If you’re a nonprofit director or manager . . .
Who depends on a consistent stream of new stakeholders to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission . . .
Then you know at least something about lead generation.
A lead is any new potential beneficiary or donor, whom you need to subscribe to your communication. They give you ongoing permission to contact, inform, make offers, and make requests to them, because they see mutual benefit to you doing so.
Getting subscribers is a problem in and of itself . . . never mind it being complicated by the need to get the right subscribers, and avoid the wrong ones.
Means of going about this are many and varied. Many nonprofits these days find themselves doing it with Google and Bing ads, which get posted in front of (hopefully) those right eyeballs, and are (also hopefully) compelling enough to persuade those eyeballs to click the proffered link.
And switched-on nonprofits start down this road by leveraging Google Ad Grants (and if they’re lucky, Microsoft Ad Grants) to do so without paying for the ads.
Some nonprofits, though, find the results inadequate, or opportunities for attracting donors are missed, OR, find that the costs are still prohibitive.
This article is for nonprofit directors and managers –
- Who leverage Google Ad Grants or Microsoft Ad Grants for social impact, and
- Have tried Facebook ads to further their donor base, without success . . .
- Would like to see still more donor growth . . .
- But who don’t know what to try next, or where to turn next for help
What this article will tell you
You’ll learn how your nonprofit can do Facebook fundraising effectively through a not-new-but-still-unknown type of ad. It’s called, appropriately enough, the Facebook Lead Ad.
These ads don’t come for free, but in terms of cost-per-lead, they are much less expensive than standard Google, Bing or Facebook ads.
(NOTE: Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021, but because “Facebook” has been such a household name the last 15 years, we will continue to refer to Facebook in this article.)
By the end, you’ll know what a Facebook Lead Ad is, why it’s superior to standard ads, and how to create your own.
6 key drivers of lead generation
Marketing guru Zig Ziglar famously said that there are there are 5 reasons why someone doesn’t accept an offer:
- No want (you sell apples, and they hate apples)
- No need (they like apples, but the meals they have planned don’t call for apples)
- No hurry (they have a pantry full of apples already)
- No money (they have nothing to offer you in exchange)
- No trust (they’re not sure you aren’t another con artist)
And in the online world, there’s one more:
- No ease (it’s just too hard to get to the destination)
This last one is also commonly called emotional friction. And online, friction is the enemy.
Think back to the last time you clicked on a link on Facebook or Instagram, or in a pdf, and suddenly found yourself taken to a new, different-looking website.
Most people find that a jarring experience. Wait . . . what? Where is this? Who are these people? Have I just been tricked?
You trusted what you were seeing on Facebook, but now that trust has taken a hit. You’re not sure. You scroll up and down a bit, to find out if you’re still dealing with the same person, or if you’ve been taken for a ride.
It’s not just the friction of suddenly finding yourself transported someplace new. It’s the friction of being made to work to get to your destination.
Ever click a link, expecting to see what you want to see on the next page and instead . . . you’ve got another link to click?
And then another? And another? Or, you have to supply some information? Name, email address, gender, location, etc. . . .
Ever click a link, and then have to scroll, and scroll . . . far down the page, through tons of content you didn’t ask for, all the while searching but never finding? Most people lack the patience. They leave.
Each new unexpected demand on your already-taxed brain . . . erodes your trust.
They’re making you work to get to your destination. This is not what I signed up for!
Friction in your marketing is a killer of new donor growth.
Users detest friction, especially online (where people expect their online interactions to be nearly effortless).
We tolerate, even expect, some friction. We’ve grown used to the pattern of clicking a link, reviewing a page, filling in a short form, and getting what we wanted when we first clicked.
But what we hate is being led to expect a certain outcome, for a certain level of work … only to be forced to work harder than we expected. We get suspicious. We feel cheated. We wonder if we’re being “taken for a ride”.
Too much friction, and your potential donors will abandon you.
Clever copywriters, ad designers, and online entrepreneurs know this. They design your experience to soothe those fears, and re-establish trust. But even then there’s a fair chance you won’t continue to trust them.
Most standard ads on the major platforms don’t solve the problem of donor friction. Sometimes they even make it worse.
ENTER: Facebook Lead Ads.
5 advantages of Facebook lead ads
(You can see an example of a Facebook Lead Ad on the right.)
1. Ease: Facebook Lead Ads cut down massively on the user’s friction – how?
A standard ad on just about any platform (Facebook included) requires users to click away from the platform, then type a lot (name, address, credit card details, etc).
Facebook Lead Ads don’t – There is no typing of anything or leaving the platform. It’s all pre-loaded.
The user clicks a maximum of 3 times: One Download button, and two Next buttons. That’s it.
No scrolling at all. The ad content is contained within a small window right in front of the user, who can see everything without scrolling once.
A minimum of friction.
Then they go back to Facebook browsing contentment.
2. Results: Lead Ads make it much easier for people to connect with you.
With the result that Click-Through Rates (CTR), and new subscription numbers, are typically higher.
And because of that . . .
3. Costs: You don’t need a huge budget to get started.
If you have even a small budget set aside for advertising, it is not difficult to start growing your subscriber base.
Even if you don’t want to do the work yourself, as long as you can define your budget limit, and are willing to pay for the necessary 3rd party tools (more on that below) …
Beeline can tell you how much subscriber growth you can expect. And we can create the Lead ads that growth entails, and manage the campaign for you. (Reach out if you need help with that!)
Alternatively, Dana Snyder over at Positive Equation has put together an awesome mini-course on how to grow your subscribers using Facebook Lead ads, called “100 Subscribers in 7 Days” – go check it out!
4. Stability: Nothing gets broken.
Standard ads and sales funnels rely on a collection of urls and hyperlinks, all of which have to work perfectly. Any platforms those urls and hyperlinks depend on must be fully-functioning at the time. Otherwise, the sequence fails, and the user is frustrated.
And links and urls can be broken incredibly easily, without any alarm bells going off.
It’s often not until the business owner notices a drop in revenue (or in the case of nonprofits, subscriber growth) that they get suspicious. That might be weeks later. Finding the broken link (or links) takes time and effort, and unless you have solid technical skills, it’s beyond you. Have to get a techie in to solve the problem.
Now weeks’ worth of new donors have been lost.
With Leads Ads? The entire sequence is controlled and managed by Facebook. They have so much revenue based on maintaining a healthy process that it’s very robust and reliable.
Plus, the information you need from your new subscribers is stored by Facebook, and you can download it.
Facebook controls the whole process, and keeps it ticking over very smoothly.
5. Targeting: The same hyper-targeted, hyper-segmented nature of Facebook ads is available to you with Lead ads.
By that, we mean the massive difference between Google, Bing and other platform ads … and Facebook ads.
The former presents the user with ads that are based on what the user has just entered in the search field of Google, Bing et al.
Facebook, conversely, presents the user with ads based on who the user is.
(Or more accurately, what Facebook knows about the user).
This makes it possible to laser-target ads to precisely the kind of people that you, the nonprofit director, want to reach.
The downside to Facebook Lead Ads?
Any financial transaction you might have immediately hoped for (e.g. accepting payment, video viewing, chat, etc) … has to happen downstream.
You have their email address – now you have to engage with them. That means, Emailing them, cultivating the relationship, and then (at some point) asking for their donation.
The Facebook Lead Ad has simplified the advertising process, by doing only one thing: lead generation. In other words, you can’t get someone to donate with a Facebook Lead ad.
This makes it much more convenient and appealing to the Facebook user (and your potential subscriber) and less convenient to you. You get more subscribers, faster, but have more work to do to turn them into a donor.
For most nonprofits on Facebook? This trade-off works just fine. They weren’t expecting to wheedle any donations or attention out of a new subscriber anyway.
They accept that the emotional trust foundation takes time to build up.
How to do Meta lead ads (4 tips)
1. The process to follow
Facebook provides thorough help for anyone setting up a lead ad for the first time.
We can, however, embellish a bit on their directions, based on our experience:
2. Assets you will need
It’s quite possible to run Lead ad campaigns and see great results without any 3rd party tools whatsoever.
But we don’t recommend it.
Without a 3rd party automation tool . . .
1. You will have another manual task to perform daily.
You will have to manually download each new subscriber’s details from Facebook and upload them to your email platform. Sure, you could outsource it to a virtual assistant. But that leaves you open to mistakes being made, and procedures not being followed.
Automation tools minimize the potential for errors – why not use them?
2. Facebook isn’t a fulfillment service.
They give you a new lead, but they don’t deliver the promised goods to your new lead for you. Without a 3rd party tool, your new subscriber will have to wait to receive their promised download. How long will that be? Days? Weeks? What if you forget to?
Not to mention, when you don’t immediately send them what you promised, they might forget about you.
Instead of eagerly going to their inbox right away to get the promised download, they see the email days/weeks later, and think it’s spam. Now you’re marked by the ISPs as a spam-sender! This causes you to lose credibility and trust.
Lost trust and credibility all around. And money wasted.
Your best chance with a new subscriber is to strike while the iron is hot. That means:
- Once they click on your ad, send them the thing immediately
- And if they’re opening a subsequent email, ask them to take the next step immediately. Don’t wait. While you’re top of mind … make the most of that (very limited) moment!
3. Facebook “holds the keys to the safe”.
They have the data on your subscribers, their names and email addresses, your campaign stats, etc. And while it’s unlikely that they will lock you out or deliberately obstruct your access … they have the right to do it. (And have done so in the past, for users deemed to have broken their terms and conditions.)
Hence, we strongly recommend you invest in 3rd-party tools that allow you to synchronize your database resident on Facebook, with your own databases.
Assuming that you already have a CRM tool (e.g. Mailchimp, Active Campaign, Hubspot, ConvertKit) … all you really need is a tool that automatically pulls these subscribers from Facebook and adds them to your email marketing platform or CRM.
There are several such tools out there. One good one we’ve found is LeadSync.
3. Always leverage the 80/20 principle
The 80/20 principle says, “The universe is not nicely and evenly distributed, like we think it ought to be.”
On the contrary, it’s very unevenly distributed (almost predictably so – hence the use of the numbers 80/20).
20% of the clothes in your closet get 80% of the wear. 20% of the roads where you live get 80% of the traffic. 20% of salespeople generate 80% of sales.
And 20% of your ads will give you 80% of the returns on your ad spend.
It therefore follows that to maximize your nonprofit’s marketing results, you should always put your resources where they are giving you the most bang for your buck.
And Facebook makes this easy with Lead ads, in one way particularly: Dynamic creative
Facebook gives you the option of selecting static or dynamic creative.
With static creative, you create a Lead ad by uploading a single image or video, a single body text, and a single headline.
With dynamic creative, you upload several images and/or videos, and several versions of each part of the ad copy. Then, as Facebook shows your ads, it dynamically creates all possible combinations of those images and ad copy, and tests them all.
As the stats are compiled, Facebook will allow you to see which image/video combination, and which body text, headline, and description are the most effective in generating results.You can then switch off the losers.
We highly recommend using dynamic creative. It is simply an easy way of optimizing the content of your ad for best return.
4. Use Lookalike Audiences
This is where Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) have a huge advantage over other advertising platforms.
Facebook users go onto the platform to search for answers to their problems, just as they do on Google and Bing.
However, they primarily log into Facebook to see, hear, be seen, and be heard.
They log on to engage, interact and socialize. And they give Facebook a ton of information about them in order to maintain the privilege.
So while Google knows a lot about what you’ve searched for in the past (i.e. the problems you’ve had) …
… Facebook not only knows that, but knows a TON about who you are, who (and what) you like, who (and what) you hate …
Facebook of course knows your age, gender, race, geographical location, language competence, and may know your employment and education history as well.
And they can intuit a great deal about you from ads you have clicked on in the past, interests you’ve (voluntarily) declared, groups you’ve joined, and interactions you had with your peers. They can make pretty good guesses about the kind of content you just might find so tempting that you’ll click on a link that you hadn’t the slightest intention of clicking on (or searching for) just moments before.
All of which makes it a superb platform for identifying people similar to the kind of people you’ve already attracted to your nonprofit.
In this vein, Facebook has a type of audience that is generally quite likely to respond to your ads: Lookalike Audiences.
Lookalike audiences allow a nonprofit to upload an email list of their current donors (say, 500 people), which Facebook then uses to identify all the data they have on file for those people. Then they find the pieces of data that a surprising percentage of those users have in common.
It doesn’t matter what it is they share, and it doesn’t have to be anything related to your nonprofit. Might be that 50 out of the 500 love Rocky Road ice cream. (That’s a significant percentage.) Or another 200 of them can’t stand baseball (too bad for them!), or share something else in common that you would never have imagined.
Whatever those commonalities are, Facebook uses them to find OTHER people on Facebook with these same characteristics, and builds you a Lookalike Audience from that.
You don’t have to use Lookalike Audiences. Facebook allows advertisers to create a “Saved Audience”, in which you guess the commonalities that make up your potential audience.
HOWEVER, Facebook is a lot smarter than you are. They will discover all kinds of things about your audience that you will never guess . . . and not just because you’d never think to ask the right questions in a donor survey. More often, it’s because Facebook learns things about people that the people themselves don’t even realize.
The point is –
What makes Facebook ads effective is if you, the nonprofit, focus on the ad creative and ad copy. Then trust Facebook to figure out your audience.
[Case Study] A nonprofit effectively using Facebook Lead Ads
Connected Families’ is a nonprofit that helps parents to love their kids unconditionally while teaching them to take responsibility for their actions. They’ve been in business for 20+ years.
And they use email to reach out to parents, not for the donor revenue (although they welcome that) . . . but because it’s a key way of providing the help and support that struggling parents need. They want new subscribers in order to further their mission to help more families.
In their emails, they send people to their blogs, promote their latest podcast episodes, and a couple times a year . . . promote an online course or an eBook. (You can see an example of an ad they run to promote one of their eBooks.)
The courses are available on-demand, but when they’re promoted, they’re accompanied by a moderator, and a community of people taking it together. (The community is often just as helpful as the course itself.)
At the core of their nonprofit model are the four messages they believe every child needs to hear:
- You’re safe with me
- You’re loved
- You’re called and capable
- You’re responsible
Connected Families had been using standard Facebook ads for years, sometimes specifically for promoting their courses around those four messages. Those ads were occasionally effective, but never consistently so.
What did consistently generate signups? (To any paid product?) Their email list.
Now, Connected Families’ primary source of income is donations, like any nonprofit.
However, revenue from their paid courses and coaching was not trivial. It definitely helped keep the nonprofit running. Loss of that revenue would have hurt, and more importantly, limited the impact of their mission. Only through learning new habits (which their courses were designed to help train) could parents realize long-term change.
Hence they knew: If they wanted to help families transform, they needed to keep that list growing and engaged.
And that meant advertising purely for the sake of growing their list.
Pre-IOS 14, they were probably getting new subscribers for $1-3 each. This is known as the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). A CPA of $1-3 was affordable.
(Side note: iOS 14 was a software update Apple rolled out iOS 14. It gave users the right to opt out of 3rd parties tracking their location and stored data. Great for privacy-conscious users, but a hammer-blow for online marketers wanting to advertise effectively.)
But post-iOS-14, costs tripled: $3 rapidly became the new floor. Their CPA frequently was often in excess of that.
Try as they might, then could not get below $3. This left them scratching their heads, and wondering how long they could continue down this road. Their website was not poor quality, so there was no reason to think that was the culprit.
What to do?
In January 2023, Beeline took over their ad management. We immediately proposed Facebook Lead Ads, and they agreed to give it a try. In February, we launched two such ads.
Beeline was optimistic, but even we were pleasantly surprised by how fast things improved.
Within weeks CPA dropped to between $0.91 and $1.20. Far better than it had been pre-iOS-14. And for Connected Families, this was a breath of fresh air.
Now Connected Families could scale and grow their impact, where before they were wondering if they’d hit a glass ceiling.
You can see an example of one of their Lead ads here:
When the user clicks on the Next button, they get the Terms and Conditions page immediately below the initial ad. If on that page they click Submit, they are then taken to the Thank You page displayed on the right.
The user has to make just two small decisions (i.e. mouse clicks). That’s it.
And the eBook is enroute to their inbox. Absolute minimum of friction.
On the Thank You page, they are given the option of clicking through to Connected Families’ website, but they don’t have to. A click on the X in the upper-right-hand corner takes them back to Facebook scrolling.
Presto. Connected Families has a new subscriber, beneficiary and potential donor. Total spent: $1.
And the subscriber has an eBook that will hopefully help them in their parenting.
Below is another example of Connected Families’ Lead ads.
If you’ve been using paid advertising to secure subscribers, customers, or even donors . . .
And pulling your hair out over the cost . . .
And wondering whether you’re wasting the money your warm-spirited donors have given you . . .
Facebook Lead Ads are an excellent (and even forgotten) strategy for nonprofits like yours to dramatically improve the power of your marketing.
Facebook removes most of the friction that causes users to not complete your desired call to action. They pre-fill users’ contact details from their database, so you don’t have to. And they have such accurate profiles on users, that locating similar users to whom you can promote your nonprofit is straightforward and effective.
We highly recommend that every nonprofit depending on paid advertising give Leads Ads a try. They are not hard to create or manage.
And if you decide that doing so is beyond your nonprofit’s abilities or available resources we are happy to help you.