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How to Leverage Nonprofit Advertising for Long-Term Success


The outreach targets for a nonprofit indeed differ from a traditional business model. Businesses focus on customers to drive revenue while nonprofits seek donors, members, and volunteers interested in the organization’s cause. One commonality between for-profit and nonprofit entities is that they both utilize advertising to accomplish their goals. 

Advertising is an integral part of most businesses, so why not for your nonprofit? Let us teach you the ins and outs of nonprofit advertising so you can leverage the knowledge and passion for your cause into more donations, memberships, or awareness!  

Let’s get started!


Can Nonprofits Advertise?

Yes! Advertising is key to raising awareness of your cause. Ad campaigns will help your organization welcome new donors and spread the word about your mission.  

Nonprofits should recognize there are viable options to achieve promotional goals that align with the goals of donors and other supporters.


Why is Advertising Essential for Nonprofits?

At the heart of every nonprofit is the intention to do good in the world, so it makes sense a goal would be to spread that to as many people as possible. While the approach may be different from for-profit advertising, the role of advertising in nonprofit organizations is the same. Advertising means people see your organization and what you are working to accomplish. Nonprofits should strive to get their cause acknowledged, just like corporations strive to get their products noticed.

how-to-leverage-nonprofit-advertising-for-nonprofit-success-whySadie is pondering the benefits of advertising for her nonprofit.

It also functions as a long-term strategy promoting continued success. The more often companies put their product or brand before consumers, the more interest they generate and the more repeated sales they make.  For nonprofits, advertising means turning a stranger into a lead (donor, member, or volunteer) by educating sympathetic people about your cause.


How Can Nonprofits Overcome the Challenges Associated With Advertising?

Getting caught up in the conventional notions of advertising can cause stakeholders to misunderstand nonprofit advertising strategies. In the for-profit world, advertising is all about monetary gain, but it is all about gaining impact in a nonprofit setting. 

Clarify the Focus on Funds

Fundraising is an aspect of a nonprofit's success. However, prioritizing the awareness of the cause always comes first, followed by an appeal for raising funds.  

Ads and Expense

Advertising does not have to break the budget. There are practical and inexpensive methods to spread the word and get people on board with your cause. Additionally, an organization’s own misconceptions surrounding advertising can sometimes interfere with regard to budget. While the tendency is to channel all funds toward current programs, allocating funds to advertising can perpetuate growth and thus increase impact. With the right mindset, any negative stigma can be eliminated. 

Pro Tip: Consider embracing techniques not standard in the nonprofit sector. Capitalizing on social media trends, appealing to local news outlets for coverage, and crowdsourcing are innovative techniques worth embracing.  Also, be sure to add your organization to Google Maps for nonprofits as an additional step in connecting with people.


How Can Nonprofits Set Up a Successful Ad Campaign?

A successful nonprofit advertising campaign will result in a greater understanding of community needs for potential donors, members, volunteers, and interested followers.

An organization can take its mission to the public by focusing on the basics of advertising. Here are five essential steps your organization can follow to create a successful advertisement.

1. Define Your Target Audience

Know who you are trying to reach and what aspect of your organization will move them. The success of your ad depends on your ability to target the right people.  What do they need to see and hear to be interested? 


  • Pick a specific demographic

  • Make use of surveys to poll past stakeholders and gain perspective

  • Create a list of words and visuals tailored to that audience

Pro Tip: Avoid a very general, broad approach. Although it will take some research and thought into narrowing your scope, you will avoid the danger of your message not resonating with anyone.  If you are putting financial resources toward an ad, engagement is crucial.

2. Define the Goal of Your Ad 

A narrow focus will be easier to work toward and make for a clearer picture presented to your audience. For instance, what are you trying to accomplish? Will this campaign focus on collecting donations? Are you working toward increasing membership? Is there a particular event or action in which you want your audience to participate? 


  • Brainstorm what the ideal outcome will be

  • Start big and then refine your answer

  • Consider behavioral data and advertising statistics

  • Decide how you will measure the success of your ad

Pro Tip: The S.M.A.R.T. or the P.A.C.T. approach are two helpful goal-setting tactics. Allow these acronyms to assist you in your approach to setting advertising goals.


  • Specific-Ask: What do we want, and who is involved?

  • Measurable-Ask: How will we know when it is accomplished? 

  • Attainable-Ask: Is this realistic for my organization?

  • Relevant-Ask: Is this directly related to our cause and worth our time?

  • Timely-Ask: When should we start?  When can we expect results?

PACT Goals

  • Purposeful-Ask: Does this serve a purpose for our vision of the future?

  • Actionable-Ask: Is this something we can embark on now?

  • Continuous-Ask: Will this provide for our continued growth and improvement?

  • Trackable-Ask: What steps are we taking each day to put our campaign in motion?

3. Choose the Correct Channel

What platforms will your target audience most likely be using? Social media outlets are top contenders when it comes to promotion and exposure. Using multiple platforms can be helpful, but ensure that your ad is tailored to your specific channels of choice.  Each will have different audiences, so your ads should have different approaches and objectives depending on the platform.

how-to-leverage-nonprofit-advertising-for-nonprofit-success-correct-channelMatt is setting up a Google Ads account for his nonprofit!

Some suggestions are:

  • Google Ads

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Radio

Pro Tip: An excellent opportunity to explore options for exposure through digital marketing is to attend the 2022 Nonprofit Technology Conference. This year's conference is still open for registration and will showcase over 150 virtual sessions hosted live, and there will be many opportunities for connecting and collaborating.

4. Prepare Your Copy 

The content of your ad must present your cause as worthwhile and donor involvement as highly impactful. 


  • Ensure social media posts are concise and engaging

  • Read and revise

  • Focus on telling a relatable story

  • Remain clear and ensure your message is the center of attention

  • Consider the tone of successful campaigns you have encountered that you admire

  • Incorporate slogans, logos, or hashtags when appropriate

5. Provide a Strong Call to Action

Your call to action will depend on the goal you determined in step 2. Your CTA is the last opportunity to compel your audience to help you meet your goals.  A call to action must be clear and concise.


  • Use a strong imperative verb

  • Include words that evoke emotion

  • Convey a sense of low-risk 

  • Give simple and clear steps on how to participate or lend their support

Pro Tip: Incorporate an activity or challenge as your call to action, then suggest they pass on the request to others. This strategy gets people involved and generates interest around your organization!


What are Examples of Nonprofit Advertising?

Several recent nonprofit advertising campaigns have been hugely successful. These campaigns took social media by storm and were complete with a huge celebrity following and ubiquitous hashtags. Allow the results of these promotions to be an inspiration to your organization.  

ALS Foundation

In 2014, it was hard to log on to any social media platform and not see someone being doused with a bucket of ice-cold water. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was everywhere. 

Bucket of ice cold water

There were over 3 million Instagram posts and over 2 million on Facebook in a timeframe of only a few weeks. This campaign proved to increase donations to the ALS Foundation by well over $90 million from the previous year. Incredibly, the entire campaign was free. #ALSIceBucketChallenge

Make a Wish Foundation

John Cena led the charge for the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Arm Wrestle Challenge. Although his star power initiated the event, it soon caught on with the public. Arm wrestling contests were breaking out in the workplace, on sports teams, and between radio and television personalities. Again, people inundated social media outlets with videos of their tussles, raising major awareness and funds for the organization. #ArmWrestleChallenge


Honoring Betty White

Fans of Betty White and animal lovers everywhere took to the Betty White Challenge on her 100th birthday. Twitter was the primary catalyst for its popularity and encouraged millions to donate to their local animal shelters in White's name. This campaign was undoubtedly an example of how public sentiment plays a role in raising awareness and acting on compassion. #BettyWhiteChallenge



It is abundantly clear that there is a role for advertising in nonprofit organizations. While it takes a particular focus and approach, all stakeholders can benefit from a successful campaign.  Nonprofits play an essential role in our society, and advertising can ensure the longevity and success of an organization by helping to share its mission with more people. 

It’s exciting to imagine how the impact of an organization can grow exponentially from meaningful exposure, so let an advertising campaign raise awareness for your worthy cause. Take your mission to the public and make a change in the world.


Springly is trusted by over 20,000 nonprofits to help them run their organizations on a daily basis. Try it, test it, love it with a 14-day free trial!


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