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The bleak winter months of January and February are a slog to endure — especially if you’ve got kids who bring home approximately 72 illnesses per child per week. Most of us are biding our time for the sunshine-infused time change that is Spring Forward (reminder! Change those clocks this Sunday!) and look for those bright spots that indicate warmer weather is on the way.

For those of us in the nonprofit space, January and February are also the months that we’re compiling our year-end reports and gleaning learnings to bring into our next campaign. Now that the dust has settled on year-end, we’re taking a look at our top-performing ad strategies and creative from 2023 to inspire us in 2024.

If you want to explore some of our fav email creative from 2023, check out this post!

1. Mobile-first ads

We saw at year-end that mobile-first display ads are flourishing for nonprofits because they align with the shifting digital landscape and provide targeted and visually compelling content.

We developed mobile-first concepts for Planned Parenthood, which appeal to younger audiences who are primarily using their phones for online browsing. Added bonus: mobile display ads tend to be some of the most served creatives in the inventory! By starting with our smallest design size, we’re able to create designs that work best with a smaller footprint and then expand the ads to larger sizes with more complex animations and visuals.  

2. Be flexible.

Timely, urgent content drives response — especially for nonprofits in the international relief space providing emergency response. And, of course, that emphasis doesn’t change just because it’s year-end.

That means that even when we spend months planning year-end content, crises demand that we be flexible in our approach to ads. While we might have had entire campaigns of incredible EOY content, the crisis in Gaza demanded we pivot. In moments of great need, donors turn to trusted nonprofits to help make a difference.

While this Amnesty International creative doesn’t explicitly call out the war in Gaza, the urgency of the animations and focus on civilians was compelling for audiences wanting to help ensure access to life-saving humanitarian aid. 

3. Tap into influencers 

Take a page out of the NFL’s book—influencers offer nonprofits a unique opportunity to expand reach, build credibility, create impactful content, and drive engagement for their football games causes. By strategically leveraging influencer partnerships, nonprofits can effectively raise awareness, inspire action, and raise money.

Watch the full IRC ad here

In 2023, we saw influencer marketing take center stage in our fundraising campaigns. For the International Rescue Committee, Katya shared a personal message about how the organization has helped refugee families just like her own. The success of her story reinforces the importance of authentic content that inspires your audiences.  

4. Experiment with audio

Podcasts continue to grow in popularity and influence, with millions of listeners tuning in to podcasts regularly across various platforms. As the podcasting landscape expands, nonprofits have an opportunity to tap into this growing audience and elevate their visibility and impact through strategic podcast advertising initiatives.

Amnesty International audio ad

This monthly giving audio ad for Amnesty International leverages a conversational script between two announcers to give ✨podcast vibes✨ — a non-intrusive approach to maintain listener engagement and increase effectiveness.

5. Make it personal

Crafting personal stories lies at the heart of our work. These narratives have the remarkable ability to transcend statistics and facts, touching the hearts and minds of donors in profound ways. Personal stories can serve as a glimpse into the lives of those affected by the issues at hand, allowing donors to understand the human impact of their support.

One of the best examples we saw of this at year-end is this poignant connected television creative we developed for USA for UNHCR. Through this video, viewers are invited to step into the shoes of a refugee, experiencing firsthand the challenges, hopes, and dreams of individuals forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution. 

Watch the full USA for UNHCR ad here

As you can see, these are not your garden variety trends and tactics — and we’re thrilled to continue exploring the data with you. If ad performance brightens your day, stay tuned for the 2024 Benchmarks Study! Sign up here to be the first to know when the latest Benchmarks is released.


Amanda Person is a Managing Associate Creative Director at M+R based in Nashville, TN. When she’s not developing creative campaigns, you can find her hanging out with her kids, buried in a book, or taking a long walk with her dogs.