Gwenno Jones of Ethix Digital takes a look at how to run ads on social media, with beginner, intermediate and advanced options.

Running ads on social media can be tricky. And when you’re a charity with limited time and resources, that doesn’t make it any easier. From overwhelming interfaces to pesky cookies and data privacy, where do you even begin?! Below I’ve summarised how I would simplify getting started, with options based on how much you want to prioritise digital marketing.

How much should your charity spend?

Everyone wants to know how much they need to spend on social media advertising to get results. Unfortunately, until you give it a go there’s no way of knowing. I’d recommend £100-£1000 spent over 1-2 weeks initially to get some data, and then reassess how much budget you need/can afford moving forward based on your results. However, some sources suggest even £1 a day can help!

Where should your charity spend?

You’ll need to pick a platform for your charity's social media advertising. Do you want to advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn… the list goes on. I’d advise picking one or two and focusing on doing them well.

Don’t know which to choose? Think about:

  • Which platform are you most familiar with?
  • Where are you getting the most success organically - the most comments, likes, shares, followers etc?

Do some research online (here’s a good place to start) - ask

  • Which platform has the biggest or most active audience?
  • Which platform has the demographics you’re trying to target (gender, age, location, etc)?

If you still can’t decide, we usually see the most success with Facebook and Instagram. They have loads of active users, a wide range of demographics, and a lot of great features for advertisers such as sophisticated reports. For this reason, I will be using Facebook and Instagram as examples moving forward.

What techniques should you use?

The more time and effort you put into your campaigns, the more you will get out of them. However, we know it isn’t always an option to spend days learning how to use new interfaces! Here are three different approaches you can take to running your ads. 

Beginner - Boosting

Boosting is great because it requires very little learning or preparation, but you can still get results and top level data on how people engaged with your ads. If you’re just starting out, don’t have much time, or aren’t sure whether social media ads are the right way to go, this is the option for you.

If you’ve posted on Facebook or Instagram before, you may have seen the “Boost” or “Promote” button next to your post. Click on this button, and you will be guided through a few simple steps to put some money behind your post to get it to show to more users. Yep, that’s it!

Instagram example

When choosing which post to boost, we’d recommend going with one that performed well organically, since that’s a good indication that your target audience will find your ad engaging.

Here are some helpful links if you would like to go with this method:



The downside with the “Boost” method is that you don’t have many options for things like where on the social media platform your ad will show or who your ad will be shown to. You are also limited to showing them an organic post. If you would like more options, go for the Intermediate method... 

Intermediate - Ad Interface

This option requires learning how to use a new interface, the Facebook Ads Manager, but provides you with many more features and insights.

Here are some of the additional features you have with this method:

If you’re interested in using this method for charity social media advertising, I’d recommend you start by setting up a Facebook Ads Manager and playing around with the interface, or try the Facebook Blueprint courses for a more structured learning experience. However, if it’s overwhelming or just isn’t your thing, getting a couple of hours’ help from a marketing expert or a training session could also be a solution.

Advanced - Tracking

To take things to the next level, you’ll want to set up website tracking. This has many benefits, but here we’ll focus on how it can really help with your Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns.

Setting up tracking means putting a small snippet of code called a “pixel” on your website. This code sends information back to Facebook on how users behave on your site. The information passed to Facebook depends on the “events” that you set up. For example, you may want to set up an event to tell Facebook when somebody donates on your website.

Note: when I say “Facebook”, I mean “Facebook and Instagram”, since the ads are run out of the same advertising platform.

The benefit of this is that you can understand how many donations, and even what values of donations, were generated from your campaigns. You will also be able to break down the data by demographic, location, device, ad and more. This can help you learn about the best way to spend your money on Facebook ads in future, and also learn about your audience.

In addition to you as the advertiser being able to use this information to improve your campaigns, Facebook’s algorithms can also use this information. You can choose the conversions objective to tell Facebook that you are trying to generate donations, and Facebook’s algorithms will use the information received on which users are donating to show your ads to people who are more likely to donate.

All sound a bit creepy? Agreed. That’s why there are a lot of rules to follow to make sure that you’re being a responsible and law abiding advertiser. Among other things, you’ll want to make sure that you have a functioning cookie banner on your website to be GDPR compliant. This is definitely something to spend some time researching and making sure you get right.

If you’re not super technologically minded, or just want some reassurance that your setup is GDPR compliant, I’d suggest getting help from a developer and/or tracking expert with this option.


Hope you found this useful and one of the outlined options works for you!

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