International Non-Profit Scales Using “Brand Building” Educational Ads

11 Jan 2022
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In 2022, a leading cleft palate non-profit wanted to expand their new donor acquisition efforts. Their existing campaigns via direct mail and email were doing well, but their time to ROI was long–sometimes up to five years! They knew that Meta’s Facebook Ad platform could become a viable digital acquisition platform, but hadn’t yet run any ads.

That’s when they turned to Tier 11 to help. 

The Challenges

In 2021, our expert team dove in using our in-depth Strategic Growth Plan process. We performed an A-Z tracking review and setup on WickedReports, Facebook, and Clickfunnels, examining every element in detail from the audiences.

In our analysis, we found several issues impeding their growth, among which were:

Donor Demographics and Speed to Donation

The first challenge was the demographic makeup of their primary donors. For this non-profit, most donors are over the age of 55, which influences the length of time required to make a purchase. This demographic doesn’t make impulse donations, and so education via direct mail and email were essential to their success.

Low Up-Front Revenue

A second challenge was the fact that the average first donation size was 1/10th the cost to acquire a customer - sometimes only $10 to $25. This low amount made it difficult to scale spend on digital platforms like Facebook. 

5-Year ROI Runway

As a consequence of the low initial donation and long time to donation, their return on marketing investment was long–about 5-years. 

Time-of-Year Fluctuations

A fourth challenge was time-of-year fluctuations; this client came to us right in the middle of their annual January to June slump where spend and donations are low. July is Cleft Awareness Month which drives a steady increase in donations through to the start of January. This variability made it hard to manage revenue and ad spend.

Siloed Campaigns

Finally, this organization was like many of our clients in that they had multiple teams and agencies on board, and these groups didn’t work closely together. This caused the donor’s journey to become disjointed and less effective than it could be. 

The Ask: Balancing Spend with Acquiring Net New Donors

Because they had never run ads on Facebook (Meta) before, they weren’t sure how much they could shorten the 5-year runway to ROI, but were open to testing. We immediately got to work, establishing their account and integrating online and offline reporting for better accuracy and reporting.

Our client’s ask wasn’t an easy one: 

Balance acquiring new donors with meeting minimum revenue per month.

The media buyer on the account says of the dual ask, “If we were just doing a straight donations play, we could be bringing in donations constantly. But we need to get new donors in the door to nurture long-term.”

In our tests, what we learned was that direct-to-donation ads were expensive and didn’t work well. The media buyer says, “there was nothing super enticing about, ‘hey, why don’t you donate some money to us?’” 

So we proposed a solution we’d seen work for other brands where cold traffic wasn’t enough: brand building advertising. 

The Solution: Educational “Brand Building” Ads

The strategy to lower costs but acquire new donors was simple:

Get more people to the website through traffic ads, but serve them educational content and landing pages which educated and warmed them up before being asked to donate. 

We knew this would work for two reasons:

  • For this client, it’s easier and cheaper to get donations from those who are familiar with their mission and have done it before
  • This client was already familiar with longer-term nurturing campaigns and had resources available 

So we set out to creating ads and landing pages which nurtured potential donors before they were asked to make a purchase, such as educational landing pages, success stories, and blog posts. 

Testing Alternative Engagement Paths

But we also tried something even more interesting in the form of activities. In one test, ads were sent to a campaign to send a handmade card in lieu of money. Completing the process and sending the card not only helped further the nonprofit's mission of helping kids with cleft palates, it also got leads familiar with the charity and its work. Retargeting ads to these warm contacts have been far more effective.

Aligning Ads with other Campaign Efforts

We also talked with the client about what their other teams were doing with messaging,  and ensured that our campaigns aligned with what they were doing internally. Now, their emails and our ads have congruent messaging for a smoother user experience. 

Adding New Platforms

For most clients, Facebook advertising is just the beginning of our work together. We’ve since doubled their YT budget and begun TikTok ads to supplement their organic TikTok efforts. We also introduced them to a unique IP-based direct mail solution that will improve the effectiveness of their direct mail campaigns. 

The Results

The results from the switch to top-of-funnel traffic ads to educational content have been promising:

  • CTR increased from .5% to 7% 
  • CPC decreased from $6 to $0.24 (24 cents!)

This shift in budget and ad goals toward educational and brand-building has helped us incrementally bring down the cost per new donor. Now, we’re fine-tuning the balance of making sure we’re getting new donors and making sure we’re meeting the revenue goals while scaling up.

The Benefit For Their Big Why

At Tier 11, our mission is simple:

We help purpose-driven companies unlock their online business potential through multi-platform, full-funnel digital advertising.

This client’s big why is to provide the training, funding, and resources to empower local medical professionals in over 70 countries to give free cleft surgery and care in their communities to children who need it.  

Which means, our efforts didn’t just improve ROAS and generate more leads, customers, and revenue. Each and every new customer acquisition contributed to ensuring that no child with a cleft palate went without essential care.

At Tier 11, we’re doing more than running ads; we’re enabling great businesses to achieve their purpose, and for this client, it means being able to continue making a difference in communities around the world. 

Ready to explore how we can help your team achieve your brand’s purpose through a brand building, full-funnel marketing approach? Apply to speak with us today.

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