but from creation to running, it’s different than a traditional paid ad running on social media.


A boosted post takes something you’ve shared on your timeline and increases the reach to a new audience—by choosing the audience you want to reach, your budget, and your campaign timeline.


A paid social ad takes things to the next level in terms of customization and control you have over a variety of things:

  • Goal of the ad campaign (e.g. brand awareness, traffic to the site, a conversion action)
  • Better audience + placement targeting (showing up on newsfeed, stories, etc.)
  • Can deploy custom target audiences, lookalike audiences, etc. and make sure your ads show up only where you want
  • Running multiple ads in an ad set + allowing for better reporting and creative testing


Looking to get started with social media advertising for nonprofits?

Developing and managing an ongoing social media advertising strategy requires creativity, a strong understanding of your audience and how each channel can help you reach your goals, and the willingness to test, iterate, and test again. If you need help navigating these channels as you plan and execute your strategy, Media Cause can help. Learn more about our social media advertising services.