The Nonprofit Guide to Facebook Retargeting

We all know what retargeting looks like in the retail world. You browse some boots on L.L. Bean’s website, and then for the next 2 weeks you’re served ads featuring those same boots every time you sign into Facebook. But retargeting isn’t just successful for retail and e-commerce sites —it can also be extremely impactful for nonprofits.

Why Should Nonprofits Use Retargeting?

Retargeting allows organizations to advertise directly to users that have already interacted with them. This interaction could have happened through visiting the organization’s website, donating, volunteering, downloading a resource, or signing up for its newsletter — to name but a few. By serving ads to people that have already expressed some interest in an organization, nonprofits can effectively continue to move those users down the funnel of engagement and drive high-impact, meaningful actions online.


How to set up Retargeting on Facebook

Before you can get started retargeting your nonprofit’s site visitors, you’ll need to install the Facebook Pixel. The Facebook Pixel allows Facebook to track site visitors so that you can retarget them later, and optimize campaign performance for important on-site actions (such as signing up for a newsletter or downloading a resource).

In order to retarget site visitors, the Facebook pixel needs to be installed on every page of an organization’s website. We recommend using Google Tag Manager to make this happen.


Retargeting on Facebook

Once the Facebook Pixel is installed, your nonprofit can begin retargeting users on Facebook by creating custom audiences. These can be groups of people your organization has contact information for, or groups of people that have visited your organization’s site in the past. To build out new custom audiences, follow the steps below:


  1. Go to Ads Manager →  Assets →  Audiences.
  2. Select Custom Audience.

  3. Choose which type of audience you want to retarget. We’d recommend using Customer File (a list of emails) or Website Traffic.

  4. If you choose Website Traffic you can now specify which site visitors you want to target your campaign to. You can target anyone who has visited your website in the past 0-180 days…

    ….you can target people that have visited high-priority pages…
    …you can even target people that have visited one page, but not another. For example, Whole Whale might target people that visited a page with a downloadable resource, but never actually reached the confirmation page that indicates they downloaded that resource.

    There are countless combinations of users you can choose from based on time on site, pages visited, and pages not visited. Play around to find the perfect audience for your organization’s campaign.
  5. If you choose Customer File, you will need to choose between importing a CSV of customer data or connecting Facebook directly to your email marketing service or CRM. We’d recommend connecting Facebook directly to avoid having to continually update the audience as your lists and contacts grow and change.

  6. Once you’ve created your audience of contacts or site visitors, you’re ready to start advertising to them! While choosing settings at the ad set level, simply choose the audience you just created from the Custom Audience menu.

Facebook Retargeting Ideas for Nonprofits

Facebook’s retargeting option can be extremely successful for engaging and reengaging the people that are most likely to support your organization. To get you started, the retargeting option can be used to do any of the following:



Acquire New Donors

Creating a custom audience of people that have visited an organization’s donation page in the past 30 days and serving them ads with a donation ask is a great way to remind potential donors of their interest in your organization, and ultimately convert them into donors.

Note that you’ll want to either upload a list of actual donors to exclude them from this campaign. Alternately, you can exclude visitors to your donation ‘thank you’ page from the audience. This will keep ads from being served to people that have completed the giving process.


Convince Past Donors to Give Again

While you might want to exclude past donors from giving appeal campaigns, you don’t want to ignore them altogether. Retargeting can be used to ask past donors to give again.

Targeting people that have donated in the past also allows organization to write personal and specific ad copy. For example, this allows organization to include language like “renew your gift” or ad copy that highlights what the past donation was able to accomplish for the cause: “Your last gift put new books in 10 classrooms.” Retargeting gives your nonprofit the advantage of knowing exactly who you’re talking to, so take advantage!

You can even take this a step further and segment by donation amount so copy can be tailored to the size and impact of gifts. For example, you can target major donors, repeat donors, or small-gift donors separately with tailored copy, creative, and asks for each.

Note that timing is important for this type of campaign. If someone just donated last week, or even in the past 6 months, it’s probably too soon to hit them up for more cash.


Deepen Awareness or Continue Learning

Use site traffic retargeting to move users further down your nonprofit’s funnel of engagement — from awareness to engagement or engagement to action.

For example, Whole Whale might retarget people that have visited our article on How to Apply for the Google AdWords Grant with a campaign for our Whole Whale University course on AdWords for Nonprofits. Because we’re specifically reaching people that have expressed interested in applying for the grant, we know that these are top candidates for our online course.

Alternately, Greater Than AIDS might serve ads to people that have recently visited a resource on their site containing HIV testing information. These ads could focus on directing those users to nearby HIV testing locations.


Grow an Email List

People that are familiar with your organization are more likely to sign up for your nonprofit’s email newsletter than someone who is only just learning that you exist. Retargeting site visitors with an email acquisition campaign can maximize your chances of converting people into subscribers.

To use the example from above, Whole Whale might run an email acquisition campaign using our social media guide as a downloadable giveaway. By targeting this campaign at users that have visited our social media guide download page or any of our other social media resources pages — but who are not yet on our email list — we can be sure that we’re targeting people who are interested in social media resources and not already receiving our emails.


Just About Anything Else

The beauty of retargeting is that it can help to ensure that your organization is reaching humans already aware of your nonprofit’s existence. Because these folks have had some level of interaction with your organization before, they are better candidates than perfect strangers when it comes to driving meaningful online interactions. As you become retargeting pros, you can also consider the following:

  • Acquiring (or re-engaging) volunteers
  • Driving event registrations
  • Promoting new content
  • Getting survey submissions
  • Driving petition signatures

Have you made Facebook Retargeting work for you?
Share your success story with us on Twitter using the hashtag #WhaledIt!