Hillside reached out to Causewave last fall because they faced challenges recruiting qualified Foster Care families for the youth they serve. Peter Platt of Accountable Digital volunteered his digital advertising expertise on the project.

We began by holding focus groups with current foster families to identify audiences such as empty nesters and LGBTQ couples who might be more likely to foster a child (thanks to Crux Research for facilitating!). We then tested Facebook ads with various images, audiences, and messages to learn what combinations would drive the most inquiries.  

As groups showed inclination or opted out, we were able to evaluate, in almost-real time, how to better hone our audience, messages and imagery.

Here are four lessons we learned:

1) Facebook is a great place to test out different audiences because users are very honest and forthcoming about themselves on the platform. For instance, users usually don’t lie about their age because they're typically friends with people from high school. The robust data provided by this platform allows hyperfocused targeting that limits wasted advertising dollars on targeting the wrong people.

2) The more variables you want to test, the more expensive it is to do effectively. Fortunately, our preliminary focus group research allowed us to narrow 16 variables down to 8 before we began testing on Facebook.

3) Message testing is worth every penny! Facebook is a reasonable option for conducting A/B and even multi-variable testing. In our case, we needed a weekly budget of about $500 to get a directional read on which messages were most effective, but our test had more variables than a typical A/B test. A true single-variable test would require a significantly smaller budget.

4) Unlike traditional market research (like a survey or focus group), Facebook campaigns generate leads and clicks while the research is being conducted.  So, your dollars are working twice as hard!

The results

"This effort led to a significant increase in foster care inquiries and trainings for Monroe County." said Carly Layton, our partner from Hillside. "After our Causewave pilot, we extended the program directly with Accountable Digital to target key audiences in Hillside’s other regions, all of which are showing similar positive results. This was one of the first times Hillside undertook a dedicated marketing/messaging test. Causewave’s approach helped us clearly identify steps and milestones to manage, and show program results in a clear, comprehensive manner."

Our conclusion

Facebook advertising can be an affordable and powerful tool for nonprofits to make small marketing budgets go further. If you try an audience or message test, let us know how it goes! If you have questions, contact us at info@causewave.org.