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How to Increase Online Donations with Retargeting Ads

Have you ever seen an ad for something you were recently shopping for online? This common experience in today’s world has a name: retargeting. To put it simply, retargeting is a digital advertising strategy that shows ads to people who recently visited your website. For the nonprofit sector, retargeting ads can be a key marketing tactic that helps boost fundraising. Increasing online donations with retargeting ads has proven to be an effective practice.

In fact, research shows that retargeted ads are 70% more effective than standard display advertisements. Retargeted ads remind your prospective supporters of a page they’ve already seen and perhaps expressed interest in. By having that reminder front and center for your nonprofit, you’re more likely to have users revisit your website, register for an event, or make a donation.

Here’s an in-depth look at retargeting campaigns for nonprofits and how they can help.

Types and uses of retargeting ad campaigns

While the general idea is the same, retargeting campaigns can be effective for different purposes. There are several reasons to regain users’ attention and several ways to actually do so. For nonprofits, here are a few different campaign strategy options to make the most of retargeted ads.

Event reminders

Looking to drive attendance for your next fundraiser? A retargeting campaign is a great way to remind those who indicated some interest to actually register for your event. 

For example, let’s say a potential event attendee visits your event’s landing page and sees the event information. Perhaps this person wants to double check Google Calendar before registering or is just about to head into a meeting. The person leaves the landing page, but a retargeting campaign was set up for anyone who left before completing the registration. 

When that person scrolls through Facebook later that evening, a retargeted ad comes up for your event. Seeing the ad might trigger a reminder to check Google Calendar this time. And, with the right call to action, that retargeted ad inspires the person to fill out the registration form. Nonprofits can use this strategy to drive attendance to any type of in-person or virtual event, from galas to golf outings.

Abandoned donations

Many businesses take advantage of retargeting ads to convert online shoppers. Have you ever added some items to your online shopping cart but decided to just exit the site? If so, it’s likely that you received an email later on with the subject line, “We noticed you left something in your cart!” It’s also likely that an ad for those exact same items appeared the very next day in your Instagram feed.

While abandoned cart campaigns are common in the for-profit world, that doesn’t mean nonprofits aren’t able to take advantage of the same strategy for donations. Consider targeting those who left your website’s donation page without actually making a donation. This type of campaign is extremely successful because you’re targeting people you know were already thinking about making a donation. These ads serve as helpful reminders to come back. 

Online donation page from retargeted ad example

However, unlike the for-profit world, nonprofits should take extra care when trying this type of retargeting campaign. A message that says, “Remember that time you almost donated money to us?” is far from ideal. The last thing you want to do is make the strategy obvious and come across as greedy or too aggressive. 

Instead, consider the possible reasons why someone might have left your donation page. Perhaps that person didn’t know enough about your cause. In that case, an ad featuring a compelling success story or highlighting one of your programs can be effective. Keep your ad copy positive and gracious with this type of campaign.

Email mapping

While several types of retargeting campaigns depend on previous website visitors, email mapping is different. An email mapping campaign enables you to reach your subscribers (and unsubscribers!) with display ads, regardless of if those prospects visited your website. 

A nonprofit organization might use email mapping to send special messaging to specific types of donors or segmented volunteer lists. In general, email mapping can also be used to support your regular email campaigns. With the open rates hovering around 20%, this is a great way to reach the 80% who never opened your email. Typically, it’s best to have a specific message or offer when it comes to email mapping campaigns. 


Geofencing campaigns are all about location. For nonprofits, this campaign type is a unique way to get your cause in front of an audience in a particular area. Maybe your organization needs local volunteers for an upcoming project or is hosting a fundraising event in another city. With geofencing, you can reach an ideal audience you might otherwise miss. Geofencing can send ads to hyper-specific areas like office buildings, churches, country clubs, restaurants, high-income neighborhoods, and more.

Geofencing campaigns tend to work best as awareness builders, so be sure to keep your goals realistic. While user interest is already registered with donation abandonment campaigns, it’s not the case with geofencing. These users might not have any previous knowledge of your work and mission. Consider following up with another type of retargeting ad campaign.

How retargeting ad campaigns helped some nonprofits

Although it’s clear that retargeting campaigns have distinct benefits for nonprofits, capacity is often an inhibitor for launching new projects. Luckily, outsourcing can save organizations a lot of time and energy. Feathr is a marketing platform that assists nonprofits with retargeting efforts, among other types of digital marketing. Take a look at the following case studies to see how two specific organizations, large and small, benefited from retargeting ad campaigns.

International Justice Mission Case Study

IJM is an international organization that seeks to combat human rights issues throughout the developing world. In 2020, IJM wanted to increase donations for their year-end campaign to raise funds for global causes. Of course, the challenge was that the pandemic brought on a lot of economic uncertainty. 

To help reach their fundraising goals, IJM chose to work with Feathr and launch a multi-channel campaign. They implemented some general retargeting ads as well as email mapping and a search keyword campaign. The total ad spend for the campaign was about $7,000.

IJM retargeting ad example

In just 7 weeks, IJM’s efforts paid off. The campaigns with Feathr raised $109,500, the highest amount the organization ever raised during the year-end giving season. Even with the pandemic, IJM used an effective approach to boost their fundraising efforts. 

Humane Society of North Central Florida Case Study

The Humane Society of North Central Florida is another organization that put retargeting campaigns into practice. HSNCF works to help homeless pets in the North Central Florida area, and the staff wanted their cause to stand out during an online community giving day. Almost 100 other nonprofits were set to participate, leading to some implicit competition in gaining donations.

HSNCF used Feathr to help engage previous donors and maximize donations. The organization implemented two campaigns: one to target website visitors and one to target an email list made up of donors who made donations within the last three years. The total ad spend was around $300.

HSNCF retargeting ad example

After the online community giving day, HSNCF ended up with $5,590 in donations. The return on ad spend was 1,983%. Thanks to the success of their Feathr campaigns, HSNCF now offers retargeting campaigns to its sponsors as part of its event sponsorship packages.

Final thoughts on retargeting ad campaigns

When it comes to increasing online donations with retargeting ads, nonprofits can see great results. Retargeting is an effective way to build awareness, engage supporters, and drive impact for your cause. If you want to start boosting your organization’s fundraising and marketing efforts, check out Feathr’s solutions for nonprofits. A nonprofit specialist can give you a demo and help explore your needs while showing you more real-world examples from other nonprofits. Let retargeting ad campaigns help promote your mission so you can focus on doing more good.


*This spotlighted blog post is courtesy of Feathr

The post How to Increase Online Donations with Retargeting Ads appeared first on Nonprofit Hub.

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