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How to Grow your Supporter Database Online using Paid Advertising (without Breaking the Bank!)

by Amanda Foster, Account Manager & Libby Sinback, Account Manager

New supporters are a key to the survival of any organization – new donors, advocates, volunteers, and members are all vital to helping an organization thrive. Recurring donations generally only account for a fraction of money raised from donors, so new supporters are especially key to development.

Email and direct mail are staples of supporter outreach; however, generally with those tools you are only reaching people you already know. So how to do you reach new audiences and add new people to your supporter list?

One method of list growth that is increasingly getting attention in the nonprofit world is paid online advertising. For-profit companies have used paid online advertising for years, but many nonprofits have ignored this means of growing their supporter list because it costs money. But online advertising can be very affordable!

Here’s a brief overview of some of your options:

  • Facebook Ads - Facebook is one of the most affordable options for targeted advertising. Facebook Ads are displayed on the right-hand side of user’s newsfeed and because users tell Facebook so much about their likes, demographics, and interests, you can really hone in on the audience you are hoping to reach. You can choose whether to pay per click or pay per impression (number of times the ad is shown to a user), and you can manage your budget by setting the maximum amount you want to pay each day. If you need help getting started on creating effective Facebook ads, there is a fantastic and free e-book on Hubspot that will give you everything you need to know to get started and the All Facebook blog also has some additional great tips for Facebook Ads. Also, be sure to follow Facebook’s Non-Profit Page.
  • Google AdWords – Pay-per-click AdWords are the "Sponsored Links" that appear to the right of your main search results on Google Search. There is much debate on the usefulness of Google AdWords, but with the potential to receive a Google Grant (a grant of up to $10,000 worth of advertising and access to their suite of business tools) – Google AdWords is worth a look. Take a look at Google’s Guide for Nonprofits, which offers a step-by-step guide for planning and executing your AdWords campaign. NOI also offers some tips on getting the most out of your Google Grant.
  • Cost-Per-Lead Advertising – Cost-per-lead (CPL) advertising, where you only pay for leads to your website was used with great success by the Obama campaign in 2008. The way it works is that you create a call to action such as a pledge, petition, or poll on a third party site, and the third party site drives people to that action. When people participate in your action, they are invited to sign up for your list. You pay for only those people who sign up.

    Because you only pay when people actually sign up for your list, CPL can be quite cost-effective and low-risk, enough so that many nonprofits are jumping on the bandwagon, and companies such as such as Care2 and Change.org have risen up to meet the demand. CPL can have major advantages over Google and Facebook ads; because these leads are generated by people taking action on your issue, they are more likely to stay engaged and respond to future calls to action. So you’re not wasting funds paying for clicks or impressions that may go nowhere. And it’s easy to budget: if you want to grow your supporters by 1,000, you can calculate the exact cost for those supporters when you plan your campaign.

Bottom Line

Weigh your goals, budget, and resources, and take a solid look at paid online advertising for gaining more supporters for your organization. Paid online advertising is a great tool to have in your toolbox to grow your list and get more people involved, and the potential for big returns on your investment can’t be argued with.

Topics: Supporter Management