digital ROI nonprofits

Digital ROI in the Nonprofit Arena

Aaron Radtke is on the Sales and Business Development team at Cybba’s office in Pheonix, Arizona. Aaron’s expertise lies in developing both for-profit and nonprofit brands, and implementing digital marketing and advertising strategies. For any inquiries, contact him at

I’ve been given the unique opportunity to have lived somewhat of a double life within my career. I’ve crossed the line between for-profit and nonprofit organizations a couple times over. As anyone who has done it can attest, this transition can be an eye opening experience. I had spent four years “growing up” in a digital advertising startup before transitioning over to help lead the development efforts of a Phoenix-based nonprofit.

There were a surprising number of similarities shared by these two unique cultures (being very prudent with resources, wearing multiples hats, and limited bandwidth), but there were also striking differences. Most prominent among them was the realization that the nonprofit arena was behind the for-profit sector in terms of managing their digital advertising campaigns and social media by attaching it to ROI.

In fact, I found that many of my peers within the philanthropy sector were not even aware that ROI could in fact be measured at all! Many marketing mediums from billboards, print advertising and radio spots are challenging to measure. This made those mediums difficult to scale.  Digital advertising, however, offers more transparency… if set up correctly, and can be incorporated into your organization’s “moves management” strategy.

Below are the three easy steps to track and improve ROI from your digital advertising campaigns.

Place a Conversion Pixel

A conversion pixel is positioned on your website and will track each transaction or donation which occurs through your website. The pixel can track when an ad is served and will allocate credit to that advertising channel for the resulting conversion. This tracking functionality makes the ROI tangible from virtually any digital advertising channel. 

If you’re running through Facebook or an advertising vendor they should provide you with the pixel to be placed on your site by the appropriate member of your development/tech team or website manager. Once this pixel is onsite, ensure revenue is passing from the pixel by doing a “test conversion”. If revenue is indeed being tracked correctly then you are ready to push live and properly track ROI.

If you don't have donation form software set up on your site yet, check out for free fundraising software that's easy to implement and streamlines the transaction process.  

Don’t Set it and Forget it

Another misconception is that the job is complete once your advertising campaign goes live. The reality is that running a digital advertising campaign is much like trying to uncover a dynamic math formula that changes on a minute by minute basis. Audience selection, location, the time of day an ad is served, and frequency of ads being shown are all levers that can be adjusted on a campaign. To add an additional wrinkle, each piece of creative can offer differentiated ROI. It’s better to have someone manage your campaigns that has the bandwidth and expertise to interpret the data and make educated adjustments.

Without these necessary adjustments, the likelihood you’ll increase ROI over the duration of your campaign is severely reduced. Dedicate someone on your team to manage the program, or choose a partner that understands how to continually optimize. Remember, the person who runs your campaigns should have experience running or buying paid digital media.

Blend Seamlessly

Your creative and messaging should mimic your website and other campaign collateral. Doing so ensures brand integrity and a seamless user experience. You’ll also want to take seasonality into account and leverage social media accordingly. If there’s limited time for donors to contribute for tax purposes or time sensitive projects, don’t be afraid to emphasize this in your messaging. If, however, it is a period of low contributions/donations use this opportunity to build up your consistent donor programs. Be sure to temper your ROI expectations according to the time period or season you’re operating in.

Your digital channels may follow the same performance patterns as some of your traditional campaigns. That, however, does not mean there is not value in running digital advertising campaigns throughout the year. As mentioned previously, these types of campaigns and their formula for producing results are dynamic thus they require constant adjustments and care. Turning off a campaign completely can hinder performance when a campaign is reactivated as the “formula” has since changed. It is recommended to maintain consistent campaigns throughout the year, albeit on reduced budgets.

Act Now

Digital advertising seems daunting for those that have not run campaigns in the past. As many nonprofits know, the demographics of their donor base are shifting dramatically. Legacy donors are aging, and results from traditional media like print and direct mailers are showing a subsequent decline.

Digital channels can seamlessly be incorporated into your moves management strategy helping to cultivate both new and existing donor relationships. Nonprofits that proactively incorporate digital advertising and reach successful scale will be the winners.


To learn more about digital marketing and advertising for your brand, visit our resources page or schedule a free consultation with one of our experts!


Aaron Radtke
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