As someone who’s managed hundreds of digital fundraising campaigns for Australian not-for-profits, I’m here to tell you… rumours of the decline in performance from Facebook advertising have been greatly exaggerated.
In fact, over the last year Donor Republic has seen record appeal results for every one of our clients on social media.
We’re talking cost per acquisitions of under $10 and return on ad spends of over 500% – they are still possible – and that potential only increases in an emergency campaign scenario.
So, are Facebook ads still effective for digital fundraising? Absolutely… as long as you follow best practice.
Our experience has demonstrated time and time again that the strongest performing Facebook ads do the following:
1. Present a clear, concise problem (that donors can help solve)
On social media, users are only very lightly engaged with content. For that reason your ads need to be clear and concise, and focused on communicating a problem that they can help solve. Users will engage much more eagerly with ads that give centre stage to the problem or need of your proposition – rather than the solution.
E.g. “Every year, more than 275,000 children die of malaria.”
After all, if a donor thinks the problem has already been solved without their help, why would they be motivated to act? We need a clear and tangible solution, that logically follows on from the problem, and has a clear role for the donor.
E.g. “Buy a family a malaria net to keep their kids safe”
You can help increase engagement by providing relatable points for empathy (eg, by referencing family relationships or other things in common with donors).
E.g. “Yuusuf is just four years old, but he’s already lost a younger sister to malaria.”
In addition, we have seen stronger results when communicating urgency with real-life stakes.
E.g. “Summer is coming, and with it peak malaria season. Young families urgently need your help today to help protect their children.”
2. Use images that focus on the problem
Flowing on from point one, it’s vital to also highlight the problem in your images – pictures depicting need almost always outperform more positive or neutral visuals.
Powerful images showing the reality of devastation, catastrophe, vulnerability and suffering trigger the audience’s desire to problem-solve – and will encourage donors to click through and find out what they can do to help bring about a solution.
3. Avoid stock photography
It’s fairly well known that we humans are getting pretty good at tuning out advertisements to cope with excessive stimulation.
This could help explain why professionally-shot, high-budget photos tend to underperform: they look too much like ads and we therefore ignore them.
Steer clear of glossy, overproduced and obviously staged stock images – so users know you’re empowering them to help solve a problem, not selling them an insurance policy.
4. Offer a solution within the donors’ power
This should logically flow on from the problem and clearly articulate the donor’s role in making the solution possible.
Focused, single-minded propositions emphasising the donor’s role (not the charity’s) perform best.
E.g. “Buy a family a mosquito net to keep their kids safe.”
5. Provide tangible price points
By specifying how much it would take for the donor to provide the solution, you eliminate the mental effort required for donors as they consider not just whether they want to help, but how much they should give.
Tangible price points also ground your ask in real, concrete terms, bringing the campaign from theory to reality.
E.g. “$45 buys a mosquito net for a family trying to keep their kids safe from malaria. Please donate now – you might just save a child’s life.”
6. Keep design elements to a minimum
Unless they reinforce some aspect of your proposition, avoid heavy branding, blocks of colour, and anything else that could reduce the visual impact of your advertisement.
Instead, consider using image overlays (ie, text/graphics that sit on top of your images) to reinforce the need, the solution, or a tangible price point.
Bringing it all together
In my experience, Facebook ads that utilise all available elements to present a clear, emotive, and urgent proposition are continuing to yield strong fundraising results.
So, make sure that every element of your ad (headline, image, and any image overlays) work together to provide a compelling picture of the problem, while also showing donors how their action can bring about a tangible solution. And importantly, avoid headlines or post-text that cut-off on mobile view.
Employ these tried and tested strategies to engage and convert donors to your cause and make your next Facebook appeal your strongest yet!
Lachlan Dale is the Director of Digital Strategy at Donor Republic, and can be found on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/lachlanrdale/. Boost the success of your fundraising campaigns on Facebook and other channels by starting a conversation with the team at Donor Republic today https://donorrepublic.com.au/.