Nonprofits Cashing In On Social Advertising Plugs

Imagine that there is a whole host of individuals willing to support your organization’s mission, you need only find a way to reach them. That’s the magic of micro-targeting with social advertising, according to Chris Stergalas, senior online organizer for Working America; Jenny Posilkin, advertising manager forBeaconfire RED, and Elizabeth Sorrell, social media director for the National Audubon Society.

During their session, “How to Use the Power of Social Advertising to Microtarget and Move Your Audiences” at the 2017 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md., the trio discussed ways to move the needle for organizations by focusing energies in the right place and with the right group of potential supporters.

Working America, an organizations dedicated to holding corporations and politicians accountable, spent a lot of time in North Carolina in the lead up to the 2016 general election, according to Stergalas. In searching for the way to get the biggest bang for its buck with digital advertising, the focus was placed on a state Supreme Court race in which it was supporting the challenger. Using a week-long email campaign, Working America surveyed membership in the state using $10 gift cards as a carrot. Each survey had 42 questions, including some pop culture “placebo” questions. It was learned that just 20.7 percent of supporters leaned to the organization’s preferred candidate.

Working America then used the survey participants to narrow down a treatment group and bombarded them with emails. The goal, Stergalas said, was not to persuade them to support Working America’s candidate, the organization knew that the politics of the candidate and the potential supporters aligned. It was about name recognition. A week later, the supporters were re-empaneled and the support for the organization’s candidate increased to 46.7 percent all for about $1,500, Stergalas said.

A similar process was later conducted in an Ohio state Supreme Court race and support for Working America’s candidate increased by 14 points, according to Stergalas. Working America already has a lot of data on members and is able to use that information with platforms such as Facebook to create custom lists.
“What we learned is that we can’t ignore digital,” he said. “We aren’t a big-budget operation. Investing in small campaigns is where we win and we can make an impact with a few dollars.”

The National Audubon Society had a similar experience when advocating for a Washington state ballot measure that sought to combat climate change, according to Sorrell. Using polling data and targeting, the organization learned that family was important to supporters. In response, content was produced and put out via multiple platforms including Facebook focusing on a “brighter future” for both human and avian families. The ballot measure ended up failing, but outperformed early polling.

The organization has taken a similar approach and found greater success. About 40 percent of National Audubon Society members identify as conservative or moderate, Sorrell said, and efforts were made during the Republican National Convention to maintain that political diversity. Targeted ads went out in Ohio to gauge audience response. Additionally, the organization held a bird walk in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. Using geolocation within a five-mile radius of the convention site, the organization was able to garner 523 web clicks for the walk at 9 cents per click. Ultimately, 60 supporters attended the event, about 20 percent coming from the targeted content.

“We used the word ‘climate change’ in both,” Sorrell said of the Ohio testing. “We are placing very clear triggers in our ads. We don’t want to trick people in. We found that purposeful language allows audiences to self-select.”