First, some context: This case study is about a campaign I ran for CoMoGives, a yearly fundraiser here in Columbia, Missouri that raises money for 138 local nonprofits in 2019.

Then, a disclaimer: I did some of the initial creative on this campaign, but a lot of its basic structure was set up by someone else within my agency. Then they left, so I had to take over on strategy and optimization.

A lot of my work on this project was understanding how the campaigns were set up, and analyzing what was working and what wasn’t.

After lots of tinkering in Facebook Business Manager and reading dozens of articles and books — Let’s just say I learned a lot in a short amount of time. There was a lot that we were doing right, but a lot we did wrong.

I learned more than what is on this list, but many other articles talk about similar things. So I put the most important learnings from that campaign into this blog post.

Let’s get to it.

Personas and empathy (pain points, etc)

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own. ” – Henry Ford

This is something that, if you’re in a hurry or in an agency setting, is easy to skip.

It’s easy to start thinking about ad creative (copy, images, video ideas, etc) and also strategy (what kinds of campaigns to make and how they work together).

Before all that, you have to step into the shoes of your customers or donors. Without it, your creative and strategy will likely fail.

In my case, our campaign was only a month long and after I took it over halfway through the campaign, I didn’t think much about understanding our donors’ pain points.

Maybe I thought I didn’t need to, or maybe I was in a hurry — I’m not sure. But I should’ve known that no matter what stage of an ad campaign I’m managing, I have to treat it like I’m starting from scratch.

So pain points — This can be a little tough in the nonprofit world. I mean what are donors’ pain points? Do they even have a pain?

Yes, they do.


  • Want to be seen as a generous person
  • Are frustrated about the state of the world, so they give in order to fix it
  • Wonder: “Will my donation be put to good use?”
  • Feel like they don’t have enough money to make a difference
  • Feel like they don’t have enough time to donate
  • Don’t want to be left out if there are lots of other people donating
  • Don’t know which nonprofits to donate to (again our campaign was a fundraiser for over 100 local nonprofits)

For these pain points, there are plenty of things you can do, like:

Add social proof

This removes reluctance and adds credibility.

You can mention # of other donors, ask them to “join the movement”, include testimonials and stories, mention local leaders who are getting involved, and target friends of people who like your page (which automatically adds social proof within the ad).

Add urgency / scarcity

Say things like “not much time left”, “you’re one step closer to making an impact”, “campaign ends Dec. 31st”, etc.

Urgency is a powerful motivator (and it’s not manipulation if time really is running out).

Target People Who Already Like Your Page & Their Friends (social proof)

This is mentioned in the previous section, but worth expounding on.

When these ads show to friends of people who like your page, those page likers’ names show up in the ad (“Your friend John Smith likes CoMoGives”).

Instant credibility.

Before you spend hours thinking about your campaign structure and strategy, start here (if you already have a decent Facebook following). This is your easiest source of conversions and donations.

This is also a good audience to include in your retargeting campaigns.

Use existing posts for social proof

If you have a high-performing Facebook post, and even turn it into a Boosted Post, you can copy over that post into an ad, and keep all the engagement goodness it received (likes, comments, shares).

This is powerful because when you create a new ad from scratch, you’re starting with no engagements. It takes a few brave souls to be the first to engage with your ads, then people are more likely to engage with your ad from there.

But when you use existing posts or boosts, all the previous engagements stay with the ad, which gives your ads instant social proof.

What are you more likely to engage with: an ad with no likes, or an ad with 500 likes, 10 shares and 5 comments?

Lookalikes / Donor Lists

Lookalike audiences are, in my opinion, one of the most powerful features of Facebook advertising, and probably the most powerful tool in digital advertising right now. I fanboy a little over Facebook because they truly revolutionized the industry with this feature.

Using sophisticated machine learning algorithms, Facebook take your existing high-performing audiences (website conversions, donor lists, etc), learns from that audience, and shows your ads to people who are like your existing high-performing list (in whatever geography you want — globally, nationally, etc).

This is a superpower, y’all.

You can choose anywhere from a 1% to 10% Lookalike. This means 1–10% of the total population.

Choosing 1% is recommended to start with, as it targets people who are most like your existing list. 10% can be too broad.

Use different landing pages for different stages of your funnel

I will go into more detail about buyer / donor journeys in the next section.

But if you already have your campaigns set up to nurture customers or donors along a funnel, path or journey, you should keep in mind what landing pages will be most relevant for people in the stage they’re in.

For instance, we have Reach, Traffic and Conversion campaigns to nurture potential donors.

At the initial awareness (Reach) stage, our homepage is probably just fine. They get an overview of our fundraiser, then can navigate to other areas of the site. It’s ok if they don’t convert right away.

But Traffic and Conversion campaigns are different. They are relevant to people further down the funnel, so our landing pages need to make it easy for them to actually donate.

Think clearly about your sales funnel or buyers’ journey

There are different stages of ad funnels — awareness, consideration, and then decision. Your audience will be cold in the beginning of that funnel, then warm (and ideally hot!) towards the end.

You have to think about the best way to nurture people along that funnel.

How to do this depends on your situation, but generally a main Traffic campaign and then a retargeting campaign to give them a second touch, is a good starting place.

But it can definitely get more complex than that, and it may need to be — like having campaigns for awareness, reach, engagement, traffic, and then retargeting people who engaged with past posts, watch 25% or more of your videos, visited your website, etc.


Or you might have an information product that requires a video explaining its benefits, then a testimonial video after that, then retargeting to close the deal.

But in some cases, you only need one stage in your ad funnel — like for getting past donors to donate again, or getting your Page likers to donate.

These people already know who you are, and why you matter. They’re already warm. So one campaign targeted for Conversions might be sufficient.

Give campaigns time to learn, don’t edit too much

Whenever you make large changes to a campaign, ad set or ad, it will take a day or two for Facebook to approve it, and for your pixel to “relearn”.

If you’re in a time crunch, this can be bad.

As a workaround, you can duplicate campaigns and ad sets when making changes. That way you still have campaigns running while you’re waiting for changes to get approved. Then just turn off the old campaign.

Exclude completed conversions from retargeting

Unless you have a legit reason for showing ads multiple times to people who have already converted, make sure these people are excluded from your ads.

It will keep your costs low, your conversion rate higher, and make sure your existing converters don’t get…um, perturbed with you.

Exclude internal staff from seeing ads

Related to the previous section, this is another way to keep your costs low and performance high.

Generally Facebook charges per impression (CPM), so if your staff are seeing your ads, you are paying for it.

You can do this by creating a new Facebook Audience, and add your staff’s email addresses to it, then exclude that audience when making your ads.

Keep abandoned cart ads separate from general retargeting

That way you can tweak your budget, placements or anything else in a more effective way.

People who made a cart are very different from people who just visited your website, so you can tweak your creative to be more relevant for each retargeting audience.


Facebook ads are like Taylor Swift — you either love her or hate her. Personally, I love her (and by her I mean Facebook ads). With 2 billion active users, I think they can be a powerful force for good.

Hopefully this helps you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Again, there’s more I’ve learned recently, but didn’t have the space to include them.

So here’s a bunch of awesome articles that have helped me lately:

7 Tips to Optimize Facebook Ad Campaigns

Best Facebook Ad Hacks 2019

8 Facebook Ad Copywriting Tricks to Maximize Conversions

10 Facebook Ad Optimization Hacks for Massive Success

8 Costly Facebook Ad Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

How to Master Facebook Ad Targeting

9 Tips for Perfect Facebook Ad Design

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