From Confusion to Clarity: How Will You Know If Your Fundraising Ads Will Continue to Run After November 3rd?

October 20, 2020

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We caught up with the Facebook team to figure out a way to short-cut this for you. Knowledge and a plan will help put you at ease.

You’ve heard the news. Facebook will temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral and political ads in the U.S. after the polls close on Tuesday, November 3rd. 

This will be in effect until election results are finalized, and though Facebook has told us they anticipate it will likely be about a week, the actual time period is unknown, given the uncertainty around just how long it will take to finalize vote counts.

Remember, all of this is in addition to the new ad approval restrictions Facebook announced that apply to the week before the election (10/27-11/3).

Knowing how overwhelming and confusing some of these real-time changes can be, we’ve decided to gather the most common questions we’ve received from our clients, as well as our key recommendations for nonprofits to ensure your messages continue to run between now and the finalization of our election results.

We also encourage you to stay on top of Facebook’s Newsroom, watch Facebook’s webinars and reach out to your contacts at Facebook and your agency partners for a deeper dive where it’s needed. If you still have questions, now is the time to get them answered, as preparation ahead of the election is crucial.

What We’ve Heard from Clients

1. My organization is a nonprofit and our mission is focused on social issues. Will ALL my ads be paused on 11/3?

The short answer: not necessarily.  The majority of the fundraising teams we work with have issues they fundraise for that are outside of the hot-button issues of this election. Cancer and Heart research, general conservation and disaster response, when positioned correctly, are not flagged as social/electoral/political issues.

The most important thing to understand is that just because your organization is a nonprofit, that doesn’t mean all or any of your paid Facebook ads will be affected.  Here is Facebook’s definition of what constitutes a social issue, electoral or political ad:

“Heavily debated and highly politicized sensitive topics that can influence many people, may impact the outcome of an election or result in legislation.”

Facebook goes over a list of topics in a recent webinar they hosted, when they first announced the Ad Restriction Period (10/27-11/3) at the end of September.

 2. How can I tell which of my current and planned ads will be paused on 11/3?

On Facebook, social issue ads break down into two types of content: ads that require a disclaimer and ads that do not. This distinction is critical.  Ads that are required to use the disclaimer, “Paid for by” will not be allowed to run from after the polls close on 11/3 until Facebook lifts the post-election period ban. Ads that are not required to have the disclaimer can continue to run and can be edited for audience targeting and content as they normally would during this period.  One of the clearest pieces of information we found on this topic can be accessed on the Facebook For Business site.

3. How can I avoid my ads that I’m creating for fundraising getting flagged as social/electoral/political?

There’s no way to 100% guarantee that any social issue ad won’t be flagged, but Facebook has provided a few good examples of the types of ads that require a disclaimer versus those that do not. We’ve also kept a rolling document of the types of trigger topics, words and formats we’ve seen that have been flagged more often than not.  General categories that usually get flagged and require another run through of the approval process include:

  • COVID-19 (always flagged)
  • Civil & Social Rights
  • Economy
  • Environmental Politics
  • Health
  • Immigration
  • Political Values & Governance
  • Security & Foreign Policy

Anecdotally, we also see the “!” emoji, the phrase, “save a life,” and call to action buttons in images getting flagged as well.

4. What does my organization need to do this week to ensure our fundraising ads keep running before and after the election?

I. Educate yourself on the type of ads that are likely to be flagged as social issue/electoral/political and if possible, create your fundraising ads to avoid these topics and language if it’s not necessary to further your mission. We recognize that for some organizations deeply entrenched in issues like COVID-19, immigration and social equality, this may not always be possible – we’ll cover this.

II. When you submit ads to Facebook, if you believe they might fall under the category of social issues, election or politics, you must identify them as such, or they will be rejected. Do this by creating your campaign and selecting it as a Special Ad Category, “Social Issues, Elections or Politics.”  If you haven’t done this before, read all the details, as doing this correctly is critical.

 III. Submit your ads to Facebook early, before October 23rd. Give 3-5 business days for the approval process and submit ads before October 23rd to prevent last minute disapprovals that could prevent your ad from running.

 IV. If you have a Facebook contact you work with regularly, run your ads by them before submitting to see if there are any obvious red flags.

 V. If a large portion of your fundraising ads need the Facebook disclaimer “Paid for By”, consider shifting spend to alternative platforms to reach your target audience during this period. Google has a suite of products that allow you to target any part of your marketing funnel.  Depending on your goals and budget, we also like The Trade Desk, Xaxis and Inuovo for our nonprofit clients.

 VI. Don’t forget to leverage your other marketing channels. Think about how earned media, SEO and display can drive awareness. Care 2 for lead gen is a good middle-funnel option.  Don’t forget to maximize your email and mobile channels for likely donor conversion as well.

We are continuing to work with our partners at Facebook, who fully recognize the importance of fundraising for nonprofit organizations on their platform. For the organizations outside the immediate political environment, this moment in time will allow you to get appropriate exposure from audiences likely to support your cause without getting drowned out by social/electoral/political advertising.

We hope this information helps.  Please give us a shout out if you’ve got questions that you can’t find the answer to.

Wishing everyone successful fundraising and mission building!

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