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12 tips on social media advertising for charities during COVID-19

As the coronavirus crisis continues, I'm seeing a flurry of social media adverts from charities flooding my timeline and feed. But how do you get your charity heard above all the noise? I've been taking note (and screenshots) as social media becomes more and more saturated with charity adverts. I’ve collated a quick list of tips on how to best get your charity noticed on social plus any potential pitfalls that may arise.

By Matt Haworth · April 16, 2020

Why social media advertising?

Social media advertising for charities was just one of the recommendations that I made recently in the Digital Fundraising handbook. But why?

As the Coronavirus crisis forces charities to think differently and (more accurately) think digitally, social media is the playground that everyone is playing in. But what if you don’t have a huge audience or reach on your social networks? Maybe pre-COVID, you engaged with supporters at face to face events, or through other networks? If this is the case, social media advertising could be a tactic you use to get your charity and its message seen by more people, in more places.

Social media advertising is not an original idea...

But recently I’ve seen an influx of charity adverts flooding my social media feed. So much so that every fourth post on my feed brings me back to an ad. Interestingly, some charities I’m seeing aren’t ones I’ve ever donated to or even engaged with before, making me think that a lot of charities are casting the advertising net fairly wide. I’m also seeing an evolution from some charities as they experiment with new messaging, improving their ad copy and call to action, week by week.

Watching (and screenshotting) from my sofa has provided me with a wealth of great examples, and creative ideas that charities can learn from. It’s also highlighted some things that charities can avoid when it comes to social media advertising.

I’ve put together a list of quick tips to help put your charity on its best path through the social media advertising landscape.

1. Consider who else is targeting ‘your’ audience

Social media is very saturated right now so don’t waste money on targeting people who may already have seen six charity adverts before lunch (me).  Try to think differently about your audiences and who you could potentially reach out to with your ads.

2. Don’t just advertise your donation form

To stand our amongst the competition, you need to motivate a viewer to engage. Instead of just advertising your charity, invite your audience to take part in your lottery or competition that they can be a part of. Teenage Cancer Trust recently partnered up with Omaze, to ask people to fundraise for their charity in return for a chance to win a million-pound house in Cheshire! Is there an organisation you could team up with that may be willing to gift your charity something which you can raffle off? An advert that offers an audience the chance to win a prize is exciting for a viewer. Everyone loves winning prizes, use that to your advantage.

3. You don’t need to do all the work

Use your networks. Work with an influencer, ambassador or business to advertise your charity. I’ve seen a number of charities spending their advertising budget on a celebrity’s account, rather than their own and it’s for good reason! Maybe you could partner up with a business? A lot of businesses are looking to put content out right now and want to be seen to be making a difference. Can you involve them in a joint competition that raises money? It’s a win-win for everyone.

4. Raise relationships as well as funds

Funding is top priority at the moment for charities, and we all understand why. But with such a saturated feed, maybe some ad spend could go towards asking something different of certain audiences. Ask them to follow you on social media, or to sign up to your newsletter. It’s free and simple for them to do, and if people are looking for a way to help, besides donating, this is your opportunity to build your audience for future asks!

5. Advertise interesting fundraising activities

With everyone sat at home, bored, unable to socialise, the prospect of an online quiz is very inviting right now. Create exciting digital fundraising activities such as quizzes or game streaming which people can feel good about being involved in. I’ve even seen charities encouraging people to complete their own marathon, teaming up virtually with other teammates to stay motivated and raise money.

6. Talk about the topic on everyone’s minds

With key-workers sacrificing their health to look after others, it’s unsurprising that people are worried about the NHS right now. Can you give people a way to help, by highlighting in your charity advert how the funds you raise support those working in the NHS?

7. Step above the noise with knowledge

Some charities are using their expertise to separate themselves by paying for adverts that promote their advice content. This helps them to engage service users and supporters plus they’re being helpful.

8. Advertise a service activity

Other than donate, can your audience help your charity in other ways? You can use advertising in a similar way to DKMS who used some of its advertising budget to encourage folks at home to join the stem cell registry.

9. Ask people to use their time at home in a way that helps you

Do like Dogs Trust and think about where people are right now; Stuck at home, looking for activities they can do within their house or garden. With this in mind, Dogs Trust created adverts around how to teach your dog new tricks. This is a clever way to get people to engage with your charity’s brand which could easily lead to them supporting you in other ways.

10. Don’t let cookies eat up your advert

Some charity adverts on social media have tripped up as a result of a cookie banner. When I click on a Facebook ad, on some occasions the cookie banner covers the majority of the message. Don’t let that happen to your ad.

11. Productise your donation amounts

People like to know what their money equates to for your charity and its service users. Turn donation amounts into a tangible resource that people can feel good about giving. Age UkShelter and International Rescue Committee provide some great examples below.

12. Help your donors out with autofill

If you are advertising on Facebook, it’s worth being aware that if people choose to donate, the donation can occur in a pop-up within Facebook, or it can take the donor out of Facebook allowing them to donate in their default browser, like Chrome or Safari. If the latter happens, payment card details will probably be saved and autofill will take care of the payment information for the donor. However, if the former donation process happens and the viewer is asked to donate within Facebook, they may have to enter their bank card details and in a world where we’re all fairly lazy, this could act as a barrier.

Good luck with your social media advertising!