Guest Blog: Getting started with using ads on Facebook for fundraising

23 Mar 2022 Jocelyn Horton    Last updated: 24 Mar 2022

If you’re looking to try advertising on Facebook to recruit new donors, Tori Arthurs, Supporter Recruitment Manager at Friends of the Earth gives some pointers to get your project off the ground.

The Facebook company is now Meta. Meta platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp among others. There are loads of great training materials out there that will help you to develop a more detailed understanding of Facebook.

See end of article for resource links.

Preparation is key

  • First, you need to be clear on your campaign objectives, targets, audience(s), timeline, and budget from the outset, including whether you are aiming to recruit regular or cash givers. This high-level brief can be used throughout the rest of the project to help steer your creative process and campaign set up.
  • Next, if you haven’t previously done any advertising on Facebook, your next step should be to set up your ad account. This can be a tricky process and there’s a few key steps – so be sure to follow the instructions in Meta Business Help Centre about creating or getting admin access to an existing Facebook Page, setting up a payment method and so on.
  • In addition to this initial ad account set up, you should make sure your campaigns are optimised for people using iOS14.5 or later devices (follow Meta’s guides on how to verify your domains and create then prioritise your eight events). Depending on your cause, you may also need to register before you can run ads on social issues, elections or politics.
  • Also make sure your site is correctly set up to tell Facebook about visitors to your website and what actions they may take on it (remember to abide by relevant privacy and tracking laws). By doing this core set up, you’ll be able to use website URLs to track your goal completions such as visits to a post-donation thank you page. From this, Facebook will be able to automatically improve the targeting of your ads because it will learn about who converts to a donor from your ads and then will target other, similar people. In many cases this just means adding your Facebook pixel code to your site and tracking page views – this may already be in place, but it’s good to check. For more complex goal tracking, you might need a developer's assistance.

Be creative with processes as well as ads

  • To help your team create compelling and accurate fundraising ads, it’s important to set up processes and guidelines. This could include a comprehensive DARCI/RACI Framework which makes clear who in your organisation is involved and what they are responsible for including feedback and approval on your fundraising ads, donation forms, etc. We’ve found it useful to get stakeholders such as the designer, Brand team, and campaigners involved in early stages, e.g., scripting of ads; this way we can make the most of their expertise and resolve any potential issues upfront.
  • Consider writing guidelines to create a more effective script writing and creative process. For example:
    • Can you summarise the key message in a couple of sentences?
    • Could you create a briefing template that would give your designer key information about your audience and what you want them to think, feel and do?

These will give you the core information you need to build out a compelling but concise script; try using a formula such as the ‘Problem-Solution-Urgency-Ask' flow.

  • You’ll want to go live with a few different creative options, so think about what you’d like to test. For example:
    • Do you want to see which messaging or creative variants grab people’s attention the most (particularly in the first five seconds)?
    • Is your audience most responsive to static images, short videos, long videos or carousels (similar to slide shows)?
    • Do they like highly animated designs, or real photos or footage?

Remember you’ll have plenty of time to test throughout your campaign, so don’t feel like you need to test everything in your first wave of creative products.

  • It’s also a good idea to create a set up document that all your ad information can be dropped into once it’s signed off and ready to go. It will need to include information like:
    • ad name,
    • ad creative (the term used for any Facebook Ad),
    • headline copy,
    • primary text,
    • Call To Action; and
    • a tracked link unique for each ad variant.

This short video gives a good overview of how to create an ad on Facebook

Think about your audience

  • When it comes to building your audience in Facebook, think broadly about what interests your audience may have that you can target as part of your Interests targeting group. For example, if you’re looking for people who might donate to a nature-based campaign, might they also be interested in vegan food or wildlife documentaries?
  • Considering your audience’s wider interests is even more important now, as Facebook has removed many social, political and religious interests from their targeting options. Find out more here.
  • You can also set up Broad audiences within Facebook which have very limited targeting, allowing Facebook to decide for itself which individuals it thinks are most likely to convert. For example, we set up audiences that are only restricted based on age and location. Given the recent changes to Facebook’s interests targeting, this is something that organisations are being encouraged to try out.
  • Additionally, consider setting up a Lookalike audience based on supporters who have already converted and become donors or those who have taken a different action on your website, such as signing a petition. If you are able to, you could also create a Retargeting audience of those who have visited your donation page or website but not yet converted.
  • Log the details on your audience targeting in your set up document so you can refer back to it when reviewing your campaigns and fundraising efforts.

Always test

  • Even once you’ve got your initial campaign set up and running, make sure you’re continually learning and optimising. Set up a programme of variant testing to try out different creative approaches or formats, positive versus negative messaging framing, different Calls To Action, short versus long primary text accompanying your ads, or even tests on your donation page such as prompt amounts – the opportunities are endless!
  • When you’re planning your testing programme, make sure to bear in mind the size of your budget. You want to make sure you have different options to give Facebook room to learn and optimise - but not so many that your budget is spread too thinly to allow for conversions against each variant. If you only spend a small amount against lots of different ad variants you’re going to be unlikely to get enough data to hit your average daily Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) on each, which could make it difficult for Facebook to bring in any new donors.
  • You’ll also want to set up results reporting to monitor the tests as they’re running and create a testing log to record your findings and to make evaluations from each test.
  • Map out a plan for the tests you are going to run across the financial year and set up a regular review process to check on the results of these tests. Our team do daily quick checks on campaign performance and a more detailed weekly performance review where we switch off variants that aren’t working to push more budget towards those that are. We also hold a quarterly review where we take a step back and review each campaign overall as a team.

Make the most of reactive moments

  • When there’s something in the news that relates to your cause, it’s an excellent opportunity for some reactive fundraising. Time is of the essence here – so set up a process within your organisation that allows you to jump on these moments quickly, with condensed timeframes for scripting, creative development and sign-off.
  • Bear in mind any key soundbites or imagery that a cold audience will have seen when you’re putting together the script and creative, and use those to catch their attention again with your ad. For example, when last year’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report came out we found that using the “code red for humanity” phrase in our ad copy worked well. These ads may have a shorter timeframe that they’re effective for, but they give you an excellent opportunity to recruit a high volume of new donors, often at a lower CPA, during that time.

Looking forward

  • Whether it’s the impact of iOS14.5, increasing numbers of organisations advertising on digital channels, or economic uncertainty, many advertisers have found that their Facebook (and Instagram) campaigns have been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last year or two. And, particularly as charities and not-for-profits, we’re currently experiencing further bumps in the road with the removal of many social, political and religious interests from Facebook audience targeting options.
  • Whilst some of these changes do indicate positive steps for personal privacy, these changes don’t diminish the negative impact it could have on your fundraising activity. There are ways around this, so seek advice and explore fundraising blogs for guidance to help you minimise the impact on your campaigns as much as possible.
  • Keep on top of developments by signing up to relevant newsletters, sharing learnings with sector colleagues, and asking for advice from any agencies you work with. In addition, if your budget allows, it would be worth exploring other recruitment channels too – be that other social media platforms, different digital fundraising activities, or even offline channels.


Tori Arthurs, Supporter Recruitment Manager at Friends of the Earth.  

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland are part of an international community dedicated to protecting the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. They lead campaigns, provide resources and information, and drive real solutions to the environmental problems facing us all. Find out more about Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland.

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by Jocelyn Horton

Fundraising Advice Officer

[email protected]