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  • Writer's pictureJake Messier

Paid vs. organic social media for nonprofits

Paid or unpaid social media ads? What strategy better serves your advertising dollar? As a nonprofit, your budget is likely relatively tight, but putting some of that money towards paid social ads will help you increase your reach, message frequency and speed-to-market. These, in turn, will boost your overall donations and increase your following.  

Social media drives 57% of traffic to fundraising pages. 29% of online donors say social media inspires them to give more than any other form of communication (email being second at 27%).  These statistics climb higher every year, so if you aren’t on the paid social train, now might be the time to hop on. 

Organic vs. Paid Reach

Organic reach refers to the amount of people who saw your post without you paying for them to see it. This comes from the people following your page and sharing your posts to their timelines. Organic marketing serves as an incredibly important place to reach out to people that already know about you and to keep the community informed and engaged. The importance of organic reach cannot be stressed enough, however you will unlikely reach too many new users this way. 

Paid reach refers to the amount of people who saw your post that you paid for. Facebook uses algorithms along with targeting data you give it to find people who would be most interested in your ad. Paid reach will likely have a much lower engagement rate than organic reach, however paid ads put you on the path of finding new users rather than continuing to post only to your current user base. It also gives you much more useful key performance indicators than traditional marketing because it allows you to see information like cost-per-acquisition, telling you exactly how much you spent to obtain that new one. 

How Much to Budget

Paid social advertising doesn’t need to be incredibly expensive. Based on a recent study by M+R Benchmark Reports, the average nonprofits spends $67 USD on social media ads to acquire a donor. According to a recent study, U.S. companies allocate about 13% of their marketing budget to social advertising, however your allocation should be based on your marketing goals. If you want to engage your current audience, unpaid advertising works perfectly and you can probably stay under that 13% marker. However, if you’re trying to find  new donors or audience members, expanding your reach through paid advertising might be a smarter option and setting that allocation slightly above 13% would probably make sense.   


Paid social ads allow you to target your audience more precisely than organic reach can. When setting up your ad, you can target geographical areas, hobbies, interests, age and any other information a user may have on their page. This allows you to only pay for views you deem important.


Message frequency and Speed-to-market

Lastly, by paying for your social advertisements, you both increase message frequency and increase your speed-to-market. Paying for ads will increase the amount of times your current supporter base sees the ad because it will show up both organically and as a paid ad. Increasing message frequency directly correlates to a higher percentage of giving. Paid ads also increase the speed at which the ad gets distributed, so if time is a factor (say you have an event in two days) then a paid ad will get the message out faster. 

Whatever your company’s goals are, finding a way to incorporate social advertising can lead to greater donations, audience members, and success for your organization. Contact us today at

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