Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a technology to show ads to a warm audience. In this episode, Jeremy discusses what retargeting is, how it works, two different types of retargeting, and how your nonprofit organization can use retargeting to get more supporters and deepen your relationship with existing donors.

Full transcript:

There are few more effective ways to advertise your nonprofit than retargeting. Retargeting is a phenomenal way to get your message in front of an audience that’s already warm, that’s already familiar with your organization. Today’s question comes from Sam and he asks, “What is retargeting and how do we use it as a nonprofit?” Let’s explore the different ways that you can use retargeting to find an audience that is already familiar with your organization, to convert an audience that it was on the edge of making a donation, and to explore new ways to get your nonprofit in front of people who already want to support you.

My name is Samuel and I have a question. What is retargeting and how can I use it for our nonprofit?

Hi Samuel, thanks for your question. Retargeting is such a powerful method of advertising to an audience that is familiar with your organization. I’m really excited to walk through the ways that you can use retargeting, how you set it up, and why you want to do it. Retargeting is often also known as remarketing and it’s a way to show ads to people who have visited your website or have some familiarity with your organization. There’s really two types of retargeting. The first is pixel-based retargeting and this is where you put a little bit of code on your website and the retargeting ad provider tracks people as they go through different pages on your site. The second type of retargeting is list-based retargeting, where you upload a list of contact information for people who are at least familiar with your organization, and then you show ads to those people in order to get them to come back to your website and take action.

How it works is for pixel-based retargeting, you place a little bit of code on your website and as people travel through your website, the ad provider tracks them and marks the different pages they did or didn’t see on your website. As you can imagine, this type of feature is really powerful because you can track people, what activity they did and didn’t do, so somebody goes to a particular, or any page, but does not convert as a donor, you can then show them ads later. We’ll get into some of the use cases that you can do in order to really take advantage of this medium of retargeting. List-based retargeting is a little bit different, in that if you have the contact information for the people that you want to show ads to, then you can upload that to an ad provider. For example, on Facebook, you can create a custom audience using any one of 15 different variables and then show ads to those people that are on that list.

It’s a very powerful tool for people that you have contact information for, as you can show ads to them and then draw them in to different conversion opportunities. Why would you want to do retargeting? The main reason is, is that donor journeys aren’t linear. If you can imagine the perfect donor journey, somebody lands on your website, be it on a landing page or just the homepage, and then they travel to a conversion page, they read your awesome copy that you wrote to appeal to them, they select an option of what they want to give, they get taken to a form, they fill it out, process their credit card, they get a thank you page. Instead, donor journeys are much more complex. They may hear about your organization at an event, at their church, just seeing them in social media.

Let’s say they visit your website, they see social media posts for your organization, they like your Facebook page, they see a lead ad where you’re trying to draw them in with an asset. They go to your website, they download a resource. They see a donation opportunity at some point and then they think, “I want to donate, but I’ll do this later.” Then down the road, eventually, they donate. That donor journey is a lot more complex than somebody just showing up on a landing page and making a gift. Using retargeting, what we can do is we can place the brand in front of people throughout their experience on the web, reminding them. Let’s say they had that donor journey that I just described and they see a donation opportunity. They think, “I’ll do this later.” When they see an ad later during that day when they’re out cruising their favorite news website, then they remember, “Oh, I wanted to make that donation to that organization.” They click through then and they donate.

Instead of some day down the road seeing another donation opportunity and thinking, “Oh, I want to make a donation to that organization,” and doing it then. For a lot of donors, it’s a great opportunity to convert them much sooner in the donor journey process, than just eventually down the road, or not at all in a lot of cases. Retargeting is a great tool to take a cold audience and really move them into a warm or a hot audience and move them towards that conversion opportunity. What are some of the use cases for retargeting? One is using it when somebody downloads a resource and you gather their contact information, you can use list-based retargeting to then display ads to them later in order to attract that donation. One that is commonly used and really not that difficult to set up if you think through the logic on it, is retargeting for abandoned shopping carts.

You probably have some good percentage of people who go through your donation process and don’t complete the donation for whatever reason. Retargeting is an excellent tool to show them that donation opportunity again and draw them back into your site. There are a couple ways that this works, but the most common way for most ad platforms is you describe within the ad platform which pages you want to retarget people that they include and which pages to exclude. If somebody comes to your website, goes to a landing page, then you may mark that as a page that you want to include in the process of people who have visited this particular landing page. Let’s call it,, and then you’ll want to then exclude people that went to the thank you page of your donation process. What you end up with is the people that came to that landing page, but did not go through the process and hit the thank you page.

These are people that have abandoned the shopping cart. When you know what item is, what the giving fund is that they went to on that landing page, then you can show ads to them to draw them back into the donation process to complete the process. Another way to use retargeting is to set up a donation funnel. If somebody comes to your website, or let’s imagine that they watch a video on your Facebook page, you can then put them into a funnel whereby using video on Facebook, you can retarget those who watch a certain percentage. Let’s take that first scenario that I mentioned. Somebody comes to your website and does not complete the donation process, does not hit your thank you page, you can then display a video ad to them on Facebook and some percentage of those people will watch the video for a certain percentage of time.

Now, Facebook allows you to target people based on the percentage of time that they viewed a certain video and then show a different ad to those people. Let’s say you took that video ad and for everyone that watched 25% of it, you showed them a different video ad, which moves them down a funnel in the donation process, ultimately to an ad that is used to convert them fully into a donor. It’s a very powerful way to use social media to move someone down a donation funnel, which has traditionally been in the digital space done via email. What are the goals for retargeting? Most organizations have two goals. One is awareness or getting people to know who your organization is and what makes you special. The second is for conversion and we’ve talked a lot about that today, about using retargeting to bring back people to make that next donation on your website.

There are several different platforms that you can use for retargeting ads. Two of the most popular are AdRoll, which allows you to place ads across the web in different varieties. Facebook is also probably the most popular retargeting platform and you may actually be retargeting people right now and not know it, especially if you’re creating custom audiences and showing ads to those people that are on your email list, or in your donor database. That is a form of retargeting. Thanks again, Samuel, for your question, really appreciate it. Really glad to have an opportunity to talk a little bit about retargeting and the powerful way that you can use it to move people down their donor journey to become supporters of your organization. Take care.