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Retargeting: When and Why?

Keep Visitors Engaged After They Leave Your Website

As consumers, we compare prices and quality between purchases as we hop from site to site exploring options, and the same goes for prospective supporters visiting your nonprofit’s website. It’s unrealistic to assume that all visitors will become donors instantaneously, though that would be awesome. Ninety seven percent of first time visitors leave websites without purchasing products or services, which also applies to donation pages. In 2018, the nonprofit sector had the second highest abandonment rate, behind travel. Supporters shop around in the same way consumers do, so getting in front of them once again can help to sell your story of impact and inspire potential supporters.

Retargeting is a digital marketing tactic that keeps track of visitors to your website and shows those visitors ads for your nonprofit. Retargeting allows you to connect with people that have already shown an interest in your organization but left without contributing or taking any other action. Take advantage of the opportunity to re-engage these individuals by getting your brand out there.

How it Works

Retargeting is largely thanks to JavaScript code called cookies. Not the chocolate chip kind, but the kind that tracks website activity and lets you know who has been checking out your blog, homepage, giving program, etc. Cookies are specific to pages, so you can tailor retargeting ads based on what the first-time visitor was exploring. As they continue to surf the web, they will start to see ads for your nonprofit right away once the technology and ads are placed through the platform that makes sense for your organization.

If using cookies doesn’t bake your cake, retargeting with existing contacts is an option as well—known as list-based retargeting. Create a list of the contacts in your database you wish to retarget and add them to your ad campaign through platforms like Google Adwords or Display, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Let’s explore what that process looks like.

What to Include

Spreading brand awareness and encouraging action (with say, an abandoned cart or incompleted donation as an example) are common objectives with retargeting. Visitors experiencing your retargeting ads may be familiar with some of your work but sometimes unfamiliar with the specifics. Take the time to determine your goals with your team ahead of time to streamline your messaging. Consider the results you would like to see from retargeting – whether that be new donors or subscribers to your newsletter or a one-time gift. Depending on your needs, use the opportunity to highlight your work. For example, highlight a current initiative and its impact to encourage a monthly gift.

Create a sense of urgency in order to captivate your audience. If you’re retargeting viewers to join your monthly giving program, highlight why joining a community of monthly givers is important. Try to tell your organization’s story as effectively and succinctly as possible. If you’re struggling on where to begin, this blog will grant some insight.

Retargeting Platforms

Here are a few easy-to-navigate platforms that will have you launching retargeting campaigns in no time.

Google AdWords Remarketing → If your nonprofit benefits from Google Ad Grants, you will have to pay extra for this service – it does not come with the free version.

Adroll → ability to segment your audience, and have access to analytics

Facebook and Instagram → often the most cost effective option, as you have the ability to customize your budget and target audiences. Instructions to get started with retargeting on Facebook seen below.

Start Simple – Create a Retargeting Ad on Facebook

  1. First, ensure you’ve installed the Facebook pixel on your website to track activity (likely best to work with your web development lead on this piece).
  2. From your nonprofit organization’s Facebook page, head to Ad Center from the navigation bar.
  3. Click on Audiences.
  4. Add landing pages from your website to “Destination URL” to retarget activity. You will only be able to add one landing page per ad.
  5. Choose how you wish to segment your ads – based on gender, age, location, demographics, interests, and behaviors. You may also exclude audiences from this menu as well. As one example, you’d want to exclude your currently monthly donors if you’re setting up retargeting ads that encourage a monthly gift.
  6. Set your budget and launch your ad!
  7. Track your progress and adjust accordingly. Play around with your specifications to see what works best.


Leveraging retargeting can help drive revenue, engagement, and awareness for your nonprofit work, and it’s often a more affordable option as these are considered warm leads. As a marketer, utilize retargeting to guide visitors down the funnel. It is important to find a balance and not retarget the same users again, and again, and again. Run a test campaign, swap out creative assets when results begin to plateau, and revisit the drawing board if need be. Happy advertising!