Should I Run My Nonprofit Ads as a CPA Campaign?

May 25, 2020 by Shelley Rees

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How to Use Your Budget for Nonprofit Ads Wisely

To make the most of their budget for nonprofit ads, a lot of advocacy organizations will look for ways to increase their membership or put public pressure on legislators. The best way to accomplish both of these goals may be through a CPA campaign. CPA stands for cost per acquisition, which means that the campaign is priced out based on the cost for each name you acquire, often via a petition campaign. Petitions can show widespread support for a specific issue to a legislator, or help an organization grow their membership and action taker base. 

Should I Use a CPA Campaign for My Nonprofit Ads?

When deciding whether or not to pursue a CPA campaign, there are a few questions to ask yourself. First of all, you should look at your nonprofit ads budget to make sure it’s a thoughtful use of your money and time. If you’re trying to put together a CPA campaign a few weeks out from an election, you may not see the return you are hoping for as it typically takes several weeks of running ads to get a good result. Starting a CPA campaign early will get you the best results. 

You will also need to make sure you have the capacity to follow up with your supporters. You may be able to add 5,000 new supporters to your list, but it won’t be any good if you don’t have the ability to communicate with them in a timely manner. This usually includes a welcome message within a week of adding names to your list, as well as follow-up emails at a regular interval to make sure they stay on your list 

Unlike traditional digital advertising, a CPA campaign adds people to your list by having them take an action on your behalf. This means that people added to your list in this way are more likely to play an active role in your campaign than those who simply clicked on an online ad. Because these supporters are more valuable, the cost for a CPA campaign is often higher than other forms of list building. However, the fact that these people have proactively opted into your campaign means the cost is often worth the return on investment.

Platforms for CPA Nonprofit Ads

Once you’ve decided to move forward with running a CPA campaign, there are several places you can run those nonprofit ads online. Below are the most commonly used options—petition platforms and social media.

Petition Platforms

The main reasons advocacy organizations turn to petition platforms to run a CPA campaign is they can provide a fixed cost per name and a guaranteed number of signers. One platform that we’ve had a lot of success with is Care2, which tends to have more inventory than other platforms.

In addition to guaranteeing the number of names you’ll get at a fixed price, they can also help you get people to take other actions. One way they do this is through a custom Next Action Page (cNAP) where you can ask people who signed your petition to take another action like donating. In most cases, they can even pre-populate the signer’s info like their name and email into the donation form to make that process easier. They can also provide a custom Facebook audience of anyone who signs on so you can immediately retarget people with Facebook ads. Generally speaking, digital ad campaigns require multiple interactions with your audience before they take an action, so the custom Facebook audience makes it easier for you to send ads to people who have already signed your petition asking them to take that additional action.

As with many digital campaigns, the more granular your targeting, the more restricted your options are. It’s in your best interest to keep an open mind on your geographic targeting and try to find ways to expand your audience parameters. 

Social Media Options

The most economical and scalable option is to use Facebook to run conversion ads. This is outside of the traditional CPA model as there is no guarantee on the number of people who will sign on and there is not a fixed cost per name. The benefits of using Facebook include a lack of minimum spends, the ability to run ads in smaller geographic areas, and the option to run more creative simultaneously to test what works best. 

While people who sign onto your list via Care2 will do so through Care2’s website, those who sign up on Facebook will be directed to your own landing page. To run a conversions campaign on Facebook, you will need to place a Facebook pixel in an element that appears on every page of your site (like a header or footer) as well as on the form completion trigger. You should also consider placing Google Analytics pixels to gather demographic data on the people who visit your website that could expand on the information that Facebook will provide you about your audience.

Other Ideas

There are some other options to gather names, they tend to be better for lead acquisition than petition signers, though. You could use an email acquisition interstitial ad, which is a type of programmatic ad to grow your membership base. These ads allow people to sign up for your email list within a digital banner ad. They’re easy for signers to use but they can lack some of the credibility you get through Care2 or running ads through your organization’s Facebook page.

What Should I do With My New Member List?

Once your CPA campaign is live, you need to have a plan to engage with the people who sign up and manage your new member list. No matter what, you should expect some list churn—it’s just part of the process of managing a supporter list. That said, if you don’t do anything to reach out to these new members, very few of them will remain interested in your organization or campaign. There are a host of things you can do, both short-, and long-term, that will keep your newly acquired supporters active and engaged.

Timely Welcome Emails

The key word here is “timely.” Most CPA campaigns that we have worked on receive new supporter deliveries once a week. You should be sending your welcome emails at that pace as well. The longer you wait to welcome people to your list, the more likely it is that they’ll have forgotten they signed up in the first place.

Let them know how they came to be on your list, why it’s important, and what they can do to help moving forward.

Cut to the Chase

Your emails should not be tomes. Keep the word count under 250 (extra points for keeping it under 150 words).

Provide an Action

The supporters you have gained from your CPA campaign come from a pool of self-selected Internet dwellers who are generally more likely to take action—let them do what they love. There’s a fine line here though, as you don’t want to clog their inbox (or the email itself) with asks. Your email program and the accompanying actions should be planned in advance and should create a sense that your emails are important and deserve to be opened.

Create Sender Trust 

The person sending and signing these emails is important. You don’t have to send every email from the president of your non-profit. Instead, you should think carefully about who is communicating with your list and how you can cultivate a voice for that sender.

Make a Plan!

All of the above will be much easier if you write out a basic plan for your email program, including a calendar for your emails and actions. Obviously, this will be a fluid document that accounts for unforeseen news events and anything else that comes up. But having a basic roadmap will dramatically increase the viability and success of your post-CPA list.

I’d also recommend making sure that all the names that go into your database from your cost per acquisition campaign are tagged so that you can track them and analyze their performance in the long-term.  Some of our clients have found that supporters who were acquired through a cost per acquisition campaign tend to drop-off the list at a higher rate than people who join through other methods, but the CPA-acquired people who stay are also a lot more likely to complete an action.  That’s valuable information when it comes to your investment and your list performance.

CPA campaigns are a great way to reach people who are invested in your issue that you might not otherwise have connections to. Make sure you plan them out as far in advance as you can so you have enough time to choose the right platform for you, gather new names, and engage with those new members promptly. Done well, these nonprofit ads are a powerful way to expand your reach and mobilize people to complete actions on your behalf.   

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