If you are curious about messaging and visual trends in the nonprofit sector, Facebook will show you some of what big nonprofits are testing right now.

For all the headaches for small nonprofits that Facebook creates, this is one relatively new development that is actually helpful!

Pick a big national or international nonprofit that you think is generally using similar messaging to yours or is trying to reach the same kinds of people. Or just go to an organization whose marketing communications you admire. Then go look up their Facebook ads.

Here’s how. I’ll use ACLU as an example.


  1. Go to their Facebook Page.
  2. Scroll down on the left column to Page Transparency. Click See All.
  3. In the Page Transparency popup window, scroll down to Ads from This Page. Click on the Go to Ad Library button.
  4. In the upper right, you should see their total ad spending and recently spent figures. I recommend choosing nonprofits that appear to be spending at least six figures annually, so a few thousand per week, at least.  With that kind of money at stake, you know someone is actively managing the testing.
  5. From here, scroll down to the ads, and look for sets where they are clearly talking about the same thing. In the example above, it’s canceling student loan debt.
  6. Look at the different wording they are testing as well as the different graphics. What are some of those differences? What are some of the elements or types of creative they are consistently using again and again? (That might signal things that have tested well previously).
  7. You can also tell by looking at the little logos on the ads if they are running on Instagram or Facebook.

Of course, this doesn’t give you data on how any of these ads are performing. But it does give you some insights into what they are testing. You can also sometimes figure out which ads were “the winners” because you’ll see that a single ad has a fairly high spend compared to others.

We also can’t see the targeting or the specific places within Facebook and Instagram where the ads are appearing. Those variations are what’s happening when you see a note like “30 ads use this creative and text.” They are testing something other than the creative, like the targeting or the exact placement. That’s the really fascinating stuff that outsiders don’t usually get to see unless someone from the nonprofit or their consulting agencies are doing conference presentations.

If you give this a try and find some interesting insights, please share in the comments!