Learn the basics and benefits of nonprofit advertising with this essential guide.

Nonprofit Advertising: The Essential Guide

Nonprofits fundraise, launch campaigns, engage with donors, and host events to drive their missions forward. But without a strategic advertising plan, charitable organizations can’t sustain that momentum and make meaningful change.

Nonprofit advertising is critical if you want to spread the word about your organization, solicit donations, and reach target audiences. While for-profit businesses can afford traditional advertising channels like billboards and commercials, nonprofits with tight budgets might struggle to inspire support towards their causes. Thankfully, nonprofits have low-cost to no-cost advertising options at their disposal.

Getting Attention understands the importance of a well-developed nonprofit advertising plan. Our team of marketing experts are here to champion your nonprofit digital campaigns, keeping costs low and successes high. This guide will walk you through the following topics:

Advertising can help your nonprofit increase awareness and engagement. Ready to learn more? Let’s start with a simple overview.

Take your digital marketing campaigns to the next level with Getting Attention.

Nonprofit advertising makes your mission visible to the world.

What is Nonprofit Advertising?

Nonprofit advertising makes your mission visible to the world. While traditional businesses pay for space to promote a product or service, nonprofits use both paid and non-paid strategies. The goal of any advertising strategy is to connect to your audience, bring awareness to your mission, and inspire action from supporters.

There are a variety of advertising outlets in the nonprofit space. The main platforms that nonprofits use to advertise include:

These are the 5 main platforms that nonprofits use to advertise.

  • Google: Google for Nonprofits is a free resource for qualified nonprofit organizations. It enables nonprofits to communicate, fundraise, network, and advertise more effectively. One of the most popular offerings that this program provides is Google Ad Grants. Google Ad Grants allow nonprofits to compete for paid search terms without any cost.
  • Web: Online advertising includes interactive websites, surveys, social media posts, banner ads, and search ads. An effective web presence provides your nonprofit with round-the-clock coverage. Make sure to place a call-to-action button on your web pages to allow people to donate immediately.
  • Print: Despite the onset of the digital age, print is a powerful medium in advertising. Your print ad must attract attention and quickly explain the importance of your cause. It should be clear, inviting, and informative.
  • Radio/TV: With radio and television, you can target emotions, tell stories, and leave a lasting impact on the audience. Think of the Tootsie Pop “How Many Licks” commercial or the Budweiser “Whassup?!” catch phrase. These campaigns withstood the test of time because they offer storylines the audience can relate and connect to.
  • Community Partnerships: For nonprofits, a community partnership means establishing a working relationship with local businesses, media companies, and others. Building a community partnership with your local media company is a cost-efficient way to share your story and upcoming events.

When used correctly, these platforms have a host of benefits. Here’s what nonprofit advertising can do for you:

  • Raise brand awareness. Advertising channels allow your nonprofit to reach a broader audience than word-of-mouth alone. Through compelling ads, you can connect with potential supporters and stay front-of-mind for existing donors.
  • Generate high-quality conversions. If your ad is powerful enough, you can convert an ordinary viewer into a valuable supporter. Conversions include  newsletter or blog subscriptions, contact form completions, donations, volunteer sign-ups, and shares to social media sites.
  • Grow and maintain thought leadership. Advertising can position your nonprofit as a thought leader in its field. If a nonprofit consistently releases relevant news and industry updates, it will become a go-to resource.

You won’t be able to accomplish the above without strategic advertisements and a well-crafted marketing plan. Keep reading to explore the differences between nonprofit marketing and advertising.

Nonprofit Marketing vs. Nonprofit Advertising

At first glance, marketing and advertising may seem synonymous. However, being able to differentiate between the two will help you achieve your goals. Nonprofit marketing relies on tactics and strategies to amplify an organization’s mission, solicit donations, and attract supporters. Nonprofits use advertising to promote their cause through paid channels. In other words, advertising is a component of marketing.

A nonprofit marketing plan is a dedicated document to help your fundraising team create promotional materials, stay consistent with branding and goals, and reach a target audience effectively. While making this plan, your team should decide between outbound and inbound marketing tactics.

Outbound marketing involves reaching out to consumers to get them interested in your organization. Inbound marketing focuses on creating and distributing content to draw people into your mission. Inbound tactics can include content creation, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and advertising

According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2018, 74% of companies globally reported that they’re primarily focused on inbound. Consider using inbound tactics like optimizing your website for SEO or nurturing leads with email marketing. Then, advertise your mission from those platforms.

Now that you know the basics of nonprofit advertising, we’ll dive into how much you should spend on ads.

Let's dive into how much your nonprofit should spend on advertising.

How Much Do Nonprofits Spend on Advertising?

In total, nonprofits spent $5.8 billion in advertising during 2020.Almost 70% of those advertising budgets were devoted to lead generation and new donor acquisition. Throughout the pandemic, the nonprofit industry saw a massive shift towards online fundraising and advertising. Nonprofits spent an average of four cents on digital advertising for every $1 raised online last year.

In the for-profit sector, businesses use ads to increase shareholder value. The purpose of nonprofit ads might be to increase donors, educate the public, or engage with volunteers. That means nonprofit ad spend doesn’t simply drive revenue, it drives impact.

Since impact doesn’t cover the cost of ads, it’s important to establish a detailed budget before each fiscal year. Try to allocate between 5-15% of your budget to marketing. As you build this budget, consider applying for grants to alleviate expenses. Google Ads created their own grant to help nonprofits budget for digital advertising.

Let’s take a look at how you can start advertising your nonprofit.

Here are 6 steps that your team can take to create an effective advertising plan.

How to Advertise Your Nonprofit

Your efforts should be ongoing to maintain engagement, bring in consistent donations, and ensure your work is relevant. Here are 6 steps that your team can take to create an effective advertising plan:

These 6 steps will help your team create an effective advertising plan.

1. Determine goals.

A mission statement summarizes why an organization exists, the audience it serves, and how it serves them in a couple of sentences. Your mission statement should guide your team through determining goals and objectives for advertising campaigns.

First, consider what your organization hopes to accomplish. When creating goals, it’s helpful to use the SMART method:

  • Specific: Your goal should be as narrowly-focused as possible. For instance, a specific goal could be, “We will increase subscriptions to our e-newsletter.”
  • Measurable: Goals are useful when you can quantify their success and progress with a metric. If you notice rates dropping, simply adjust your strategies. “We will increase e-newsletter subscriptions by 50%.”
  • Attainable: Don’t set lofty, unrealistic goals. Look at your past fundraising results and aim for a realistic objective. “We will increase e-newsletter subscriptions by 30%.”
  • Relevant: Your goals should be stepping stones to your ultimate mission. Make sure that every goal you set is tied to a broader marketing goal. “We will increase e-newsletter subscriptions by 30% to retain more donors.”
  • Time-based: Objectives should have a deadline and be monitored regularly. “We will increase e-newsletter subscriptions by 30% by the end of the third quarter to retain more donors.”

By using this method, your goals will drive meaningful conversions and support your nonprofit’s mission. Download our SMART Goals Template to start planning your advertising goals today.

2. Define your target audience.

Your target audience consists of the people you hope to reach through your marketing efforts. For each campaign or event you plan, you should have a specific audience in mind. This audience can include new donors, existing donors, lapsed donors, major donors, and more. Start by collecting the following data to determine your target market:

  • Age: By dividing your ad strategy into specific age groups, you can ensure that you’re getting through to the right audience. A study by the USPS found that ads designed to elicit an emotional response were more effective with younger consumers, while those that describe a product’s function, especially in print format, were relatively more effective with older adults.
  • Location: Implement geo-targeting to provide the most relevant ads to people in your area. Geo-targeting is the practice of targeting visitors online with localized or location-appropriate content based on a visitor’s geographic location.
  • Employment Status and Employer: An individual’s business affiliations can give you an idea of their net worth, potential connections, and ability to donate. Plus, if they work for a company with a matching gift program, you can reach out to begin the gift match process.
  • Communication Preferences: Keep communication preferences in mind when choosing between print, digital, and telemarketing. For instance, young professionals 18 to 34 have one of the best response rates to direct mail campaigns.

These insights can answer the who, what, why, and where of potential supporters. Once you know your audience and their preferences, you can tailor your marketing efforts to reach them and prompt them to take action.

3. Research and choose outlets.

Once you determine your goals and define your target audience, it’s time to choose an advertising outlet. There are countless channels to choose from, but these are some of the most popular:

  • Email: ​​Email is an intimate platform that allows you to connect with supporters on a personal level. Send along a newsletter informing subscribers about new fundraisers, upcoming events, or volunteer opportunities.
  • Website: Your website is likely the first place people go to learn about your mission and where long-term supporters go to give support. Provide engagement opportunities like online giving and subscription sign-ups.
  • Blog: Websites with a dedicated blog drive more traffic and provide resources about your organization. Include calls to action in each blog post to convert visitors into supporters.
  • Social Media: ​​Social media is crucial to a nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy. It allows organization to reach a variety of customers on a consistent basis. Post quick updates and calls to action.
  • Google Ads: Google Ads ensure that your campaigns reach the top of the search engine results page (SERP). The Google Ad Grants program provides $10,000 each month in free Google ad space.

We recommend using a multi-channel approach to marketing. This allows you to use a variety of strategies that work together towards a common goal.

4. Develop key performance indicators.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that organizations use to measure the progress of their defined goals. KPIs can help your team gauge progress, make informed decisions, and turn metrics into actionable insights.

KPIs measure how an ad campaign performs, so it’s important to set them up before your campaign launches. However, finding the right KPIs to track can be difficult. That’s why we’ve outlined a few top advertising KPIs to follow, using the example of digital advertising:

  • Impressions: Impressions refer to how many times your ad unit was displayed to a user. This metric is related to the top of the marketing funnel and speaks directly to brand awareness.
  • Click-through-rates (CTR): This measures how relevant your ad is to your target audience. If the CTR is low, this means the ads aren’t meeting the searcher’s intent for the target keyword.
  • Bounce Rates: A bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter the site and leave (“bounce”) rather than viewing other pages. This can help you understand the quality qualify of your website and if it’s valuable to visitors.
  • Conversion Rate: This is the number of web visitors who complete a desired goal, like make a donation or sign up for a newsletter. If your conversion rate is high, your marketing strategies are working.

These are only a few of the trackable KPIs for digital ad campaigns. It’s important to know your platforms and the types of data that each offers.

5. Create copy.

One of the last steps is content creation. It’s important to make your ad copy stand out from the rest. When creating advertising content, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Improve relevance. Posting regularly increases engagement and keeps your ads relevant. Another way to stay relevant is to use your supporter’s most popular search query keywords in your ad titles and text.
  • Showcase impact. Make your ads engaging and insightful by showing your organization’s impact. This will keep donors, volunteers, and supporters invested in your mission and encourage them to heed your calls-to-action.
  • Include calls to action. Call-to-action (CTA) buttons prompt readers to show their support and take initiative to further your mission. Keep phrases short and compelling, as in the following example: “Do you want to help children in need? Donate now.”
  • Add compelling visuals. Images, graphics, and videos can spark an emotional reaction in readers and help them to understand complex topics. Ensure that colors and fonts are consistently formatted and visuals are high quality.
  • Make the most of the ad space and characters allotted. Maximize your ad space by using the full allotment of headlines and descriptions. This will make your ads appear larger, increasing the click-through rate and number of visitors arriving to your website.

These quick, simple tricks will help your campaigns reach the right audiences and drive meaningful action. Now you’re ready to launch campaigns!

6. Launch the campaign and track progress.

After you’ve completed the steps above, it’s time to launch your ad campaigns and track progress against concrete, measurable benchmarks. Monitoring your performance is critical. It reveals what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve the effectiveness of future campaigns.

Start by accessing your campaign data and downloading reports. Focus on the KPIs that relate to your campaign goals. Then, compare multiple metrics to find where leads drop off. For example, if the conversion rate for an ad campaign is low, you may need to make the CTAs more attention-grabbing.

Through tracking results, you will gain a sense of what strategies work best to achieve your goals. This process is an effective way to manage your marketing strategies and grow your nonprofit responsibly.

Here's a list of three popular advertising ideas to inspire you.

Nonprofit Advertising Ideas: 3 Popular Options

Even after all that planning, you may still be wondering how to choose the right advertising method for your nonprofit. We’ve compiled a list of three popular advertising ideas to inspire you.

Google Ads

Google Ads allow you to advertise your mission when users search for relevant keywords. Google Ads allows you to advertise your mission when users search for relevant keywords. Paid advertisements appear on the search engine results pages corresponding to your chosen keywords on Google.

The average small business that uses Google Ads spends between $5,000 and $12,000 per month on paid search campaigns. That’s $60,000 to $150,000 of marketing expenses every year.

To make this opportunity more accessible, Google provides eligible nonprofits with a $10,000 monthly stipend to spend on paid search ads. This program is called Google Ad Grants and can be a real game-changer for your advertising efforts. While regular Google Ad accounts have to pay per ad-click, Google Ad Grant participants can publish ads for free through the program. These ads enable your nonprofit to appear on Google and get in front of more qualified prospects who are searching for topics related to your mission.

The ideal Google Ad Grant candidate has a website that effectively serves its audience and promotes its mission. By leveraging Google Ad Grants for nonprofits, your organization can accomplish the following:

  • Increase online conversions.
  • Recruit volunteers.  
  • Connect with new donors.
  • Market multiple ad campaigns at once.
  • Analyze and track your campaign performance.  

As long as your organization stays compliant with the eligibility requirements, your grant will automatically renew each month. For more information on Google Ad Grants, check out our ultimate guide to Google Ad Grants. For more tailored help, feel free to contact our team at Getting Attention.

Social Media Ads

Consider implementing social media ads in your future marketing efforts.Consider implementing social media ads in your future marketing efforts. In recent years, social media has become a popular platform to connect with donors and solicit meaningful support. The most popular social media channels include:

  • Instagram: Instagram ads appear throughout the app in users’ feeds, stories, and explore pages. They look similar to normal posts but contain a “sponsored” label. They also have more features than a normal post like links, CTA buttons, and product catalogs. Track Instagram ad performance with insights so you can adjust your strategy to improve over time.
  • Facebook: Facebook offers a range of advertising solutions. You can create and run campaigns, select a target audience, and track performance with easy-to-read reports. Facebook is great for showcasing impact and engaging in conversation with supporters.
  • Twitter: Twitter allows you to choose your target audience and amplify your message. Promoted ads reach a wider group of users. They are the perfect way to share updates and increase visibility.

When using social media to advertise, keep an eye on what’s trending and focus your messaging. Further, 56% of those who support nonprofits through social media say that compelling storytelling motivates them to make a donation. Use real stories and photos from the communities that you’ve helped and the impact you’ve had on individuals to drive the point home.

Direct Mail and Print Campaigns

Direct mail and print campaigns can benefit your marketing strategy.Although the world transitioned into a digital-dominant space, print isn’t dead. Direct mail describes the hard copy requests for funds mailed to your donors and/or prospective donors. These solicitations arrive in your supporters’ mailboxes and provide a tangible connection to your organization. According to a study, donors say that they are more likely to read a piece of direct mail from an organization than an email.

There are plenty of benefits to direct mail and print campaigns, including:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Print campaigns are highly flexible, meaning they’re budget-friendly, too. Most nonprofits can’t afford TV or radio ads. A fractional-page advertisement in the local newspaper is much cheaper.
  • Increased Action: Print is an effective way to spark meaningful action. The Nielsen Global Trust reported that 65% of print readers take some form of action after viewing a newspaper ad.
  • Targeted Audiences: Digital marketing appeals to a broad audience that can be inattentive. However, print marketing is targeted to an audience already interested in your mission. Generally, you should only mail newsletters, magazines, or event registrations to subscribed supporters.

Keep these options in mind when launching your next ad campaign!


Effective advertising can fuel your nonprofit’s impact. When you manage a Google Ad Grant with a Google Ad Grant professional like Getting Attention, we’ll make sure you have a strong digital marketing strategy. Our team of experts offers free consultations and resources to help your organization expand its reach.

Getting Attention will guide your organization through the Google Ad Grant process, including application, hygiene, reactivation, keyword research, and management. We’re here to champion your nonprofit’s digital campaigns.

If you want to learn more about nonprofit advertising and marketing, explore these additional resources:

Are you interested in a Google Ad Grant? Contact Getting Attention!