Should Fundraisers Invest In Paid Social Advertising To Drive Peer-To-Peer Recruitment?

The pandemic has taken a huge bite out of the revenue generated by alternative peer-to-peer fundraising programs since the outbreak forced “in real life” walks, rides and other mass participation events to be canceled this spring.  

In spite of the widespread budget cutting this caused, insightful program leaders realize they must invest in fundraising initiatives if they are going to once again capture the hearts — and wallets — of supporters.

And many are.

In fact, 43 percent of America’s 30 largest P2P programs (based on 2019 revenue) invested in paid social advertising on Facebook and/or Instagram to recruit participants between March and August, according to new research by the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum and marketing agency for social good Craft & Commerce.

Although advertising is often considered to be a “luxury” only open to the very largest organizations with the biggest budgets, the research found advertising running for events at the top and bottom of the top 30 ranking. 

The 12 groups that paid to spread the word even during this very challenging time included:

  • American Heart Association (#2 in the top 30 ranking with 2019 revenue for the Heart Walk of $132 million)
  • Alzheimer’s Association (3)
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (4 & 21)
  • American Cancer Society (8)
  • JDRF (9)
  • March of Dimes (10)
  • ALS Association (17)
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (18)
  • Autism Speaks (25)
  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (27)
  • Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (29)
  • ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (30 with 2019 revenue for its Walk/Run To End Childhood Cancer of $14 million.)

Frankly this was more activity than the researchers expected to see.  It led them to believe that a significant number of programs beyond the top 30 will attempt to make wise investments in engaging supporters via paid social media activity in the months to come.

How to work smart in this area? We turned to Craft & Commerce’s VP of Partnerships & Strategy Carli Feinstein for insight into factors peer-to-peer fundraisers should consider to effectively use paid social media advertising as part of their recruitment strategies.  

Feinstein offered the following advice:

Paid Social Advertising: The Basics

Advertising dollars can help propel your organization’s message far and wide, or deep and narrow. Advertising via social media delivers your message to:

  • A greater percentage of your existing network (Your organic social content only reaches a portion of your audience. Paid can amplify your message amongst your network)
  • A segment of your existing following (allowing you to personalize a message to a subset of your audience)
  • New audiences who don’t yet follow your account (Drive awareness amongst new audiences, acquire them to join your network) 

Building Your Peer-to-Peer Recruitment Paid Social Advertising Campaign 

Establish your objective, and select the most appropriate ad type: Social networks’ advertising platforms offer a variety of campaign types to achieve marketer’s varied objectives including consideration objectives (e.g. driving traffic to your event registration page) or a conversion objective (e.g. complete a registration form). 

Define your audience: For the most “bang for your buck,” the audience you target for a peer-to-peer recruitment campaign should consist of existing followers and supporters – the people who are more likely to step up to the plate and fundraise on your behalf, rather than someone who has yet to be aware of or engage with your cause.

To build this audience, consider your:

  • Social following
  • Social users who have engaged with your page and posts
  • Email lists such as donor lists, past fundraisers
  • Website visitors. You can work with your digital development team to set up re-marketing pixels on your website and re-market to your website visitors. 

Craft and tailor messaging to build community: Most organizations we analyzed were running paid social advertising nationally, rallying supporters to join a larger virtual movement.

As the Peer-To-Peer Professional Forum has reported, virtual events have broadened the geographic range of participation.

Even still, we did see some compelling instances of localized messaging, calling out particular cities/neighborhoods to show up in support of the cause. Paid social advertising can be delivered to a specific geographic subsets of your audience for a more personalized, tailored approach. We also witnessed some advertising deployed at the chapter level. 

Remember, paid social advertising is just one tool in your advertising toolbox. 

In addition to the paid social advertising activity, we saw P2P advertising live across other media including local print, digital display, and TV advertising over the past few months.

Paid social advertising is a great place to start because of its flexibility, low barriers to entry, and real-time measurement, but it need not be the only channel in your mix. 

And one tactic in your constituent engagement strategy. 

Consider paid social advertising as an acquisition tool at the top of the funnel.

Advertising can drive audiences over to a registration page.

But did they register? Once registered, did they fundraise?

The success of this tactic should be measured in terms of the ultimate value of their fundraising efforts.

In order to move a prospective participant through the entire journey, your organization needs a thoughtful fundraiser onboarding and cultivation strategy as well as digital tracking to measure user activity from ad engagement through the rest of the journey.

Then, over time, you will be equipped to evaluate which channels and tactics recruited the most lucrative supporters and either validate or scrap future investments in advertising. 


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