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In today’s digital age, social media has become a powerful tool for nonprofits to reach and engage with their target audience. With roughly 4.95 billion people currently using social media worldwide, it’s no surprise that social media has become a key component of nonprofit marketing strategies.

But with so much content being shared on social media, how can nonprofits ensure that their message stands out and reaches the right people? One way to expand your reach can be social media ads.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of social media ads for nonprofits and provide tips on how to create effective ads that maximize impact.

Are Social Media Ads Necessary for Nonprofits?

The short answer is no: not all nonprofits need to advertise on social media in order to expand their reach, and not all nonprofits will see success with this tactic. However, social media ads can offer a relatively cost-effective and targeted way for nonprofits to reach their desired audience. Here are some key benefits of using social media ads for nonprofit marketing:

Increased Reach and Visibility

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With social media ads, nonprofits can reach a wider audience beyond their current followers. By targeting specific demographics, interests, and behaviors, nonprofits can ensure that their ads are seen by the right people who are more likely to engage with their cause.

Cost-Effective Advertising

Compared to traditional forms of advertising, social media ads are relatively inexpensive. Nonprofits can set a budget for their ads and only pay when someone clicks on their ad or takes a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a donation.

Targeted Messaging

Social media ads allow nonprofits to tailor their messaging to specific audiences. This means that different ads can be created for different demographics, ensuring that the message resonates with each group.

Measurable Results

One of the biggest advantages of social media ads is the ability to track and measure their performance. Nonprofits can see how many people have seen their ad, clicked on it, and taken action, providing valuable insights for future ad campaigns.

Tips for Creating Effective Social Media Ads for Nonprofits

Now that we’ve established the importance of social media ads for nonprofits, let’s dive into some tips for creating effective ads that maximize impact.

Know Your Audience

Before creating any ad, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your target audience. Who are they? What are their interests and behaviors? What messaging will resonate with them? By knowing your audience, you can create ads that are tailored to their needs and interests, increasing the chances of engagement.

Facebook and other platforms allow you to target geographic areas. You can decide if you want it to serve your ads to a certain demographic within 10 miles of your city, for example. It might be tempting to expand your reach to all of North America, but your ads will probably be most successful when you make your target smaller.

Use Eye-Catching Visuals

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In a sea of social media content, it’s important for your ad to stand out. One way to do this is by using eye-catching visuals that grab the attention of your audience. This could be a powerful image or a short video that conveys your message in a visually appealing way.

Keep It Simple and Clear

When it comes to ad copy, less is often more. Keep your messaging simple and clear, focusing on one main call-to-action. This will make it easier for your audience to understand and take action. If you feel tempted to cram as much information into your ad as possible, remember that the call to action will likely lead them to a page with all that information on it. Your goal is to get them to click.

Utilize Storytelling

People are more likely to engage with a story than a sales pitch. Use storytelling in your ad to connect with your audience on an emotional level and make your cause more relatable. This could be through a personal story or by showcasing the impact of your nonprofit’s work. Show wildlife thriving in the wetlands you’re trying to conserve, pets you’ve helped find homes, or students that you’ve helped succeed. No matter what your mission is, you can showcase your stories.

Include a Strong Call-to-Action

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A call-to-action (CTA) is a crucial element of any ad. It tells your audience what action you want them to take, whether it’s donating, signing up for a newsletter, or clicking through to learn more about volunteering. Make sure your CTA is clear, compelling, and easy to follow. Never use “Click Here” if you can help it: consider “Donate Now,” “Learn More,” “Help Us Feed More Families,” etc.

Test and Refine

The beauty of social media ads is the ability to test and refine them for optimal performance. Experiment with different visuals, messaging, and CTAs to see what resonates best with your audience. Use the data and insights from your ad campaigns to continually improve and refine your ads.

Specific Tips for Running Ads on the Big Three

Each social media platform makes it pretty simple to get your ads up and running. Here is some direction on the types of ads and formats you can run on each.


To start, you need a Facebook business account in order to access the platform’s ad platform. Facebook offers on-site donation ads that allow users to donate without ever leaving the platform: you can find a handy guide to Facebook donation ads here. If you’re just running a campaign to expand your reach, however, a more traditional Promoted Post format will work best. You can choose the geographic and demographic targeting, for example “women under 60 with pets within 30 miles of Chicago.”

X (Twitter)

Like Facebook and Instagram, X allows you to target ads to users with certain interests, demographics, and locations. It can help you reach people by topic, by followers, and by event, to hype people up in advance of your fundraiser, for example. Image and video formats are common ad options and can help grab attention on the constantly updating platform.


In order to get started with ads on Instagram you’ll need that aforementioned Facebook business account (remember that Facebook, or Meta, owns Instagram). You also need this simply to fundraise on the platform. You can create separate Instagram ads, or you can turn your posts into ads. If you have a shop whose proceeds go towards your mission, you can advertise that in its own clickable format, too.

Best Practices for Nonprofit Social Media Ads

To ensure the success of your social media ad campaigns, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Choose the Best Platform(s) for You

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Different social media platforms have different audiences and features, so it’s important to consider a variety of platforms to reach a wider audience. Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), and LinkedIn are all popular platforms for social media ads, but be sure to research which platforms are most popular among your target audience.

Here are some general guides to the users and formats on each platform:

  • Facebook: The largest platform worldwide with more than 3 billion users, don’t be fooled by the Gen Zers who say Facebook is just for Olds. This platform makes it simple to set up event pages, fundraising pages, and to utilize multiple formats including Stories and live-streaming.
  • Instagram: Instagram is best for nonprofits that have visual storytelling down pat. If you find it difficult to create imagery and videos to tell your story, you might want to put Instagram on the backburner. If you already have a great library of material, though, Instagram can help you expand your reach and engagement.
  • X (Twitter): If your organization focuses on crisis response you have to be on X. Ideal for sending out fast updates, X ads can help you reach more people during ongoing disaster response efforts. 
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn has grown from a job search tool into a space where professionals and organizations look to make connections and establish authority in their field. You can reach potential donors and volunteers with in-feed ads as well as direct message appeals. 
  • TikTok: TikTok has fewer users but they tend to be younger. If this is your target audience, you need to be comfortable with creating short video content. TikTok allows users to donate in-app, making it super simple for donors to follow through as soon as you have their attention.

Utilize A/B Testing

A/B testing involves creating two versions of an ad with one key difference, such as a different image or CTA, and testing them to see which performs better. This allows you to continually improve and refine your ads for optimal results.

Monitor and Adjust

It’s important to monitor the performance of your ads and make adjustments as needed. If an ad is not performing well, try changing the visuals, messaging, or targeting to see if it makes a difference. Continually monitoring and adjusting your ads will help you achieve the best results.

Expand Your Reach, Gain New Donors, Hit Your Goals

One of the key benefits of social media is that it’s free to use. You should maintain a strong presence on at least one or two social media platforms even if you don’t run ads on them. This allows more people to interact with you and your stories on a regular basis, and helps keep you top-of-mind. 

Social media ads can be a powerful tool for nonprofits to reach and engage with their target audience. By utilizing targeted messaging, eye-catching visuals, and strong calls-to-action, nonprofits can maximize the impact of their ads and achieve their marketing goals. By following best practices and continually refining their ad campaigns, nonprofits can use social media ads to make a real difference in the world.