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How to use Facebook Ads for Fundraising: Five Tips for a Successful Campaign

On Thursday, our community will be taking part in a statewide fundraising campaign called Giving Hearts Day. Giving Hearts Day is an annual event that has raised over $112 million in funds for nonprofits and charities since 2008. $22 million was raised in 2021, and we can’t wait to see what this year has in-store!

With so much excitement around a day of giving, we field inquiries from organizations all the time who want to know the same thing: how can I use digital ads to help our fundraising?! 

We’ve had the opportunity to help multiple charitable organizations with their digital advertising, and are here to share a few tips to help you with your fundraising too. Today’s blog is dedicated to the 5 tips that nonprofits and charities can use to have a successful fundraising campaign on Facebook. Let’s dive in!

Does Facebook Advertising Work for Fundraising?

facebook ads for fundraising

If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Facebook’s advertising platform may be the most robust in the digital environment. It allows organizations to deliver targeted content to audiences of new or past donors. You can also deliver ads across Facebook and Instagram in feeds, stories, and more.

Here are the main reasons why Facebook advertising can be successful for fundraising and development:

  • Your ads will be served to an audience who aligns with your mission. For example, animal shelters are able to target individuals with interests in pets, dogs, cats, etc. Furthermore, you can serve ads to people who like your page, who you upload in a spreadsheet, and more. 
  • Ad content can be changed routinely, and multiple ads can be used at once. Consider direct mailers. With the costs involved in designing, printing, and delivering mailers, it’s rare that nonprofits are able to segment audiences and try multiple designs. With Facebook ads, you can do so with ease!
  • Tracking and reporting upon the success and return on ad spend is made easier. Gone are the days of spending money on marketing and wondering ‘what did this generate for us?’ If you set up your ad campaigns the right way, you can track conversions and conversion value and attribute it back to your campaign to see what revenue was generated from the ad spend.
  • Almost everybody is on Facebook. Facebook had 2.9 billion monthly active users in 2021. When you add in Instagram, that number only grows. Though reports are stating that Facebook use may be dropping, it continues to be the leading social media network and the best social platform for advertising.

Charting out the viability of Facebook advertising for your business involves setting up proper tracking, understanding how to build out campaigns, and implementing creative (graphics + copywriting) that will work. If you’d like to connect with our team, we’d be happy to help. Feel free to shoot us a message to talk about Facebook Ads. Otherwise, continue reading to hear more about our recommended tips for launching your Facebook campaigns.

Tip #1: Utilize Contact Lists for Custom and Lookalike Audiences

The amount of nonprofits I’ve visited with who have been running Facebook Ads is pretty slim. However, the amount of nonprofits I’ve visited with who have a contact list of names & emails of supporters is pretty large. If you have obtained contacts throughout the months or years of your organization being in operation, you’re well on your way to a successful (and targeted) venture on Facebook Ads.

Contact lists (oftentimes in the form of a .csv) can be added to your Facebook account to help create two types of audiences:

  • Custom Audience: an audience that you can name (i.e. “Past Donors”) & will have ads served to it, so long as Facebook is able to match enough users from your uploaded list.
  • Lookalike Audience: an audience that matches certain behavior- or interest-based variables to your uploaded contact list.

Both of these audiences are beneficial for your fundraising efforts, as they can help you obtain previous or first-time donors for your campaign. In the section below, we’ll walk you through how you can upload your contact lists.

Uploading a Contact List of Customers

  • Create your  spreadsheet of contacts using Facebook’s template
  • Go to Ads Manager on your Facebook Business Account
  • Once you’re logged in, go to your Audiences
  • Click “Create Audiences,” and go down to “Custom Audience”
  • Select the source titled “Customer List” and click Next
  • Download the File Template, select the identifiers to include, and add your customer list.
  • Give your list a name to ensure you remember (i.e. “Past Donors”)
  • Make sure your customer list was mapped correctly (green checks indicate a successful mapping, but yellow exclamation points may mean you need to make manual updates).
  • Upload your list!
building a custom audience on Facebook Ads

Creating Your Audiences

  • Once your contact list has been uploaded and Facebook has hashed your customer list info, you’ll be notified that your audience is ready to use.
  • Your audience (named in accordance with how you uploaded the list) will appear in your Ads Manager when setting up an ad account, and you can target this audience.
  • You can also build a Lookalike Audience based on your customer list, by:
    • Going to “Create Audience” in Audiences tab and selecting “Lookalike Audience”
    • Choose your newly added Customer List as your Data Source (begin typing the name of your list and it will appear)
    • Choosing the percentage you’d like to use to determine how broad you want your audience to be (a 1% lookalike audience will be smaller, and more similar to your contacts than a 2% lookalike audience).
  • Use these audiences in your advertising!
lookalike audience development

Creating both custom and lookalike audiences based on your contacts will help you build a potent audience right out of the gates. Make sure you have at least 100 (but ideally more!) contacts for best results. Once these audiences have been created, you’ll be able to target them in your Facebook campaign.

Tip #2: Use the Appropriate Call-to-Action Button on Your Facebook Ads

One of the most important parts of setting your ad campaign up for success is using a CTA (call to action) that will resonate with your audience. Depending on the campaign objective that you select, you’ll have access to different buttons.

When selecting a call-to-action button, we’d encourage you to consider the type of ad creative you’ll be using & the audience you’ll be serving to. Let’s break it out into two different audience types:

  • Prospecting Audience: this is a group of individuals who have not yet donated or supported your organization, but match demographics, interests, and geos that would be “in-market” to support you.
  • Remarketing Audience: this is a group of individuals who have donated or supported your organization in the past. It can also be a group of people who have previously engaged with your ad or liked your Facebook page.

For your Prospecting Audience, you may be serving an introductory video about your organization that helps explain who you are and what your mission is. In this case, your goal isn’t to get an immediate donation from the ad, but rather to increase your awareness and drive engagement (video views). For this audience, you may want to use the following:

Campaign Objective: Brand Awareness, Reach, Video Views, or Engagement.

CTA Button: Learn More or Contact Us

For your Remarketing Audience, you may be serving static or animated ad content that displays a more prominent call for help in fundraising. This is a group that has engaged with you in the past, has supported your organization, likes your page, and/or has visited your website. For this audience, you may want to use the following:

Campaign Objective: Conversions or Traffic

CTA Button: Donate Now

It’s important to have an understanding of how your audiences are segmented, and choose campaign objectives and call-to-action buttons that make the most sense for that audience (and for the creative you’re delivering). Reaching out to someone who’s never seen you or heard of you before and asking them to “Donate,” may be less effective than a lighter CTA like “Learn More.” Save the “Donate Now” call for those who have a better frame of reference and more likelihood to support your organization.

Tip #3: Setup Conversion Tracking for Donations on Your Website

getting donations from facebook ads

Psst… if you haven’t set up your Facebook Pixel yet, go read this.

Conversion tracking is a way for digital marketers to set up events that occur on a website, and optimize advertising efforts around those events. If your donations are run directly through your website, you will be able to set up conversion tracking on your own through Google Tag Manager and/or Facebook Pixel.

If your donations are run through a third-party site (i.e. GoFundMe, Donorbox, GoFundMe, etc.), then you may have a tougher time tracking the actual dollar amount and will have to settle for tracking the “Donate” button clicks.

If you want to go all in on Facebook, you can also apply for Facebook’s Fundraising Tools which would allow you to fundraise directly from Facebook.

Regardless of how you set up tracking, it’s important to identify donations (or donation button clicks) as an event for the purpose of optimizing. Once you have donation tracking set up, you’re able to use a “Conversions” campaign objective on Facebook where the social media platform will algorithmically aim to find individuals most likely to donate. 

As we referenced in the previous section, once you’re targeting towards a “Conversions” objective, you can use a button like Donate Now towards your retargeting audience to achieve more optimal results on your campaign. 
Every content management system is different when it comes to setting up conversion tracking, but we’d be happy to help if you’re stuck! Reach out to our team to chat about how we can start tracking your donations and optimizing campaigns to reach more potential donors.

Tip #4: Build Dynamic Creative That “Stops the Scroll”

facebook fundraising ad examples

People seldom, if ever, use Facebook or Instagram hoping that they’ll see an ad. No. We’re on Instagram looking through videos our friends took from vacation, or checking up on old classmates’ Facebook activity to see if they had their baby. The way you use Facebook advertising has to be different than the way you post organically, because the intention is different.

Even on your organization’s page, you are posting status updates for people who have already liked your page and have pre-existing context about your team. With Facebook Ads, you’re trying to reach a new audience and make them care. You need them to stop their scroll and pay attention. That requires some dynamic graphics and copywriting.

Here are some tips for you to consider when it comes to creating ad designs that will accomplish your fundraising goals:

  • Create Separate Ads for Stories and Feeds. When you choose the placements for your ad set, you’re able to determine if you want them to show on Facebook or Instagram, feeds or stories, and more. We’d advise that you layout ads to be specifically designed for stories if you’re using IG or FB Story placement, and layout separate ads for feeds. Feed ads will have more opportunity for copy to come into play, whereas Story ads may truncate imagery or text in a weird way. 
  • Tell a Story. Particularly when dealing with ads that will be served to a new audience, give them the context they need. Give individuals a reason to support your organization, and show what you’ve been able to do in the past. If you’re feeling stuck, consider breaking your story into a few parts:
    • Highlighting the problem you’re trying to solve (i.e. “An estimated 320 cats and dogs in our community are currently homeless and in need of rescue”)
    • Talk about what you’ve done to address the problem (i.e. “Our team provided rescue and shelter for 160 animals in 2021”)
    • Discuss your mission (i.e. “we’re committed to serving this community until the number of animals needing rescue is 0”)
    • Make the call for help (i.e. “but we need your help. We’re aiming to raise $15,000 by March 1st to help us fulfill our mission.”)
  • Keep Your Copywriting Succinct: people don’t like reading novels. We see it all the time – the ads that we run with less top copy performs the best. Let the ad creative do the talking for you (use graphics, carousels, video, etc. that tell your story), and leave them wondering more and feeling inspired to click the ad and visit your website. Make sure to abide by Facebook’s guidelines related to text length.
  • A/B Test Different Creative: whether it’s subtle changes to text, a story ad vs. a feed ad, or entirely different creative – make sure that you’re testing different approaches. This will allow you to learn from the results and see which ads are working best, and optimize towards the ones with the greatest results (best engagement rate, best clickthrough rate, or most donations/conversions). You can insert multiple ads into a single ad set or campaign to have them run against each other, while sharing budget. This is a great way to ensure that your top-performing creative is being seen, and to make sure you’re making the most of your ad spend.

Tip #5: Monitor Reports & Optimize Accordingly

If you’ve been a previous reader of the AdShark blog, you’ll recognize a pattern. Almost every advice piece we write ends with this word: OPTIMIZE! The ability to comprehend data & make optimizations based on what you’re seeing is the single greatest indicator of your success in the digital arena.

Once your tracking is set up, it’s important to take the next step and build a report that can help you monitor results. We use Google Data Studio and Supermetrics’ Facebook Ads connector to keep an eye on our campaigns. It allows us to track important items like:

  • Engagement Rate (aka “CTR (All)”)
  • Conversions (aka “Website Leads”)
  • Link Clickthrough Rate
  • Frequency

… and more! We can also create charts that show metrics per specific campaigns, ad sets, or ads which allows us an even easier way of seeing which ads have the best results, and where we should re-allocate spend.

Examples of optimizations we’d make may include changing campaign objectives, updating landing pages, changing out copy or graphics, or expanding our audience to reduce frequency and ad fatigue. There are a multitude of ways to optimize your campaigns, but keeping a focus on improving your engagement, conversions, and traffic from ads is a great way to make sure your campaigns are successful.


Facebook’s advertising platform is a powerhouse for countless organizations, both in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. If you’ve been striking out on your fundraising efforts using traditional channels, it may be time to give digital advertising via Facebook Ads a try! Facebook offers some of the lowest CPMs & has retained its place atop the list of social media advertising platforms.

If you’d like to have a conversation about how we can improve your fundraising efforts with Facebook Ads, please reach out to our team. We’d love to chat! Thank you for reading, and good luck with your next fundraising campaign.

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