October 7, 2022

Smart online campaigns can be the future of NGOs in CEE


Recession fears, inflation, and foreign exchange losses – some of the society’s current fears that will do nothing good for NGOs who are highly dependent on donations.

Most countries offer tax deduction options for people who donate part of their income to charities or NGOs – or at least there is a small part of our tax that we can redirect to these organizations. Taking Hungary as an example, every adult can redirect 1% of their tax to charities and NGOs, while companies can have tax deductions after donations towards the same organizations.

However today most NGOs make up their living from two types of donations:

  • • One time donations that are yearly tax redirections or one-off donations by companies
  • • Recurring donations that work like a subscription model, where donors provide a smaller amount of monthly donations that can be collected from their bank accounts just like a Netflix subscription fee.

As NGOs must follow strict financial planning and be transparent about how they use their resources, the second option gains more and more importance. Having 2000 subscription-based donors who offer 10 EUR / month is 240,000 EUR / year which would be a significant part of the yearly budget for most organizations. Yet it is not impossible to collect a few thousand regular donors, but it is not always an easy thing to achieve.

NGOs and charities differ in brand recognition and cause, we all know there are topics that open wallets more easily than others. So what’s next if we are not the most well-known organization having multinationals on the donor list?

There are two factors of this formula, one is getting relevant and quality traffic to your website or app, while the other is offering attractive ways of donation to your visitors. We’ll now focus on the first one.

Disclaimer: Certainly there is a funnel strategy that the organization should build; some people will need more info on the causes and the right reasons to choose an organization to donate to, while others are ready to enter their credit card info right on the landing page. Creating a full-funnel strategy is beyond the scope of the current article but can be done by any CEEDA agency.

Look for free or discounted media and ads

Google’s Ad Grants program is an opportunity that should not be missed. This is basically a free way to run search ads with limitations, available for select, qualified nonprofits. The program is often criticized among Ad operations specialists and PPC campaign managers as the limitations you bear in an Ad Grants account usually make it quite impossible to scale up a campaign. Advertisers can run ads up to a theoretical maximum of USD 10,000 / month, but in many cases, this is quite hard to reach. There are limitations on keywords, the topic and content of your page, your bids (that is crucial!), and your keyword matching options. The message is that you need somebody with the expertise to max out this opportunity, but it should not be left off the table.

You’ll also need a separate Google Ads account to run your display campaigns, video ads, and your search ads that don’t fit in your Grants account. If you do it right, this can also help build up some quality traffic volume and can scale up your Grants ads through brand&cause recognition.

Talking about other options, many media houses offer free or highly discounted ad spaces for nonprofits. These are sometimes handled directly by a media owner, but in many cases, they can be inquired at the sales house of the website/portal/media company.

I’d recommend going hard, even sales houses and big ad networks offer their “unsold inventory” to charities in full or in part. Pros might say this won’t be the best targeting. Right, however, it is  basically free reach to put an NGO on the screens. We experience that all these possibilities used in synergy could lead to significant awareness of your beloved nonprofit topic or cause.

Buy cheap video views

YouTube, Facebook video and TikTok are also there  for NGOs, charities and nonprofits in general. Yes, you have to pay for the ads, but they are relatively cheap compared to any non-digital asset and their targeting is far more advanced than to non-digital platforms. YouTube will  provide an excellent platform to raise awareness and put your timed promotions or tax deadlines in the spotlight. Facebook will do more or less the same and you can combine video ads and lead ads to build an NGO’s most valuable asset: a list of potential donors.

Feeling strange about TikTok? 2022 experiences show that NGO ads are not discarded nor ridiculed or mocked by TikTok users. Even if you have to go for  a target demographic that is excluding the youngest users, there is space for good causes to support and there is a social responsibility to educate young users on thinking consciously about their taxes and the habit of donating when they find it feasible. In the case of TikTok, having a channel-specific creative might be the right way to do this. If you have never done this: TikTok still offers relatively cheap ad prices these days in CEE, providing extensive ad reach for pennies and dimes in your target group.

Combine database building strategies

We all know privacy is key in 2023 strategies, but bear in mind:

  • similar audiences work well in finding supporters
  • Lead ads can help convert charity shoppers and impulse donors that later turn to regular donors if we have a holistic approach of offering ways to donate
  • public events and offline reach (that is what you do in the real world) can be turned into a valuable database of potential supporters, and people tend to offer one-time donations on events instead of signing up for a regular commitment. These prospects reached later with the use of custom audiences or simply having a smart, automated CRM email campaign are the best source of recurring donors.

Go creative, don’t be shy

Flat animations and educational cartoons might not work very well in the future anymore. But we see that acting for charities is becoming very common even among the biggest stars, being musicians, actors or celebrities. And we are not talking about hyperlocal wannabe celebs having a few thousand followers; we are talking about nationally recognised superstars. Why not go for something huge? If you have a good cause and the lingo is catchy, it is likely that there will be celebrity supporters who will work amazing in your video ads.

Find the right partner in the digital world

This is not a place to do sales for CEEDA agencies as many of us support NGOs by working with them for free. Still, it is crucial to have a digital-ready in-house team or have the right partner to navigate through the possibilities in creative, ads, web content and measurement. Best of luck and don’t forget to feed the full funnel!

Author Balazs Gandera is CEO @ INTREN, INTREN is a CEEDA founding member agency.
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Source: donation panel on batortabor.org

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