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Nonprofit Advertising: A Guide to Different Approaches and Examples

Author: Sayana Izmailova
February 25, 2020
🕑 9 min read

This is a guest post from Daniella Alscher, Content Marketing Associate at G2.

If you’re working passionately for a cause, you know how heartbreaking it can feel to realize that you don’t always have the budget to make your nonprofit seen by the world.

Billions of dollars are spent every year to design larger-than-life billboards and gorgeous commercials for products and services — a luxury that most nonprofits, especially local ones, can’t afford.

Plus, advertising a cause is a different ballgame than advertising a product or service, because the exchange between donor and nonprofit isn’t tangible.

But don’t worry: we’ve found some examples of nonprofit advertising to inspire you without breaking the bank!

5 Unique Nonprofit Advertising Approaches You Can Explore

It’s not always easy to know how to get started beyond traditional marketing tactics without spending a whopping amount of money.

However, with the growth of online advertising, it’s a lot easier to find ways that you can spread the word within your community that aren’t ridiculously expensive.

Here are a few examples that can help you get started.

1. Go Social

While your nonprofit marketing strategy likely involves having a presence on social media, it isn’t often effective unless you have an enormous amount of followers who are constantly sharing your content.

Instead, putting a little money to the side with the intent of investing it in social media advertisements can boost awareness of your cause. How? Platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook all have incredibly detailed options when it comes to targeting the audience you want seeing your content.

Girls Who Code

In this example from Girls Who Code, their Instagram ad is targetable, so only those in a specific audience are exposed to the advertisement. By providing a button to donate directly on the ad, the user experience is improved, making it easier than ever for people to donate.

By thinking critically about who it is you want to know about your organization, social media advertising could cost a lot less than you may think.

2. Just Google It

Google for Nonprofits is a free resource hub for qualified nonprofit organizations to enable communication, fundraising, network, and advertise more effectively.

One of the most popular offerings that this program provides is Google Ad Grants. Google Ad Grants allow nonprofits to compete for paid search terms without the cost.

nonprofit advertising on google

In the example above, you can see that there are several nonprofits bidding for the keyword “educational charity”. If anyone searches for this term, their ads will appear, meaning that potential donors who are searching for educational charities will see their ads.

And what can you get through this grant? Google Ad Grants includes $10,000 per month of in-kind advertising dollars to spend on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, as well as full access to Google Adwords.

There are some limitations for Google Ad Grants, including the prohibition of buying branded keywords that the nonprofit doesn’t own and ensuring that your nonprofit account includes geotargeting. But if you consider these limitations in light of advertising at no cost to your nonprofit, they’re miniscule.

To be considered for Google Ad Grants, nonprofits must have a Google Ads account, a Google nonprofit account, and the customer ID from your Google Ads account. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can start spreading awareness!

Read More: The Top 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Google Ad Grants

3. Share It With Friends

The world’s most popular social media platform has made it easy for nonprofit organizations to create online fundraisers. If your nonprofit has a presence on Facebook, it might be time to look into fundraising right on the site.

Some of the ways Facebook supports raising money for nonprofits are via the ability of individual profiles choosing a cause to ask others to donate to on any occasion, as well as providing select nonprofits with the opportunity to include a “Donate Now” call-to-action button on their page as well as their posts.


For some, it’s difficult to know exactly how to donate or where to go to do so. The more options you provide your supporters with, the more likely they’ll take action. In the example above, WWF created a Facebook Fundraiser to capitalize on the urgency felt by many people around the Australian bushfires (save the koalas!). Because so many people were already aware of the cause, it was a great way to meet them where they already were online.

Want to be eligible for a Facebook Fundraiser of your own? The guidelines for Facebook Fundraisers are ever-changing, so be sure to check up on the various offerings they provide as time goes on. In order to qualify for Facebook fundraising in the U.S., your organization needs to be a registered 501(c)(3) and follow Facebook’s terms and conditions.

4. Send That Email

The word invest can be followed by “money”, but it can also be followed by “time and effort”. With email marketing, the latter is often more true than the former in terms of what needs to be invested in order to be effective.

Email marketing software can help marketers, for and nonprofit, send messages to a group of individuals and track their effectiveness. While some software options do require monetary investment, creativity and craft can make up for what’s lost, by far.

Nonprofits should leverage email marketing by creating and testing powerful subject lines that convince readers to open your message. Without a working subject line, readers won’t have the chance to make a donation.


A fundraising newsletter like this one from Unicef uses strong language, powerful imagery, and gives a clear call to action for the subscriber, making it easy to donate to the cause they care about.

Within your own message, be sure to take the time to craft some copy that is both concise and compelling, getting the point across quickly and effectively.

Finally, don’t forget to tell your story. Whether that’s through quotes from those who have been affected by your cause, photography, or elegant copy, storytelling is an enormous part of nonprofit advertising, and trying your hand at nonprofit email marketing is another way to share that story.

5. Share the Love

When for-profit companies try to create viral content on purpose, it doesn’t always go well. Jokes can flop, messages can get muddled.

But with nonprofits, you have a real story to share. It’s not built around a product or a service. It’s happening in real life, sometimes in your audiences’ backyard. Because these stories are so real, they’re often relatable. And because they’re relatable, they’re sharable.

Consider promoting user-generated content as well. Getting people and their peers involved and interested is another way to raise awareness for your cause — especially for causes that have a lot of emotional impact, like the #NoMakeupSelfie campaign shown below.

Cancer Research UK

This doesn’t mean that any message a nonprofit writes is immediately one with a cause to go viral. Nonprofit storytelling is an art and a science, and it takes a creative and intelligent group of people to know how to tell it in a way that is both truthful and emotional.

Read More: 15 Brilliant Ways to Grow Your Nonprofit with Word of Mouth Marketing

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4 Examples of Effective Nonprofit Advertising

It’s not often that you see them, but when you do, nonprofit advertisements have proven powerful. Here are four examples from large nonprofits to inspire you — and a takeaway for each one that you can use even if you don’t have their budget.

1. Charity:Water

We’ve all heard of Charity:Water, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring clean water to people in developing countries. Although many people think of a lack of drinking water, their campaign aimed to show that the ramifications of a lack of water extend far beyond that by presenting common foods that need water to cook.


The image is clean and uses simple, everyday imagery, which makes it even more effective since the viewer can easily imagine how much their own lives would be changed if they were unable to prepare a simple meal.


Creating an advertisement that relates your cause back to the viewers’ everyday life can help strengthen its message. Even if you’re trying to solve global problems, sharing stories that relate to small moments instead can make viewers put themselves in the shoes of the community you’re helping more easily.

2. Catalyst

Catalyst aims to make the workplace a better and more equal place for women. To that end, they launched a series of ads for International Women’s Day that shared words that are frequently used to describe women negatively and swapped them out for words that didn’t include any gender bias.


But the really unique part of this campaign?

To accompany it, they created a Slack plugin that would identify unconscious bias in messages sent through the platform. Since so many companies use Slack, it was a great way to get in front of their target audience and educate people at the same time.

catalyst slack plugin


Making your cause visible within the spaces that your target audience resides — whether online or offline — is the best way to raise awareness for it. There’s no need to restrict yourself to traditional billboards anymore!

3. Love Has No Labels

In today’s world, acceptance is sometimes hard to come by. Love Has No Labels is a nonprofit that works to promote the inclusion of all people, regardless of their race, sex, gender, ability, or age.

To promote their movement, they released a heartwarming campaign that went viral, depicting a mystery duo behind an enormous x-ray machine. Viewers are only able to see the people as two nearly-identical skeletons. It’s not until those two people step out from behind that viewers are able to see how different they look on the outside, reminding us that it’s the inside that really matters.

Love has no labels

Their video was viewed over 160 million times, making it the 2nd most viewed video of 2015, and it drove more than 2.7 million visits to their homepage.

But they didn’t stop there. They also included a quiz that video watchers could take in order to uncover their own implicit biases, as well as additional content they could then use to learn how to overcome them.


Although driving greater awareness is great, it’s key to tie those campaign views to a concrete action. Make sure people who see your ads have a specific next step to take, whether it’s reading a blog to learn more about the issue or subscribing to your newsletter, so that you can really capitalize on their interest to build a closer relationship with them.

4. Movember

With almost two decades under their belt, Movember is a one-month long, annual occasion in which men grow out their mustaches to raise awareness about men’s health issues.

What began as a simple concept has now brought on several million participants and raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund men’s health projects around the world. The Movember Foundation provides a variety of resources to help anyone raise awareness about the cause, is prominent on social media, and even hosts their own Movember events.

Their advertising is designed to raise awareness about prostate cancer in a fun, irreverent way — making a very heavy topic easier to talk about.

This video in particular was aimed at sharing how important donations have been to their organization over the years.

“If you look at the creative journey that we’ve created over the years, last year was the first time that we shifted our messaging, giving it a sense of urgency for sure, but reminding people of the impact that those dollars make and have made,” said Kevin Edwards, CMO at Movember Foundation. 

The shareable aspect of these campaigns contributed to their success, as many other brands picked up their messaging and developed campaigns around it as well. Just take a look at this t-shirt Adidas created to spread the word:



Finding other organizations that you can partner with to spread the word can also help spread the budget! If you can find a way to work together with another organization who shares your values, whether they’re another nonprofit in your area or a brand who supports your cause, you can extend your reach to a new demographic while still spending less.

While corporations are constantly competing for their moment in the spotlight, it’s actually the nonprofits who are promoting something that truly matters.

While it’s not always easy to find the money to create an advertisement, sometimes starting with the help from others on platforms like Google or Facebook are the key to raising enough to begin to make an impact larger than life!

Daniella AlscherDaniella Alscher is a Content Marketing Associate for G2. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s listening to true crime podcasts or sitting on the couch. Or both.


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