Leveraging Facebook Ads for Obscure Charity Donations

Facebook has been taking strides to make targeting a breeze, almost a no-brainer, when using Broad Category targeting. Savvy marketers know when and how to leverage broad categories but should be keen to identify cases when to not rest on this functionality alone.

Let’s focus on targeting people who would be most likely to support charities and in the end make a donation. Targeting users who are more likely to have a deeper connection to the charity’s cause will yield tighter targeting resulting in a more successful campaign. A user deeply committed to the charity Animal Allies will be more likely to also support PETA but may not be as compelled to donate to Habitat for Humanity.

This post will examine ideas of segments to target for three hypothetical charities: a religion-focused Islamic charity with an English-speaking international focus, a national charity for transgender rights, and a local cancer charity in Cleveland, Ohio.

The goal for these ads, in addition to raising awareness, is to encourage donations, so we’ll add an age and graduation qualifier as, statistically speaking, these folks are more likely to have money. For these examples we’ll target people who are 30+ and have graduated college.

Broad Targeting


Broad Category targeting in Facebook is a great place to start casting wide nets and garnering volume. For the Cleveland cancer charity this could be their best segment – it’s got the volume and cancer is a cause just about anyone could get behind.

While Broad Targeting may work for cancer charity, it may be too general for two of the three charities in this example (the Islamic charity and Transgender Rights). For example, users who like “Catholic Charities” will be included in the “Charity/Causes” Interest group by Facebook, but may not be so keen on supporting anything Islamic or Transgender. Nonaggressive advertisers and their precious nonprofit dollars are potentially at risk for a low Facebook ad quality score (read: higher CPCs).

Against my views

Literal Targeting

From here, we’ll switch to Facebook’s Precise Interest tool.

The first and obvious place to start is by targeting literal interests translated to Interests in Facebook. Targeting the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition for a Transgender charity is like selling tennis rackets to people who list playing tennis as an Interest in Facebook.


Related Groups

Next, focus on groups with related sentiment that aren’t necessarily charities.


Pull at the heartstrings of these new folks. Those who are interested in the United Nations perhaps have a more global view than others and haven’t (yet) been incentivized enough to Like or list an actual Islamic charity on their Facebook profile. This doesn’t mean they don’t care, wouldn’t give money, or help spread the word.

Similarly, the cancer charity in Ohio could sure pull at the heartstrings of those who feel passionately towards another medical related group. Lastly, those who are Interested in Human Rights on Facebook might be likely to support transgender rights, as they sure are humans.

Continue on to identify those cancer survivors in Ohio, NoH8 groups and LGBT alliances to support Transgender Rights, as well as groups that support the controversial country comprised of mostly Muslims to support the Islamic charity.


Targeting with Figureheads

Figureheads don’t necessarily have to be the face of the cause, but rather an official or unofficial representation of the group. It’s easier to gain sympathy for an Islamic charity from people who already Like famous Muslim Americans. Marketers can add another segment of famous Muslim converts, such as Muhammad Ali or Cat Stevens, or target fans of famous Muslim athletes such as Rasheed Wallace.

Targeting the rich and famous who beat cancer is certainly a way for members of the Cleveland cancer charity to spread the word and get donations. Go further and segment this group out a bit more, by individual celebrity, then serve up an ad with the famous face and a survivor headline.

Transgendered people may be few, but there are most assuredly famous ones. Facebook users who like “Rupaul’s Drag Race” are perhaps engaged enough to give to the cause.


Raising Money With Lateral Interests

Lateral interests is where targeting can get especially creative. These often circle around pop culture and are often unplanned when we begin segment targeting in Facebook.


With these segments, really let your thought process take hold. Typing in “mosque” into Facebook’s targeting tool reminds us of the once political hot button that’s slipped into the background of mainstream media — the mosque near Ground Zero. While the issue probably isn’t so relevant as it once was, the interest still lives on users’ profiles.

Books are a great, but sometimes overlooked way to target people based on interests. In an age where reading books is becoming passé, if a user lists a book as an interest it really says something. Here is a list of powerful books in which a central character, fiction and non-fiction, is dealing with cancer personally or with a loved one.

Anti-bullying initiatives are a current hot issue, aimed at protecting youths for who they are. The transgender rights charity protects the rights of a group of people discriminated for who they are. The link may not seem obvious at first blush, but it’s there.

Facebook is not science and there are few “perfect” segments. Hopefully this post has encouraged you to dig deeper into the psyche of potential donors (or customers) and not simply rest on targeting with broad generalities. Go forth, marketer, and put as much creativity in Facebook targeting as the ads themselves.

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