Unlike Google, Facebook do not offer charities a grant to spend on advertising, which means every penny counts. With this in mind, when it came to our annual Christmas fundraising campaign for a charity that re-homes abandoned pets, it was essential that the best ROI was achieved.

Our previous campaign for the charity had already done well, achieving 195% ROI and scooped two industry awards for it’s use of social media, however for Christmas 2015 we wanted to take it a step further by improving from last year and optimising the campaign as much as possible. In this article, you’ll find the five most important things I learnt about raising money with Facebook ads through managing this campaign.

Tell people exactly where their money is going

One of the most important things about raising money for charity through Facebook ads is ensuring it’s 100% clear where the money will be going. That means your ad text has to be as clear and simple as possible, with just one single key message.

They need to know exactly where their donation is going, and what will be done with it. That’s why presenting a single message in your marketing campaign is essential – trying to cram in any more points or calls to action can confuse things. Last year, our messaging was less clear, as half of the campaign focussed on encouraging users to submit Christmassy photos of their pets, which worked well to build brand awareness, but diluted the message of what we were raising money for.

Meanwhile, the 2015 campaign had one clear message: “help us raise money to buy abandoned pets a Christmas dinner.” This clearly explained what response the ad was after, and where the user’s donation would go. The result was a much higher return on investment.

Make it as easy as possible to donate

The next thing to consider is the user journey. Your campaign’s user journey needs to be as simple and frictionless as possible, making it very clear what the user needs to do in each stage of the process.

The first step is ensuring your landing page mirrors the messaging of your ad. There’s nothing worse than having a user landing on your page, then getting confused about what they need to do next.

Your landing page must also have a clear call to action that follows on from the ad. In our case, a large ‘donate now’ button above the fold made sure users could continue with the donation process without getting lost on the page.

The donation process then needs to be as streamlined as possible to drive donations. We achieved this by integrating SagePay with the charity’s website, improving from the previous donation process, which saw users go off-site to donate via JustGiving.

We also included the charity’s SMS donation number on the ads themselves, with short, simple instructions on how to donate. This helped drive a direct response from the ad’s call to action, and for some users is even quicker to use. The result was that over 40% of donations were made via SMS.

Ensure your user journey is 100% mobile responsive

A mobile responsive design is essential for any content you share via Facebook – figures from July 2015 reveal that 44% of users use Facebook exclusively on their smartphone or mobile device, never accessing the social network via a laptop or desktop.

In fact, online donations received via referral traffic from Facebook mobile accounted for the largest source of donations throughout the campaign.

As a result, it pays to ensure you provide the greatest user experience possible on a smartphone, ensuring users can donate instantly on their device. Not only does that mean ensuring your ads look great on mobile, it means your landing page must be mobile responsive.

This is something we missed out on in 2014, as we built our campaign around a Facebook app, which at the time had limited support for mobile devices. This year we drove users directly to the donation page on the website, which gave us greater control over the user experience – as well as cutting costs!

Target friends of fans

Targeting the right users is essential for a successful campaign. However, targeting only your fans may limit the amount of people you can reach. While you could simply target users that meet your target demographic, you’ll achieve a higher conversion rate by also targeting friends of your page’s fans.

This is because you’l be leveraging social proof. When a user sees an ad from a page that one of their friends likes, they’ll see that person’s name above the ad. In a nutshell, this means their friend is vouching for your charity, making them more likely to engage with the ad.

The reason for this is because friend usually have similar interests, and therefore have similar spending habits. A study conducted at MIT by Catherine Tucker found that Facebook advertising by a brand that is targeted at people who are “friends of people who are friends of that brand” has click-through rates that are twice those for ads sent to a random sample of people, as reported by David R Bell in his book Location Is (Still) Everything. Birds of a feather flock together, as they say.

By targeting friends of fans, we were able to reach a much larger audience than if we targeted fans alone, and achieving higher conversion rates than if we targeted people who were unconnected to the charity’s fans, even if they matched the correct demographics.

Use Facebook’s tools for optimal ad delivery

Over the last few years Facebook’s tools for targeting users and tracking conversions have improved.

If you’re not already using conversion tracking on your Facebook, then now’s the time to start. By installing Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel to the end of your donations checkout process, you can set your ads to automatically be served to users who are most likely to donate, based on the data collected throughout your campaign.

This is much more effective than basing your ad delivery on clicks, which doesn’t take the entire user journey into account.

Next, be sure to make use of Facebook’s activity based targeting. This helps you target users that are more likely to engage with your ads based on the activities they perform. In this instance, we limited ad delivery to users who have made credit card purchases online. This is a good way to ensure you reach users who are prepared to make donations online, particularly important when targeting older users who are less likely to make online transactions.

It’s also a good idea to consider ways of increasing click throughs. Start optimising your advertising by using a range of images for each ad set. Facebook will identify the most successful in driving conversions, and automatically adjust how your ads are delivered based on this. Consider video content instead of an image, if your budget allows. This can increase ad engagement, especially on mobile devices as video auto-plays when being viewed. Fill out the link description for your landing page URL to optimise click throughs. And finally, make use of the call to action button, where Facebook offers a “donate now” option.

The Results

As a result of these changes to the campaign, we achieved an ROI of over 350%, verses 195% last year. Using Facebook ads to raise money for charity can therefore be very rewarding, but perhaps a daunting prospect for charities who must be able to account for all money spent as Facebook don’t offer a grant like Google do.

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