It’s the Giving Season, Are You Ready?

Simple strategies for a very happy (and donation-filled) holiday

By Calla Murphy

Science confirms it: People who give money to others are happier. Regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status, giving just makes you feel good. And last year Americans opened their wallets and hearts wide, breaking all records for Giving Tuesday in 2021; 35 million U.S. adults participated in 2021, with total gifts of $2.7 billion, a 9 percent increase from 2020. And for the full year, individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $484.85 billion to U.S. charities in 2021. That's a lot of happiness!

So, how do you ensure your nonprofit finds those generous souls?

One of the most consistent challenges we see (and what we've experienced firsthand working in the nonprofit industry) is that most organizations don't know how to segment digital audiences to optimize a cross-channel strategy across acquisition, retention, and remarketing. For organizations with a limited digital marketing group, it can feel like a maze.

If you've traditionally relied on Meta alone for fundraising, you may have noticed it's more expensive and less effective. That's because Apple's app tracking transparency (ATT) privacy policies have been eroding Meta's ability to target people with any precision on Facebook and Instagram. That also means nonprofit organizations who usually have smaller budgets and have depended on Meta's relatively inexpensive, yet precise ability to get in front of the right audiences have been seeing higher costs and a massive decline in performance.

At the same time, Meta removed the ability to target "sensitive audiences," which includes "health causes," "sexual orientation," "religious practices and groups," and "political beliefs, social issues, causes, organizations and figures," which were important targeting options for nonprofits.

This is why you should add Performance Max to your marketing mix.

Performance Max is a new automated Google tool that lets your ads show up across Google's ad inventory — such as display, YouTube, search. Maps, and Gmail. It can be very powerful when it comes to expanding your reach. If you're trying to hit a specific audience goal or CPA target for example, the scale you get with Performance Max (PMX) is truly expansive.

While Meta can reach 2.8 billion daily users worldwide, Google has a reach of 5.6 billion searches a day and 30 billion YouTube short views.

PMX campaigns are built on audience signals, not keyword auctions. So, not only does PMX track users across their blended engagement paths (devices, channels, metros) and funnel position (top, middle, and bottom), but it also provides data-driven insights on creative combinations for specific audience types.

You can then use these PMX creative insights (e.g., which headline and image combinations before best for donor acquisition) as high-level business intelligence in other platforms such as Meta, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

PMX allows advertisers to be ultra-specific in audience strategy with responsive (machine learning), immersive (video), and automatically optimized (remarketing) ad placements throughout the decision-journey. It's incredibly powerful and a godsend for marketers.

Whether you're relying on PMX to capture search intent generated through YouTube, or using display to co-target direct mail audiences, or even generating new leads for email campaigns, PMX will automatically learn and spend budget based on the audiences who have demonstrated clear interest around your campaign goal.

However, it does require at least four to six weeks to ramp with new creative assets, campaign segmentation, and audience targets. You will not be able to turn on PMX two days before Giving Tuesday and see success. But if you're looking to tap into Giving Tuesday and the holidays, PMX should be in your mix. And to be successful you should:

  • Segment your campaigns. Break them up around audience type, prospecting, acquisition, lead generation for nuanced insights, and optimization clarity.
  • Make major campaign adjustments every four to six weeks. Group the optimizations so that PMX has time to run and optimize based on creative, copy, or audience changes.
  • Be ready with assets. Provide PMX with a range of creative such as videos, images, and product feeds (if you have them) for the greatest success.

Bottom line: If you're gearing up for Giving Tuesday and the holiday giving season, you should be testing, validating and planning for PMX campaigns now. And then get ready to be happily surprised at just how good the giving can get.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Calla Murphy is the VP of digital strategy and integrated marketing at Belardi Wong.